Summary of Obama’s IRS scandal, as of July 31, 2015
In May 2013, the Washington Post reported that the IRS had illegally targeted conservative groups for additional reviews. Organizations with the words “tea party” or “patriot” were singled out for harassment, such as requiring them to provide a list of donors, details about their internet postings on social networking websites, and information about their family members.
When this was first reported by the media in May 2013, Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that had conducted these illegal activities, claimed that only low level employees had known about it, and that no high level IRS officials had known about it. However, soon afterward, NPR reported that an Inspector General report showed that Lerner had been lying, and that she herself had actually been aware of it since June 29, 2011. Even worse, during March and April of 2012, Lerner herself had actually written such letters to fifteen different conservative groups. One of these letters can be read here.
While testifying in May 2013, Lerner said, “I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.” However, afterward, she invoked her fifth amendment right to remain silent. The Washington Post reported that there was disagreement as to whether or not Lerner’s statement constituted a waiving of her fifth amendment right to remain silent. Soon afterward, she was placed on paid administrative leave. At a later hearing in March 2014, Lerner again invoked her fifth amendment right to remain silent.
In September 2013, a House committee released several of Lerner’s emails, which showed that she had targeted tea party groups, and that she had asked that their applications be delayed. In one of the emails from 2011, she had written “Tea Party Matter very dangerous.”
In September 2013, after having been on paid leave for four months, Lerner had still not been fired by Obama.
In September 2013, Lerner retired with a full pension.
In October 2013, it was reported that newly discovered emails proved that Lerner had violated federal law by giving the Federal Election Commission confidential tax information of several Tea party groups.
The Washington Post reported that IRS officials at the IRS headquarters in Washington D.C. had sent such letters to conservatives groups. Reuters reported that higher level IRS officials had taken part in discussions about it as early as August 2011. However, 21 months later, on May 10, 2013, the Washington Post reported that President Obama had not done anything to investigate or fire the IRS employees who had engaged in this illegal harassment. As of May 14, 2013, none of the IRS employees who engaged in any of this illegal behavior had been disciplined, despite the fact that higher level IRS officials had known about their illegal behavior at least since August 2011. Despite all of these media reports about the involvement of high level IRS officials, in February 2014, Obama said that these things had come from “a local office.”
On May 15, 2013, it was reported that Steven Miller, the acting IRS commissioner, had resigned. However, it was also reported that his assignment would have ended in early June anyway. He resigned – Obama did not fire him.
The IRS gave out confidential information about conservative groups. ProPublica wrote:
“The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year.”
“In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public.”
“No unapproved applications from liberal groups were sent to ProPublica.”
President Obama either lied about when he first knew about this – or was too busy playing golf and attending fundraisers to read the memos that were sent to him. The Daily Caller wrote:
“White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a press conference Tuesday that the White House was notified about the IRS targeting tea party groups ‘several weeks ago.’ This comes a day after President Obama said he found out about it from news reports on Friday of last week.”
“During a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday, President Obama was asked about the IRS scandal. He responded, ‘I first learned about it from the same news reports that I think most people learned about this. I think it was on Friday.’ “
“However, Carney said Tuesday that first a report had to be compiled by the IRS’s inspector general and then when it was completed, it was passed on to the administration.”
“‘A notification is appropriate and routine and that is what happened and that happened several weeks ago,’ Carney said.”
When Media Trackers, a conservative organization, applied to the IRS for non-profit status, after waiting 16 months, it got no response. But when it reapplied with a liberal sounding name, it got approval in just three weeks. Yahoo wrote:
“In May 2011, Drew Ryun, a conservative activist and former Republican National Committee staffer, began filling out the Internal Revenue Service application to achieve nonprofit status for a new conservative watchdog group.”
“When September 2012 arrived with still no word from the IRS, Ryun determined that Media Trackers would likely never obtain standalone nonprofit status, and he tried a new approach: He applied for permanent nonprofit status for a separate group called Greenhouse Solutions, a pre-existing organization that was reaching the end of its determination period.”
“The IRS approved Greenhouse Solutions’ request for permanent nonprofit status in three weeks.”
“The same Internal Revenue Service office that singled out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny also challenged Israel-related organizations, at least one of which filed suit over the agency’s handling of its application for tax-exempt status.”
