In a bombshell article, the New York Times reported earlier today that the U.S. Census Bureau planned to radically alter its method of calculating the number of people without health insurance in the U.S. The result? The changes will be so radical that “it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.”
From the NYT:
The Census Bureau, the authoritative source of health insurance data for more than three decades, is changing its annual survey so thoroughly that it will be difficult to measure the effects of President Obama’s health care law in the next report, due this fall, census officials said.
The changes are intended to improve the accuracy of the survey, being conducted this month in interviews with tens of thousands of households around the country. But the new questions are so different that the findings will not be comparable, the officials said.
An internal Census Bureau document said that the new questionnaire included a “total revision to health insurance questions” and, in a test last year, produced lower estimates of the uninsured. Thus, officials said, it will be difficult to say how much of any change is attributable to the Affordable Care Act and how much to the use of a new survey instrument.
You know what else is due this fall? A big election in which the effects of Obamacare are sure to weigh on voters’ minds.
Don’t worry, though. Census officials said the timing of the change was “coincidental” and “unfortunate.” The latter is most certainly the case, but unfortunate for whom? Certainly not the White House, which mere days ago was bragging, Mission Accomplished-style, about how amazing the Obama implementation was going. Does anyone actually believe this White House would want to change and obscure favorable numbers in the weeks and months ahead of an election?
It turns out the suspiciously timed changes aren’t the only remarkable aspect of that NYT story. Apparently the government’s statisticians knew for some time that the old method of collecting data on the uninsured significantly overstated their numbers:
Census officials and researchers have long expressed concerns about the old version of insurance questions in the Current Population Survey.
The questionnaire traditionally used by the Census Bureau provides an “inflated estimate of the uninsured” and is prone to “measurement errors,” said a working paper by statisticians and demographers at the agency.
So not only will the new numbers be close to useless when it comes to using them to figure out if Obamacare has had its intended effect, it turns out the old numbers – which the White House used to cram the law down America’s throat – were bogus as well. Heads they win, tails you lose. But remember: all of this is totally coincidental and really unfortunate.
Unrelated: remember that time the Obama administration tried to force the head of the Census Bureau to report directly to the White House, rather than to the Secretary of Commerce, as required by law?
President Obama has decided to have the director of the U.S. Census Bureau work directly with the White House, the administration said today, a move that comes as the Census Bureau prepares to conduct the 2010 census that will determine redistricting of congressional seats.
We’re sure that was just a coincidence, too.
Today’s the day Americans send their hard-earned tax dollars into the IRS. But this year, the IRS is going to receive something else: a lawsuit.
The Republican National Committee is suing the IRS. Why? Because they’ve failed to provide documents we’ve requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Last May, the RNC requested copies of IRS correspondence related to the targeting of conservative groups. We wanted to find out why they were targeted, what criteria were used to target them, and who gave the orders. Clearly, the IRS wasn’t going to come clean on its own, so, like others, we took action.
Since then, the IRS has delayed and delayed and delayed – for 226 business days. They have provided documents to other organizations, so we know they’re capable. But they still haven’t answered our request.
So we’re filing a lawsuit.
Americans deserve to know how the IRS interprets and enforces the tax laws – and why it would deliberately target people because of their values and beliefs.
We’re filing this suit because the Obama administration has a responsibility to be transparent and accountable to the American people. The IRS has a legal obligation to answer our inquiry for these records. On Tax Day especially Americans deserve to know whether they can trust the agency to which they’re sending their taxes.
If the Obama administration doesn’t have anything to hide, why can’t they answer a simple request? Are they trying to cover up their actions? Are they taking cues from former IRS official Lois Lerner, who refuses to answer questions before Congress?
We have to keep fighting to hold the IRS and the administration accountable. It’s a simple issue of fairness. Americans deserve a government that treats them fairly. They shouldn’t be the victims of an administration that uses the IRS to go after its perceived political enemies.
The Obama administration surely hopes we forget about what happened and about what the IRS did to groups of Americans. We won’t forget. We’re going to keep working to expose what really happened – so that we can ensure it never happens again.
Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama has formally proposed a total of 442 tax increases, according to an Americans for Tax Reform analysis of Obama administration budgets for fiscal years 2010 through 2015.
The 442 total proposed tax increases does not include the 20 tax increases Obama signed into law as part of Obamacare.
“History tells us what Obama was able to do. This list reminds us of what Obama wanted to do,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.
The number of proposed tax increases per year is as follows:
-79 tax increases for FY 2010
-52 tax increases for FY 2011
-47 tax increases for FY 2012
-34 tax increases for FY 2013
-137 tax increases for FY 2014
-93 tax increases for FY 2015
Perhaps not coincidentally, the Obama budget with the lowest number of proposed tax increases was released during an election year: In February 2012, Obama released his FY 2013 budget, with “only” 34 proposed tax increases. Once safely re-elected, Obama came back with a vengeance, proposing 137 tax increases, a personal record high for the 44th President.
In addition to the 442 tax increases in his annual budget proposals, the 20 signed into law as part of Obamacare, and the massive tobacco tax hike signed into law on the sixteenth day of his presidency, Obama has made it clear he is open to other broad-based tax increases.
During an interview with Men’s Health in 2009, when asked about the idea of national tax on soda and sugary drinks, the President said, “I actually think it’s an idea that we should be exploring.”
During an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood in 2010, Obama said a European-style Value-Added-Tax was “something that would be novel for the United States.”
Obama’s statement was consistent with a pattern of remarks made by Obama White House officials refusing to rule out a VAT.
“Presidents are judged by history based on what they did in power. But presidents can only enact laws when the Congress agrees,” said Norquist. “Thus a record forged by such compromise tells you what a president – limited by congress – did rather than what he wanted to do.”
If a government passes a law, and nobody obeys, what is that government to do?
When Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed the “toughest assault weapons legislation in the nation” last year, his administration estimated between 372,000 and 400,000 firearms would be registered and about 2 million magazines that hold more than ten rounds.
The registration requirement kicked in on Jan. 1 – more than four months ago.
To date, about 50,000 “assault weapons” have been registered – less than 15 percent – and only 38,000 “high-capacity” magazines have been registered – or about 2 percent.
