02.07.2014 1

Special counsel needed in IRS case

CrookBy Robert Romano

New emails revealed by the House Ways and Means Committee have destroyed the Obama White House narrative that the IRS targeting of the tea party and other 501(c)(4) groups was somehow caused when low-level operatives at the agency were confused by a 50-year old regulation that had never previously been confusing.

Specifically, the documents, and subsequent testimony by members of the agency, showed that a new regulation now proposed to restrict 501(c)(4) political speech — supposedly in response to the regulatory confusion — was in works as early as 2011 long before the scandal became public knowledge.

It was apparently all a part of the targeting, a broader plan to re-regulate political speech in defiance of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling.

Then, the Court allowed Citizens United, a 501(c)(4), to disseminate and advertise a movie critical of Hillary Clinton, a presidential candidate. The movie had been prohibited under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, but the Supreme Court lifted the restrictions as a violation of the First Amendment.

With the tea party targeting, and then the regulation, the IRS was attempting to reestablish government control over political speech.

In one sense the new documents are very interesting politically, because it puts to bed a key Obama narrative. But they also mean we have a big problem.

The IRS seemingly lied about the rationale for the new regulation restricting the political speech of 501(c)(4)s. At the time it was issued, the agency said it was addressing “the lack of a clear and concise definition of political campaign intervention” in the regulation.

This parroted a May 2013 Inspector General report that speculated the cause of the IRS targeting had been “some confusion by Determinations Unit specialists and applicants on what activities are allowed by I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) organizations.”

But nobody was claiming confusion in 2010 and 2011 when the targeting began and the new regulations were being pushed. The 1960 regulation allowed 501(c)(4) groups to engage in electioneering so long as it did not constitute a majority of their activities, and in the wake of Citizens United the agency was actively seeking to put a stop to it by hook or by crook.

The two are the same — the targeting and the regulation — it was all a deliberative approach to squelch First Amendment protected political speech.

One of the Articles of Impeachment that was brought against Richard Nixon was using the IRS “to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigation to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”

Which is precisely what we have here.

That is why we now need a special counsel to investigate this, said Americans for Limited Government Vice President of Public Policy Rick Manning, in a statement.

“Last year, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called for a special counsel to investigate and prosecute these egregious abuses of power that threaten the fabric of our representative democracy.  That call was echoed today by Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.  It is clear that the Justice Department is stonewalling any legitimate investigation and there is no longer any excuse for denying a legitimate independent investigation of these blatant attacks on the fundamental right to dissent,” Manning said.

Whether Obama ordered the targeting would be one question of the probe, or whether the culture that he created caused underlings to carry out implicit orders after he gave his infamous 2010 State of the Union rant against the Citizens United decision.

In the end we know that the then-IRS commissioner was in meetings at the White House well nearly 120 times while the targeting was occurring. It seems unlikely that a high level pattern of targeting never came up. Maybe it did. Or perhaps there was some other connection to a White House official. Who knows?

This is why we need a special counsel. Only Eric Holder can appoint one. To get it done, Republicans should use their power of the purse to not only prohibit the new IRS regulation, but to force the Obama Administration’s hand on an independent prosecutor.

The American people have a right to be assured that the White House has not once again weaponized the IRS for political purposes. For, not only is that Nixonian, it is impeachable.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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