“The trouble for the Israel-focused groups seems to have had different origins than that experienced by conservative groups, but at times the effort seems to have been equally ham-handed.”
The IRS asked conservative groups what books they were reading.
Although the IRS went 18 months or longer without responding to conservative organizations’ applications, the IRS demanded that these same organizations answer the IRS’s intrusive questions within a few weeks.
After the Waco Tea Party sent an application to the IRS, the IRS waited 19 months to respond. In its response, the IRS asked for printouts of its web page and social networking sites, copies of all of its newsletters, bulletins and fliers, and copies of all stories written about it. The IRS also asked for transcripts of its radio interviews.
As one example of how the IRS treated conservative organizations differently from liberal ones, Politico reported:
“Chris Littleton, one of the co-founders of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, said the group got a grilling from the IRS when it submitted its application, in letters the group has posted on its website. The IRS also gave him so much grief when he tried to apply for tax-exempt status for another group, American Junto, that ‘we just gave up on it,’ he said.”
“But when he submitted an application for a third group — Ohioans for Health Care Freedom, now renamed Ohio Rising — ‘it went through just fine,’ Littleton said. ‘They never asked a single set of questions.'”
After the Greater Phoenix Tea Party Patriots sent in their application, it took two years for the IRS to respond. The IRS response included 35 questions. When the group’s cofounder called the IRS, the IRS agent claimed that he had their group’s file right in front of him. But when the group’s confounder asked the IRS agent a question, the IRS agent asked, “What’s your group’s name again?”
Tea Party groups who spoke with each other said they were all getting the same questions from the IRS.
The Washington Post reported that some IRS employees were “ignorant about tax laws, defiant of their supervisors, and blind to the appearance of impropriety.”
In 2012, the IRS leaked confidential information about Mitt Romney to the co-chairman of President Obama’s re-election committee.
For a 27 month period that began in February 2010, the IRS gave exactly zero approvals to Tea Party organizations that had sent in applications. During that same time period, numerous liberal organizations with names including words such as “progress” or “progressive” did get approval.
After True the Vote, a conservative organization which was founded by Catherine Engelbrecht, sent its application to the IRS, the IRS went three years without responding. During that three year period, Engelbrecht and her family’s small manufacturing business were audited by the IRS, and were investigated by OSHA, the ATF, and the FBI.
Democratic U.S. Senators pressured the IRS to target conservative groups. In May 2013, U.S. News & World Report wrote:
“Over the last three years, Democratic senators repeatedly and publicly pressured the IRS to engage in the very activities that they are only now condemning today. At the same time, Republicans repeatedly and publicly warned against this abuse of government power and pointed to a series of red flags that strongly suggested conservative political organizations were being targeted by the IRS. Those warnings were deliberately ignored by the Obama administration and Democratic leaders in Congress.”
“From Max Baucus to Chuck Schumer to Jeanne Shaheen, key Senate Democrats publicly pressured the IRS to target groups that held differing political views and who, in their view, had the temerity to engage in the political process. The IRS listened to them and acted.”
In order to get approval, the IRS required members of Coalition for Life of Iowa, a pro-life organization, to sign a promise to avoid protesting in front of Planned Parenthood.
The IRS asked Christian Voices for Life, a pro-life organization, questions about its prayer vigils.
According to the official White House visitor’s log, during Obama’s first four years as President, IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman made 157 visits to the White House. This is more visits to the White House – by a very large margin – than any other cabinet member during Obama’s first term. By comparison, during the four years that Mark Everson was IRS commissioner when Bush was president, Everson made only one visit to the White House.
Shulman donated $500 to the Democratic National Committee in October 2004.
During Congressional testimony that had taken place in March 2012, Shulman falsely said that the IRS had not targeted conservative groups.
Public Campaign receives “major funding” from the pro-Obamacare alliance Health Care for America NOW!, which is comprised of the labor unions AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, and the progressive activist organization Move On, among others.
Public Campaign also receives funding from the liberal Ford Foundation, the Common Cause Education Fund, and Barbra Streisand’s The Streisand Foundation, among other foundations and private donors.
Stephen Seok was one of the IRS agents who wrote threatening letters to conservative groups. After doing so, he was given a promotion.