This has liberals – led by the leftist Hartford Courant – in a rage. In a Valentine’s Day editorial, the newspaper said state police should comb the state and federal background check databases to find those millions of scofflaws and… well, arrest them.
The Courant doesn’t say this outright, they argue that the state should find these people, but since violating the new law is a felony, and “felonies cannot go unenforced.”
“A Class D felony calls for a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Even much lesser penalties or probation would mar a heretofore clean record and could adversely affect, say, the ability to have a pistol permit,” they write. “if you want to disobey the law, you should be prepared to face the consequences.
What the newspaper is afraid to call for outright is the imprisonment of tens of thousands of gun and high-capacity magazine owners in the state. Throw them in prison for merely owning a weapon or magazine.
Luckily, Gov. Malloy is a little brighter than the good people at the Courant. Sending state troopers descending on thousands of gun owners can not end well. Some folks – even folks in Connecticut – are inclined to believe their Second Amendment Right is inalienable and would react rather negatively if somebody attempted to disarm them.
So that’s out. What about threatening them with criminal charges? That’s out too. The new law already classifies them as felons and they don’t seem to mind.
So what is Malloy likely to do? Nothing. Pretend the law doesn’t even exist and try to move on. Of course, this just proves what we’ve already known: tyrants are toothless against an armed and educated populace.
From Denver, Colorado’s NBC affiliate, KUSA:
DPS to hire previously undocumented immigrants
Nelson Garcia | April 10, 2014
DENVER – Long before Alejandro Fuentes Mena became a fifth grade teacher, he was an undocumented immigrant from Chile. “I came to the United States when I was four years old,” Fuentes Mena said.
And we believe him.
In August, he started at the Denver Center for International Studies at Ford Elementary School as part of effort by Denver Public Schools administrators to be the first school district in the nation to actively seek out teachers people who were initially brought to the United States illegally.
What a great idea. Who better to instill in students the importance of abiding by the law?
DPS is working with Teach for America to bring in people with an official status of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” as determined by the federal government. Part of the requirements for DACA status is that a person must have been brought to the United States under the age of 16 and have a clean criminal record.
They probably even make them swear that they are telling the truth.
Even with DACA status, they are still not recognized as legal citizens, but they are allowed to work…
And join the teachers union, of course. Which is the important thing here.
[Tom Boasberg, the superintendent of the Denver Public Schools] estimates that the 10-to-20 percent of the school’s district’s population are undocumented…
And just like how only women can teach women, and only blacks can teach blacks – only illegal aliens can teach illegal aliens.
Teach for America is a program which brings people of different backgrounds and experiences into the classroom to enhance learning. They are not licensed teachers but were issued an alternative license from the State of Colorado to teach. These teachers are currently enrolled in classes to attain their traditional teaching license after one year.
By the way, teachers in ‘Teach For America’ not only receive the normal school district salary and benefits, they also get an AmeriCorps “education voucher,” which can be used to pay for credentialing courses, or to pay student loans or fund further education. Isn’t that great?
The Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform has serious concerns regarding DPS’s decision to hire DACA individuals. The group said in a statement that it believes the majority of people with DACA status are not properly trained or certified to become teachers:
It is unlikely that most of the illegal aliens with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status are trained, qualified, and certified as educators. Indeed, DACA status requires attainment of only a high school diploma or a GED certificate. Using unqualified individuals as “educators” does a tremendous disservice not only to students of all races and nationalities, but to our entire educational system.
What racists! The value of having illegal aliens taught by illegal aliens is incalculable. (Literally.) It doesn’t matter if they don’t know how to teach or if they don’t know their subjects. They are down for the struggle.
The group also said that this decision is unfair to the millions of Americans seeking a full time teacher position:
There are at least 20 million Americans who either do not have a full-time job or are underemployed. This includes teachers. It is neither fair nor appropriate to hire unqualified foreign nationals to replace qualified and experienced American teachers…
More nonsense. There is no way illegal aliens are taking jobs away from American citizens. (Or we would have a high unemployment rate.) Illegal aliens are just doing the jobs that Americans won’t do.
Members of the Walton family, the founders of Wal-Mart, made a large private donation to help pay for teachers with deferred action status to go through the Teach for America program.
“I am very, very grateful to the generosity of Ben and Lucy Ana Walton for their philanthropy in helping support these teachers in our schools,” Boasberg said…
Those racists at Wal-Mart are helping to fund this? Where is the outrage?
Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has a big problem. Or an infatuation, depending on how you look at it.
The Senate Majority Leader has gone to incredible lengths to demonize a pair of anti-cancer philanthropist brothers named Charles and David Koch, to the extent that he’s mentioned them 134 times in a series of strange diatribes on the Senate floor.
Nearly all of those mentions have occurred since Feb. 26, when he first went off on the Kochs as an unsubtle means of rallying support for the flailing Democratic Party’s hopes to retain a majority.
Strange then, that Reid once accepted money from a Koch lobbyist, if he’s so convinced of their plans to destroy the nation he loves.
Strange then, in spite of his insistence that the Kochs are out of the mainstream, that Charles and David poll better than Reid does with the American public.
Strange then, that he risks getting into trouble with the law due to his unrelenting smear campaign, as it’s possible he violated Senate rules by using his taxpayer-funded website to bash the Kochs.
Then again, Harry Reid is a strange senator.
Another mind-numbing example has surfaced of the left’s fight to ban all guns, things that resemble guns, things that might make you think of guns and people who utter the world gun. This time though, a good teacher has been removed from the classroom and consequently, students are suffering.
Greg Schiller is a well-respected science teacher at Grand Arts High School in Los Angeles. As his class was preparing for the annual science fair, two students’ projects were brought to the attention of administrators which caused a ridiculous amount of concern over nothing.
The two students were working on projects which the school staff apparently deemed to be gun-related and now Mr. Schiller has been accused of placing his students in an unsafe environment. He was immediately placed in ‘teacher jail’, which is basically his removal from the classroom with pay.
One of the gun-like science projects was an air cannon similar to the one which was featured in a White House science fair back in 2012. Obama was captured on tape firing marshmallows out of it along with the student who built it. You would think that if the Secret Service deems it safe enough to be fired in the presence of the President, there’s really not much to worry about – unless flying marshmallows haunt your dreams.