In June 2013, it was reported that two IRS employees had violated government ethics rules at a 2010 conference when they received $1,100 in free food and other items. One of them was Fred Schindler, the director of implementation oversight at the IRS Affordable Care Act office. The other was Donald Toda, a California-based employee. Obama did not fire them. Instead, he gave both of them paid leave. By comparison, in 1981, President Reagan fired 11,359 air-traffic controllers who had been illegally striking.
In June 2013, it was reported that The National Organization for Marriage, a conservative organization, had forensic evidence which proved that its donors’ private information had been illegally leaked by the IRS. The IRS employees who illegally leaked this private information could get five years in prison. However, Obama refused to file any charges against these IRS criminals.
The IRS illegally leaked the private information of Christine O’Donnell the same day that she announced that she would run for U.S. Senate as a tea party candidate.
According to White House visitor logs, Obama met with Colleen Kelley, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, on March 31, 2010. The very next day, IRS employees who belonged to that union union started to target tea party organizations.
In June 2013, Associated Press claimed that the IRS had targeted liberal groups, but refused to actually name any of those liberal groups.
In July 2013, it was reported that Obama had met with a key IRS official who was involved in the targeting just two days before the key official had told his colleagues how to target tea party groups. The Daily Caller reported:
The Obama appointee implicated in congressional testimony in the IRS targeting scandal met with President Obama in the White House two days before offering his colleagues a new set of advice on how to scrutinize tea party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, who was named in House Oversight testimony by retiring IRS agent Carter Hull as one of his supervisors in the improper targeting of conservative groups, met with Obama in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 23, 2012. Wilkins’ boss, then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman, visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on April 24, 2012, according to White House visitor logs.
On April 25, 2012, Wilkins’ office sent the exempt organizations determinations unit “additional comments on the draft guidance” for approving or denying tea party tax-exempt applications, according to the IRS inspector general’s report.
In May 2013, Jon Stewart said of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups:
“Well, congratulations, President Barack Obama. Conspiracy theorists who generally can survive in anaerobic environments have just had an algae bloom dropped on their f***ing heads, thus removing the last arrow in your pro-governance quiver: skepticism about your opponents.”
In May 2013, Michael Macleod-Ball, chief of staff at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, said of the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups:
“Even the appearance of playing partisan politics with the tax code is about as constitutionally troubling as it gets. With the recent push to grant federal agencies broad new powers to mandate donor disclosure for advocacy groups on both the left and the right, there must be clear checks in place to prevent this from ever happening again.”
In January 2014, it was reported that the Obama administration had chosen Barbara Kay Bosserman to head the investigation of the IRS’s targeting of tea party groups. Bosserman had donated more than $6,000 to Obama’s two presidential campaigns.
In January 2014, it was reported that since Sarah Palin had announced her candidacy for vice-President in 2008, the IRS had harassed her father six different times. Prior to that, the IRS had never contacted him during the 50 years that he had worked. The report did not specify how many of these six incidents happened under President Bush, or how many happened under President Obama.
In January 2014, it was reported that during the FBI’s so-called “investigation” of the IRS’s harassment of tea party groups, the FBI had not actually interviewed any tea party groups.
In January 2014, it was reported that the IRS had demanded that Friends of Abe (a conservative organization whose members work in the entertainment industry) give the IRS enhanced access to its security protected website (which included its secret membership list), even though such a demand was not standard IRS procedure. In addition, even though the organization had applied to the IRS for tax free status two years earlier, the IRS had still not made a decision regarding the application.
In February 2014, Obama said that there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” in the IRS’s actions.
In February 2014, it was reported that during Obama’s presidency, 100% of the established 501(c)(4) groups that had been audited by the IRS were conservative.
In February 2014, when Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly asked Obama about the IRS harassment of tea party groups, Obama said “These kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”
In May 2014, it was reported that tea party donors had been audited by the IRS at ten times the rate of the general population.
In May 2014, it was reported that the IRS had illegally ignored four Freedom of Information requests from Judicial Watch between May 2013 and October 2013. Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in October 2013, and was finally able to get the information in May 2014. It showed that the orders for the IRS to harass tea party members had come from IRS headquarters in Washington D.C. It also showed that U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) had pressured the IRS to shut down tea party organizations.