The other project was an electromagnetic battery powered coil gun.
Mr. Schiller never had the opportunity to see either one of the projects and both students have been disqualified from the science fair.
That, however, is perhaps not even the worst of it. While Mr. Schiller is banned from his classroom, his students have been forced to prepare for their Advanced Placement exams without the help of his expertise. Of course, their substitute has not been of much help, being that they have no background in science, and serves primarily as a glorified babysitter.
If the students cannot pass their exams without the help of Mr. Schiller, they risk rejection from better colleges in the near future. It all seems like undue consequences over a couple crafty science fair projects.
Students have organized a protest in support of their well-liked teacher. They plan to wear duct tape covering their mouths in a vow not to speak until Mr. Schiller is released from ‘teacher jail’. Their effort is commendable, but it probably will not do much to sway the views of disillusioned gun-grabbers.
Let us know how this most recent report of anti-gun shenanigans makes you feel in the comments section!
The North Carolina Board of Elections discovered THOUSANDS of residents who voted in both North Carolina and another state in the 2012 elections.
The investigation also found 81 deceased voters that had voter activity since they died.
But you wouldn’t know this from Barack Obama’s speech on Friday.
Obama decried “bogus” accusations of voter fraud in his speech Friday to the Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
The Hill reported:
President Obama labeled complaints about voter fraud “bogus” and accused Republicans of cynically trying to prevent Americans from accessing the polls in a fiery speech Friday at a civil rights forum hosted by Al Sharpton.
Obama argued that attempts in some states to impose new voter identification restrictions were actually efforts by Republicans to make “it harder, not easier to vote.” And the president said that while voter fraud should be prevented, it rarely occurred.
“So let’s be clear, the real voter fraud is the people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud,” Obama said.
Obama sad that the efforts betrayed a weakness within the Republican Party, saying his opposition needed to restrict poll access to remain competitive.
“If your strategy depends on fewer people showing up to vote, that’s not a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness,” Obama said.
“What kind of political platform is that?” he added. “Why would you make that part of your agenda, preventing people from voting?”
Two federal judges on the U.S. Sentencing Commission said Thursday that Attorney General Eric Holder stepped “outside the legal system” and exceeded the authority of the executive branch by sending “improper instruction” to federal prosecutors to reduce drug sentences before they were officially approved by either the commission or Congress.
“I have been surprised at the attorney general’s steps taken to proceed with this reduction outside of the legal system set up and established by the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984,” Judge Ricardo Hinojosa, the commission’s vice chair, said during a public hearing in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington.
“As you all know, the commission in the act is given the authority to promulgate and amend guidelines on a yearly basis. And in the act itself, Congress has preserved its right to reject any potential promulgation of, or amendment to, any guidelines made by the commission itself after the commission has acted.
“Meaning that if Congress does not reject a guideline amendment, it will not go into effect until November 1st of this year if we vote in favor of this amendment.,” said Hinojosa, who is also the chief judge of the Southern District of Texas.
“When the attorney general testified before us, he failed to mention that the night before, at around 11 pm, the department had ordered all of the assistant U.S. attorneys across the country to (and it’s not clear to me whether it was supposed to be not oppose or to argue for, in fact the U.S. attorneys in front of my court have said they’ve been asked to argue for) the two-level reduction in all drug trafficking cases before the commission has acted and before Congress has had the opportunity to vote its disapproval of the commission’s actions, if Congress is so inclined, which is certainly the right that they have preserved for themselves in the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984,” Hinojosa said.
“It would have been nice for us to have known and been told beforehand that this action had been taken, so any of us who would have liked to have asked the attorney general under what basis under Title 18… the courts were being asked by the Justice Department to follow this request.
“If it was because the attorney general had spoken in favor of this proposal ,that is a dangerous precedent because attorney generals in the past have consistently expressed opinions to the commission on guideline promulgation and amendments, many times for an increase, and sometimes for a lowering of the penalties.
“But none have ever then asked the courts to proceed with increases or decreases simply because the attorney general has spoken in support of them before the commission has acted and before the Congress has exercised its statutory right not to act,” the vice-chairman said.
Judge William Pryor, who sits on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, also rebuked Holder for preempting the commission.
“Like Judge Hinojosa, I regret that, before we voted on the amendment, the attorney general instructed assistant United States attorneys across the nation not to object to defense requests to apply the proposed amendment in sentencing proceedings going forward,” Pryor said.
“That unprecedented instruction disrespected our statutory role ‘as an independent commission in the judicial branch’ to establish sentencing policies and practices under the Sentencing Reform Act and the role of Congress, as the legislative branch, to decide whether to revise, modify, or disapprove our proposed amendment.
“We do not discharge our statutory duty until we vote on a proposed amendment, and Congress, by law, has until November 1st to decide whether our proposed amendment should become effective. The law provides the executive no authority to establish national sentencing policies based on speculation about how we and Congress might vote on a proposed amendment.
“I appreciate the attorney general’s personal appearance before the commission last month, and his helpful comments in support of this amendment,” Pryor added. “But I hope that we can avoid int the future the kind of improper instruction that he sent federal prosecutors before we voted on the amendment.”
Pryor also pointed out that a previous amendment to the Fair Sentencing Act included a “safety valve” that allows low-level offenders to plead guilty and receive reduced sentences. The Justice Department estimates that lowering sentences will reduce the federal prison population by 6,500 inmates over the next five years.
The commission had been deliberating since last summer on recommendations to amend federal sentencing guidelines in an effort “to reduce the costs of incarceration, and reduce prison populations without endangering public safety.”
Commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend the reduced sentences the Justice Department supported, which would shave an average of 11 months off the prison terms of some drug offenders. Both Hinojosa and Pryor voted for the amendment, which Pryor pointed out “maintains all statutorily mandated minimum sentences” and “respects the primary role of Congress in establishing the boundaries for sentencing drug offenders.”
Several other amendments, which were published in the Federal Register on Jan. 17, 2014, were also passed, but the one reducing sentences for drug offenders, who make up nearly half of the federal prison population, elicited more than 20,000 responses from the public, commissioners said.