In June 2014, the IRS claimed that Lerner’s emails to outside agencies from January 2009 through April 2011 had been “lost” when her hard drive “crashed.” Also in June 2014, the IRS claimed to have “lost” the emails from six additional IRS employees who were relevant to this scandal when their hard drives “crashed.” One of these IRS employees was Nikole Flax, who had been chief of staff to former IRS commissioner Steven Miller. Flax had made 31 visits to the White House during the time that the IRS had been targeting tea party groups. However, a private company called Sonasoft had a contract with the IRS since 2005 to back up all of the IRS’s emails. The company keeps multiple and redundant backup copies of all the IRS’s emails. The company advertised itself by saying “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to back up their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?” In addition, Norman Cillo, an Army veteran who had worked in intelligence, and who had also worked as a program manager at Microsoft, listed six reasons why the IRS’s claim about “losing” the emails must be false. Also, federal law requires the IRS to keep permanent, backup copies of all of its emails at an external location. And finally, the NSA has copies of all of the emails.
Although federal law requires the IRS to keep permanent, backup copies of all of its emails at an external location, in June 2014, it was reported that the IRS has canceled its email archiving contract with Sonasoft weeks after Lerner’s computer “crashed.”
In June 2014, it was reported that emails showed that Lerner had suggested that the IRS audit U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
In June 2014, the IRS admitted that it had illegally given out information about the conservative group National Organization for Marriage.
In July 2014, it was reported that Lerner had called Republicans “crazies” and “assholes” in her emails.
In July 2014, it was reported that after Lerner’s hard drive “crashed,” the IRS deliberately destroyed it, without making any attempt to recover her emails. Top IRS officials told Congressional investigators that the hard drive was irreparably damaged before they destroyed it. However, IRS technical experts who had examined the hard drive before the IRS destroyed it said that this was not true, and that the data could have been recovered. Bruce Webster, partner at Provo, Utah-based IT consulting and expert witness firm Ironwood Experts, who has served as a consulting and IT expert in more than 80 civil lawsuits, said of this:
“… the IRS has no excuses for having handled this so poorly… This happens all the time… There are little storefront companies in just about every major city that can do this and there are forensic companies that can restore files and even do higher end recovery of data.”
In August 2014, the IRS admitted in a court filing that it had deliberately destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry after her computer “crashed.” In addition, an IRS official admitted, under penalty of perjury, that Lerner’s Blackberry had contained the same emails that had been on her computer.
On November 5, 2014, it was reported that the IRS had admitted to the court that it had not even tried to find Lerner’s “missing” emails in its backup system.
On November 21, 2014, it was reported that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration had obtained as many as 30,000 of Lerner’s “missing” emails from IRS disaster recovery tapes.
In February 2015, it was reported that Lerner had received a total of $129,300 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013.
As of April 2015, no criminal charges had been filed against Lerner.
On June 12, 2015, when the IRS missed a court ordered deadline for releasing 6,400 newly found emails from Lerner’s hard drive, the IRS said it would not be able to release those emails for another three months because it needed those three months to remove any duplicates.
In June 2015, government investigators said the IRS had “mistakenly” erased 422 backup tapes of IRS emails.
In July 2015, the House Oversight Committee released information which showed that in 2011, when Lerner’s hard drive was examined by John Minsek, a senior investigative analyst with the IRS Criminal Investigations unit, it contained “well-defined scoring creating a concentric circle in the proximity of the center of the disk.”
In July 2015, the House Oversight Committee released information which showed that the IRS had avoided searching five of six possible sources of electronic media for Lerner’s emails.
In July 2015, the House Oversight Committee released information which showed that some IRS officials, including some who were supervised by Lerner, had used a “wholly separate” instant messaging system called “Office Communication Server” that automatically erased its messages. None of these messages were archived. In an email conversation, Lerner had asked if the Office Communication Server archived its messages, and when she was told that it did not archive its messages, she responded by saying “Perfect.”
In July 2015, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan threatened to hold IRS employees, including IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, in contempt because they had illegally ignored the judge’s orders to release some of Lerner’s emails and other IRS documents. These same IRS employees had previously illegally ignored Freedom of Information requests and lawsuits for those same emails and other documents.
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