Holder testified at the commission’s previous hearing on March 13th, telling commissioners that low-level, non-violent offenders should “face sentences appropriate to their individual conduct, rather than strict mandatory minimums.” (See sentencing cmsn.pdf)
“The system was not perfect as it existed before, and it is not perfect as it exists now and under the reforms that I have implemented,” Holder testified. “But what we want to do is to work with the commission,” he said a day after sending his sentencing memo to federal prosecutors.
“For those committed to the rule of law, the question now goes beyond whether reducing sentences for dealers in dangerous drugs is wise. It’s whether the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer in the United States, is committed to following the law as it exists, or, instead, as he wants and speculates it might become,” said William Otis, adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.
Under federal law, Congress, has six months to vote the amendments down. In the absence of congressional action, they will become law on November 1st.
Remember all those promises that were made to sell Obamacare? Like lowering premiums for a family of 4 by $2,500 a year, allowing people to keep their plans and their doctors, not adding a dime to the deficit, and all of that?
Well, let’s just see how much of a striking success “Obamacare” is based on the numbers so far. The Heritage Foundation created these charts based on the HHS’ own numbers, the CBO’s, and the Kaiser Family Foundation’s.
If you’re a young person, you’re pretty much screwed. Not only will you be paying higher premiums to subsidize your elders, you will be paying more taxes over your lifetime to pay back the loans we’re accruing just to pay for this boondoggle. You’re welcome, right?
So… Mr. Smooth was going to save a family of four $2,500 a year in premiums, as promised so many times it’s laughable. About that… a family of four is likely to get an increase in premiums, and in addition, basically anyone who wants to work and live the American Dream will be penalized with higher taxes.
Speaking of taxes, check out these bad boys. Not just one, but 18 new taxes lumped into one giant bill that should be called “Obamatax.” Hey, it’s not a tax! Oh yeah, well, now it is.
You would think from all the hysteria nowadays about Medicaid expansion to the states that this was the main purpose of Obamacare – to spread a huge soviet-style welfare program to as many homes as possible (and let those who are on it tell ya about the amazin’ service while they’re at it!) Anyway, let’s frame some of that left-wing hypocrisy by pointing out Obamacare’s massive cuts to another government program – Medicare.
Now, show him the deductibles, Bob! Average deductibles on the “Catastrophic,” “Bronze,” and “Silver” plans are going through the roof. (No worries if you live in Colorado or Washington, just light up a joint and forget you read this.)
Now here comes the biggie – cost. If you were one of the supporters of this law who thought it wouldn’t “add a dime” to the deficit, I want you to turn to your (theoretical) children and grandchildren and apologize. We’ll wait.
No, tell them the part how you’ll be sticking your kids with your generation’s bills, and how debt is the unpaid portion of the federal budget that gets passed on to someone else.
Still don’t feel guilty? How about realizing that all those taxes coming out of the private sector to pay for this disaster will limit your children’s future, as being evidenced in part by the half of college graduates who can’t find jobs in their fields? Oh, now you feel guilty.
And lo and behold, this healthcare “reform” boondoggle passed through procedural gimmickry with no bipartisan support whatsoever loaded with nonsense and unread in full by most of the nation’s “representation” in Washington still has very little support – beyond those Democrats who would support anything the party told them to.
A Fitting End to a Disastrous Reign -
Today outside the White House Kathleen Sebelius bid farewell to the president, officials and guests after resigning as head of Health and Human Services. And, as she bid farewell, she looked down at her notes and told the audience,
“Unfortunately, a page is missing.”
And with that she departed the Rose Garden for the last time.
Farewell, Kathleen Sebelius. Better luck in your next endeavor.
Last month, Alabama State Rep. Alvin Holmes (D) made some controversial and racially-charged statements that could cost him $100,000 if he is willing to put his money where his mouth is
During a legislative session discussion on abortion rights, Holmes speculated that members of the GOP would be supportive of abortion if their daughters were impregnated by black men. The elected official, who has served in the state house since 1974, then offered to pay $100,000 cash to anyone who could show him a “bunch of whites” who have adopted black children in Alabama.
Those comments sparked the formation of a group of families in Alabama who are easily able to disprove Holmes’ theory.
Faces of Families in Alabama is the name of the Facebook group dedicated to showing Holmes and the world that families – adoptive families – are not as racially divided as he believes. In less than a month, Faces of Families has earned more than 7000 “likes” on the social media outlet and photos are coming into the group daily, showing off the mosaic of families made up of all colors.
On Wednesday, Faces of Families in Alabama gathered on the steps of the State House to demonstrate just how many multi-racial, adoptive families were in the state. By all accounts, the rally was peaceful and positive.
After the group showed up, Holmes doubled down on his comments, telling a local television station, ”The majority of the white people in the state of Alabama are against adopting black children.” The group has asked for an apology from Holmes and some are calling for his resignation.
What about the $100,000 in cash that he offered to anyone who could show him a “bunch of whites” who have adopted black babies in Alabama?
It would appear that Faces of Families in Alabama met his challenge. One adoptive mom, Beverly Owings, who has a 13-year-old bi-racial daughter told the local ABC affiliate, “he should have to put his money where his mouth is.”
We did speak with Beverly Owings on Thursday afternoon and she confirmed that Holmes had been invited to attend the event, but did not appear. Beverly and her husband Jeromy, are parents to four adopted children, one is bi-racial children.
“This was not about money, but about changing Holmes opinion,” she told TheBlaze, “and about getting out the word about how many children are available for adoption in Alabama.”
A few hours after the rally, Holmes reportedly called into a local radio show where the Ownings were slated to be guests for 30 minutes to talk about the event. That appearance reportedly turned into a one-hour show with more call-ins than the station had seen in quite some time. We have requested a copy of the audio and will attach it when it comes available.
TheBlaze has made several calls to the offices and home of the representative. The state legislature is currently not in session and no voice mail messaging options were available on his home or district phone numbers. When we get a response from Holmes we will update this story.
In honor of President Lyndon Johnson and the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, President Barack Obama on Thursday honored Johnson, calling him a “master of politics and the legislative process” who paved the way for him to become the first African-American president.
“Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody,” Obama said. “Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability. They swung open for you, and they swung open for me. And that’s why I’m standing here today – because of those efforts, because of that legacy.”
As the president faces a divided Congress and tries to recover from the rocky roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, Obama harkened back to Lyndon Johnson’s passage of significant pieces of legislation like the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act.
“Passing laws was what LBJ knew how to do,” Obama said. “No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson. He was charming when he needed to be, ruthless when required. He could wear you down with logic and argument. He could horse trade, and he could flatter.”
“What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression,” Obama continued. “It required the presence of economic opportunity. He wouldn’t be as eloquent as Dr. King would be in describing that linkage… but he understood that connection because he had lived it. A decent job, decent wages, health care – those, too, were civil rights worth fighting for.”
Using Johnson’s legislative success as a backdrop, Obama made the case that government has a role to play in addressing economic inequality. “In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom,” Obama said, “it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government.”
“I reject such thinking,” Obama added, emphatically.
This magazine has long specialized in debunking pernicious political myths, and Jonah Goldberg has now provided an illuminating catalogue of tyrannical clichés, but worse than the myth and the cliché is the outright lie, the utter fabrication with malice aforethought, and my nominee for the worst of them is the popular but indefensible belief that the two major U.S. political parties somehow “switched places” vis-à-vis protecting the rights of black Americans, a development believed to be roughly concurrent with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the rise of Richard Nixon. That Republicans have let Democrats get away with this mountebankery is a symptom of their political fecklessness, and in letting them get away with it the GOP has allowed itself to be cut off rhetorically from a pantheon of Republican political heroes, from Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass to Susan B. Anthony, who represent an expression of conservative ideals as true and relevant today as it was in the 19th century. Perhaps even worse, the Democrats have been allowed to rhetorically bury their Bull Connors, their longstanding affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan, and their pitiless opposition to practically every major piece of civil-rights legislation for a century. Republicans may not be able to make significant inroads among black voters in the coming elections, but they would do well to demolish this myth nonetheless.
Even if the Republicans’ rise in the South had happened suddenly in the 1960s (it didn’t) and even if there were no competing explanation (there is), racism – or, more precisely, white southern resentment over the political successes of the civil-rights movement – would be an implausible explanation for the dissolution of the Democratic bloc in the old Confederacy and the emergence of a Republican stronghold there. That is because those southerners who defected from the Democratic party in the 1960s and thereafter did so to join a Republican party that was far more enlightened on racial issues than were the Democrats of the era, and had been for a century. There is no radical break in the Republicans’ civil-rights history: From abolition to Reconstruction to the anti-lynching laws, from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964, there exists a line that is by no means perfectly straight or unwavering but that nonetheless connects the politics of Lincoln with those of Dwight D. Eisenhower. And from slavery and secession to remorseless opposition to everything from Reconstruction to the anti-lynching laws, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1875, and the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, there exists a similarly identifiable line connecting John Calhoun and Lyndon Baines Johnson. Supporting civil-rights reform was not a radical turnaround for congressional Republicans in 1964, but it was a radical turnaround for Johnson and the Democrats.
The depth of Johnson’s prior opposition to civil-rights reform must be digested in some detail to be properly appreciated. In the House, he did not represent a particularly segregationist constituency (it “made up for being less intensely segregationist than the rest of the South by being more intensely anti-Communist,” as the New York Times put it), but Johnson was practically antebellum in his views. Never mind civil rights or voting rights: In Congress, Johnson had consistently and repeatedly voted against legislation to protect black Americans from lynching. As a leader in the Senate, Johnson did his best to cripple the Civil Rights Act of 1957; not having votes sufficient to stop it, he managed to reduce it to an act of mere symbolism by excising the enforcement provisions before sending it to the desk of President Eisenhower. Johnson’s Democratic colleague Strom Thurmond nonetheless went to the trouble of staging the longest filibuster in history up to that point, speaking for 24 hours in a futile attempt to block the bill. The reformers came back in 1960 with an act to remedy the deficiencies of the 1957 act, and Johnson’s Senate Democrats again staged a record-setting filibuster. In both cases, the “master of the Senate” petitioned the northeastern Kennedy liberals to credit him for having seen to the law’s passage while at the same time boasting to southern Democrats that he had taken the teeth out of the legislation. Johnson would later explain his thinking thus: “These Negroes, they’re getting pretty uppity these days, and that’s a problem for us, since they’ve got something now they never had before: the political pull to back up their uppityness. Now we’ve got to do something about this – we’ve got to give them a little something, just enough to quiet them down, not enough to make a difference.”
Johnson did not spring up from the Democratic soil ex nihilo. Not one Democrat in Congress voted for the Fourteenth Amendment. Not one Democrat in Congress voted for the Fifteenth Amendment. Not one voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1875. Eisenhower as a general began the process of desegregating the military, and Truman as president formalized it, but the main reason either had to act was that President Wilson, the personification of Democratic progressivism, had resegregated previously integrated federal facilities. (“If the colored people made a mistake in voting for me, they ought to correct it,” he declared.) Klansmen from Senator Robert Byrd to Justice Hugo Black held prominent positions in the Democratic party – and President Wilson chose the Klan epic Birth of a Nation to be the first film ever shown at the White House.
Johnson himself denounced an earlier attempt at civil-rights reform as the “nigger bill.” So what happened in 1964 to change Democrats’ minds? In fact, nothing.
President Johnson was nothing if not shrewd, and he knew something that very few popular political commentators appreciate today: The Democrats began losing the “solid South” in the late 1930s – at the same time as they were picking up votes from northern blacks. The Civil War and the sting of Reconstruction had indeed produced a political monopoly for southern Democrats that lasted for decades, but the New Deal had been polarizing. It was very popular in much of the country, including much of the South – Johnson owed his election to the House to his New Deal platform and Roosevelt connections – but there was a conservative backlash against it, and that backlash eventually drove New Deal critics to the Republican party. Likewise, adherents of the isolationist tendency in American politics, which is never very far from the surface, looked askance at what Bob Dole would later famously call “Democrat wars” (a factor that would become especially relevant when the Democrats under Kennedy and Johnson committed the United States to a very divisive war in Vietnam). The tiniest cracks in the Democrats’ southern bloc began to appear with the backlash to FDR’s court-packing scheme and the recession of 1937. Republicans would pick up 81 House seats in the 1938 election, with West Virginia’s all-Democrat delegation ceasing to be so with the acquisition of its first Republican. Kentucky elected a Republican House member in 1934, as did Missouri, while Tennessee’s first Republican House member, elected in 1918, was joined by another in 1932. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, the Republican party, though marginal, began to take hold in the South – but not very quickly: Dixie would not send its first Republican to the Senate until 1961, with Texas’s election of John Tower.
At the same time, Republicans went through a long dry spell on civil-rights progress. Many of them believed, wrongly, that the issue had been more or less resolved by the constitutional amendments that had been enacted to ensure the full citizenship of black Americans after the Civil War, and that the enduring marginalization of black citizens, particularly in the Democratic states, was a problem that would be healed by time, economic development, and organic social change rather than through a second political confrontation between North and South. (As late as 1964, the Republican platform argued that “the elimination of any such discrimination is a matter of heart, conscience, and education, as well as of equal rights under law.”) The conventional Republican wisdom of the day held that the South was backward because it was poor rather than poor because it was backward. And their strongest piece of evidence for that belief was that Republican support in the South was not among poor whites or the old elites – the two groups that tended to hold the most retrograde beliefs on race – but among the emerging southern middle class, a fact recently documented by professors Byron Shafer and Richard Johnston in The End of Southern Exceptionalism: Class, Race, and Partisan Change in the Postwar South (Harvard University Press, 2006). Which is to say: The Republican rise in the South was contemporaneous with the decline of race as the most important political question and tracked the rise of middle-class voters moved mainly by economic considerations and anti-Communism.
The South had been in effect a Third World country within the United States, and that changed with the post-war economic boom. As Clay Risen put it in the New York Times: “The South transformed itself from a backward region to an engine of the national economy, giving rise to a sizable new wealthy suburban class. This class, not surprisingly, began to vote for the party that best represented its economic interests: the GOP. Working-class whites, however – and here’s the surprise – even those in areas with large black populations, stayed loyal to the Democrats. This was true until the 90s, when the nation as a whole turned rightward in Congressional voting.” The mythmakers would have you believe that it was the opposite: that your white-hooded hillbilly trailer-dwelling tornado-bait voters jumped ship because LBJ signed a civil-rights bill (passed on the strength of disproportionately Republican support in Congress). The facts suggest otherwise.
There is no question that Republicans in the 1960s and thereafter hoped to pick up the angry populists who had delivered several states to Wallace. That was Patrick J. Buchanan’s portfolio in the Nixon campaign. But in the main they did not do so by appeal to racial resentment, direct or indirect. The conservative ascendency of 1964 saw the nomination of Barry Goldwater, a western libertarian who had never been strongly identified with racial issues one way or the other, but who was a principled critic of the 1964 act and its extension of federal power. Goldwater had supported the 1957 and 1960 acts but believed that Title II and Title VII of the 1964 bill were unconstitutional, based in part on a 75-page brief from Robert Bork. But far from extending a welcoming hand to southern segregationists, he named as his running mate a New York representative, William E. Miller, who had been the co-author of Republican civil-rights legislation in the 1950s. The Republican platform in 1964 was hardly catnip for Klansmen: It spoke of the Johnson administration’s failure to help further the “just aspirations of the minority groups” and blasted the president for his refusal “to apply Republican-initiated retraining programs where most needed, particularly where they could afford new economic opportunities to Negro citizens.” Other planks in the platform included: “improvements of civil rights statutes adequate to changing needs of our times; such additional administrative or legislative actions as may be required to end the denial, for whatever unlawful reason, of the right to vote; continued opposition to discrimination based on race, creed, national origin or sex.” And Goldwater’s fellow Republicans ran on a 1964 platform demanding “full implementation and faithful execution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and all other civil rights statutes, to assure equal rights and opportunities guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen.” Some dog whistle.
Of course there were racists in the Republican party. There were racists in the Democratic party. The case of Johnson is well documented, while Nixon had his fantastical panoply of racial obsessions, touching blacks, Jews, Italians (“Don’t have their heads screwed on”), Irish (“They get mean when they drink”), and the Ivy League WASPs he hated so passionately (“Did one of those dirty bastards ever invite me to his f***ing men’s club or goddamn country club? Not once”). But the legislative record, the evolution of the electorate, the party platforms, the keynote speeches – none of them suggests a party-wide Republican about-face on civil rights.
Neither does the history of the black vote. While Republican affiliation was beginning to grow in the South in the late 1930s, the GOP also lost its lock on black voters in the North, among whom the New Deal was extraordinarily popular. By 1940, Democrats for the first time won a majority of black votes in the North. This development was not lost on Lyndon Johnson, who crafted his Great Society with the goal of exploiting widespread dependency for the benefit of the Democratic party. Unlike the New Deal, a flawed program that at least had the excuse of relying upon ideas that were at the time largely untested and enacted in the face of a worldwide economic emergency, Johnson’s Great Society was pure politics. Johnson’s War on Poverty was declared at a time when poverty had been declining for decades, and the first Job Corps office opened when the unemployment rate was less than 5 percent. Congressional Republicans had long supported a program to assist the indigent elderly, but the Democrats insisted that the program cover all of the elderly – even though they were, then as now, the most affluent demographic, with 85 percent of them in households of above-average wealth. Democrats such as Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Anthony J. Celebrezze argued that the Great Society would end “dependency” among the elderly and the poor, but the programs were transparently designed merely to transfer dependency from private and local sources of support to federal agencies created and overseen by Johnson and his political heirs. In the context of the rest of his program, Johnson’s unexpected civil-rights conversion looks less like an attempt to empower blacks and more like an attempt to make clients of them.
If the parties had in some meaningful way flipped on civil rights, one would expect that to show up in the electoral results in the years following the Democrats’ 1964 about-face on the issue. Nothing of the sort happened: Of the 21 Democratic senators who opposed the 1964 act, only one would ever change parties. Nor did the segregationist constituencies that elected these Democrats throw them out in favor of Republicans: The remaining 20 continued to be elected as Democrats or were replaced by Democrats. It was, on average, nearly a quarter of a century before those seats went Republican. If southern rednecks ditched the Democrats because of a civil-rights law passed in 1964, it is strange that they waited until the late 1980s and early 1990s to do so. They say things move slower in the South – but not that slow.
Republicans did begin to win some southern House seats, and in many cases segregationist Democrats were thrown out by southern voters in favor of civil-rights Republicans. One of the loudest Democratic segregationists in the House was Texas’s John Dowdy, a bitter and buffoonish opponent of the 1964 reforms, which he declared “would set up a despot in the attorney general’s office with a large corps of enforcers under him; and his will and his oppressive action would be brought to bear upon citizens, just as Hitler’s minions coerced and subjugated the German people. I would say this – I believe this would be agreed to by most people: that, if we had a Hitler in the United States, the first thing he would want would be a bill of this nature.” (Who says political rhetoric has been debased in the past 40 years?) Dowdy was thrown out in 1966 in favor of a Republican with a very respectable record on civil rights, a little-known figure by the name of George H. W. Bush.
It was in fact not until 1995 that Republicans represented a majority of the southern congressional delegation – and they had hardly spent the Reagan years campaigning on the resurrection of Jim Crow.
It was not the Civil War but the Cold War that shaped midcentury partisan politics. Eisenhower warned the country against the “military-industrial complex,” but in truth Ike’s ascent had represented the decisive victory of the interventionist, hawkish wing of the Republican party over what remained of the America First/Charles Lindbergh/Robert Taft tendency. The Republican party had long been staunchly anti-Communist, but the post-war era saw that anti-Communism energized and looking for monsters to slay, both abroad – in the form of the Soviet Union and its satellites – and at home, in the form of the growing welfare state, the “creeping socialism” conservatives dreaded. By the middle 1960s, the semi-revolutionary Left was the liveliest current in U.S. politics, and Republicans’ unapologetic anti-Communism – especially conservatives’ rhetoric connecting international socialism abroad with the welfare state at home – left the Left with nowhere to go but the Democratic party. Vietnam was Johnson’s war, but by 1968 the Democratic party was not his alone.
The schizophrenic presidential election of that year set the stage for the subsequent transformation of southern politics: Segregationist Democrat George Wallace, running as an independent, made a last stand in the old Confederacy but carried only five states, while Republican Richard Nixon, who had helped shepherd the 1957 Civil Rights Act through Congress, counted a number of Confederate states (North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, and Tennessee) among the 32 he carried. Democrat Hubert Humphrey was reduced to a northern fringe plus Texas. Mindful of the long-term realignment already under way in the South, Johnson informed Democrats worried about losing it after the 1964 act that “those states may be lost anyway.” Subsequent presidential elections bore him out: Nixon won a 49-state sweep in 1972, and, with the exception of the post-Watergate election of 1976, Republicans in the following presidential elections would more or less occupy the South like Sherman. Bill Clinton would pick up a handful of southern states in his two contests, and Barack Obama had some success in the post-southern South, notably Virginia and Florida.
The Republican ascendancy in Dixie is associated with the rise of the southern middle class, the increasingly trenchant conservative critique of Communism and the welfare state, the Vietnam controversy and the rise of the counterculture, law-and-order concerns rooted in the urban chaos that ran rampant from the late 1960s to the late 1980s, and the incorporation of the radical Left into the Democratic party. Individual events, especially the freak show that was the 1968 Democratic convention, helped solidify conservatives’ affiliation with the Republican party. Democrats might argue that some of these concerns – especially welfare and crime – are “dog whistles” or “code” for race and racism, but this criticism is shallow in light of the evidence and the real saliency of those issues among U.S. voters of all backgrounds and both parties for decades. Indeed, Democrats who argue that the best policies for black Americans are those that are soft on crime and generous with welfare are engaged in much the same sort of cynical racial calculation President Johnson was practicing when he informed skeptical southern governors that his plan for the Great Society was “to have them niggers voting Democratic for the next two hundred years.” Johnson’s crude racism is, happily, largely a relic of the past, but his strategy endures.
After five hours of debate, the House Oversight Committee has voted along party lines 21-12 to hold former IRS Director of Tax Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress.The charges come after Lerner failed to answer questions about the IRS targeting of conservative groups and after failure to cooperate with the Committee investigation into the targeting.
Before the vote, Democrats repeatedly defended the rights of Lois Lerner, arguing she did not waive her Fifth Amendment rights even though she made a statement before declaring she would not answer questions last year and again in early 2014. Republicans argued Lerner did in fact waive her Fifth Amendment rights due to making a statement and defended the rights of taxpayers who were targeted by her organization.
The contempt charge will now go to the full House for a vote. A date for when that vote will happen has not been set. If the House votes to hold her in contempt, the charge will then go to the court system. Yesterday the House Ways and Means Committee referred Lerner to the Department of Justice for criminal charges.
“Today, the Oversight Committee upheld its obligation to pursue the truth about the IRS targeting of Americans because of their political beliefs,” Chairman Darrell Issa said. “Our investigation has found that former IRS Exempt Organizations division Director Lois Lerner played a central role in the targeting scandal and then failed to meet her legal obligations to answer questions after she waived her right not to testify. In demanding answers and holding a powerful government official accountable for her failure to meet her legal obligations, this Committee did its job. If the House takes up and passes the resolution, the matter will be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which statute requires he take to a grand jury.”
The American Center For Law and Justice, representing 41 tea party and conservative groups that were targeted by the IRS under Lerner’s watch, is calling the contempt vote “justified.”
“The decision to hold Lois Lerner in contempt comes 11 months to the day since she revealed this unlawful scheme with a question she planted at an ABA meeting,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said in a statement. “From the very beginning, she has ignored a Congressional subpoena – refused to answer questions on two occasions by pleading the Fifth Amendment. We believe – as many others do – that she waived her constitutional right to remain silent because she invoked it after she publicly proclaimed her innocence. Lerner has misled the American people and Congress from the very start. Contempt is justified and the appropriate sanction in this case.”
Lerner now joins Attorney General Eric Holder, who was held in contempt of Congress in June 2012.
House Oversight And Government Reform Committee Considers Resolution To Hold Former IRS Director Of Exempt Organizations Lois G. Lerner In Contempt Of Congress.
Conservative activist and founder of True the Vote, Catherine Engelbrecht, filed an ethics complaint against far left Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) in February. Engelbrecht accused Cummings of harassment and intimidation.
Catherine Engelbrecht testified before Congress in February.
She was visited by FBI, IRS, ATF, and OSHA after she filed for tax exempt status for her voters rights group.
Engelbrecht said her testimony before Congress and Cummings,
“Frankly, to sit before my accuser and be silent in the face of what he did was unconscionable.”
Today, Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) accused Elijah Cummings of colluding with the IRS to target True the Vote.
National Review reported:
The war between Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and the committee’s ranking member, Elijah Cummings, rages on.
Issa on Wednesday accused the Maryland Democrat of colluding with the Internal Revenue Service in its targeting of the conservative nonprofit group True the Vote, whose founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, said she received multiple letters from Cummings in 2012 and personal visits from the IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Explosives. Engelbrecht’s True the Vote is one of the many conservative groups that claims to have been improperly targeted by the IRS while it scrutinized the applications of tea-party groups.
In a letter signed by his five subcommittee chairmen, Issa raised the possibility that Cummings coordinated with the IRS, “surreptitiously” contacting the agency to request information about True the Vote.
E-mails unearthed in the course of Issa’s investigation into the IRS’s inappropriate targeting of right-leaning groups show that in January 2013, a member of Cummings’s staff contacted the IRS asking for any publicly available information on True the Vote. The matter was discussed by IRS officials that included Lois Lerner, the former exempt-organizations chief who retired in the wake of the targeting scandal. One of Lerner’s deputies, Holly Paz, subsequently sent the organization’s 990 forms to Cummings and his staff – not an illegal disclosure of taxpayer information, though sources say the exchange of such information was not routine.
House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa on Wednesday accused his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, of coordinating with the IRS to attack one of the tea party groups that was targeted by the tax agency for intrusive scrutiny and long delays.
Mr. Issa and five other top Republicans said they have just last week been given emails showing Mr. Cummings sought information from the IRS about True the Vote, a conservative tax-exempt organization that drew the ire of liberals for pushing states to eliminate potentially bogus names from their voter rolls.
Mr. Issa said the IRS employees appear to have discussed confidential taxpayer information as they debated how to respond to the request from Mr. Cummings – though it’s unclear what response they ended up giving to the Maryland lawmaker, who is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee.
“It is unclear whether the IRS shared True the Vote’s confidential taxpayer information with you or your staff through either official or unofficial channels,” Mr. Issa said, though he stressed that the IRS didn’t convey any of the information to the GOP, nor did they even alert Republicans of the request for information. Mr. Issa indicated he thought that was hypocritical since Mr. Cummings has repeatedly accused Republicans of refusing to share their requests or information they received.
Mr. Cummings‘ office didn’t immediate reply to a request for comment on the accusation.
At one point in public testimony earlier this year, Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer for True the Vote, wondered allowed whether congressional staffers “might have been involved in putting True the Vote on the radar screen of some of these federal agencies.”
Mr. Cummings vehemently denied that, calling it “absolutely incorrect and not true.”
But Mr. Issa laid out a series of questions that Mr. Cummings asked of True the Vote, which he said were so similar to the questions the IRS asked that they raised questions of coordination. The questions involved the computer software True the Vote uses, its training procedures and a list of jurisdictions the group has targeted for cleaner voting rolls.
“The timeline and pattern of inquiries raises concerns that the IRS improperly shared protected taxpayer information with your staff,” Mr. Issa wrote.
True the Vote applied for status as a 501(c )(3). The founders also created another organization, King Street Patriots, which applied for 501(c )(4) status. Catherine Engelbrecht, who founded both organizations, said soon after their creation, she, the groups and her business were subjected to multiple investigations, audits and inquiries from federal agencies ranging from the FBI and IRS to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Wednesday’s letter marks the latest escalation in what’s become a bitter relationship between the two men. Mr. Issa last month cut off Mr. Cummings’s microphone at a hearing with former IRS employee Lois G. Lerner, and Mr. Cummings demanded and received an apology.
Then, over the last week, Mr. Issa accused Mr. Cummings of trying to work out a secret deal with Ms. Lerner, and Mr. Cummings vehemently denied that.
The two men will likely clash again Thursday when the committee is slated to meet and consider holding Ms. Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer the committee’s questions. She has asserted her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Mr. Cummings argues Mr. Issa botched the proceedings and tainted any contempt finding, and he is backed by more than two dozen lawyers who have issued memos or quotes saying contempt shouldn’t happen in this case.
On Wednesday, Mr. Cummings released a report from the Congressional Research Service arguing that there is no historical precedent for the House to find Ms. Lerner in contempt.
In the report, CRS went back to the 1950s, when then-Sen. Joseph McCarthy was investigating communists in the U.S. government. In an instance that appears to be similar to Ms. Lerner’s exchange with Mr. Issa, a witness testifying to Mr. McCarthy asserted her innocence and then refused to answer follow-ups.
A federal court upheld the woman’s right to remain silent.
“Sixty years ago, Joe McCarthy tried-and failed-to hold an American citizen in contempt after she professed her innocence and asserted her rights under the Fifth Amendment. I reject Chairman Issa’s attempts to re-create our committee in Joe McCarthy’s image, and I object to his effort to drag us back to that shameful era in which Congress tried to strip away the Constitutional rights of American citizens under the bright lights of hearings that had nothing to do with responsible oversight and everything to do with the most dishonorable kind of partisan politics,” Mr. Cummings said.
House Republicans on Wednesday accused former IRS official Lois Lerner of breaking agency rules by aggressively urging denial of tax-exempt status to Crossroads GPS, the giant political nonprofit founded by Karl Rove.
The House Ways and Means Committee released emails showing the former chief of the tax-exempt unit took a special interest in Crossroads GPS in early 2013 – inquiring with IRS officials why they hadn’t been audited. Around the same time an email suggested she might be applying for a job with a pro-President Barack Obama group, Organizing For Action, though it is unclear if she was joking.
Democrats decried the release, calling it an election year gimmick to win over the party’s political base. One campaign finance group came to the defense of Lerner, who has denied any wrongdoing, calling the probe a partisan witch hunt.
The Republican committee letter calls her actions an “aggressive and improper pursuit of Crossroads… but no evidence [that] she directed review of similarly situated left-leaning groups.”
The documents were released after a rare, closed-door Ways and Means markup, where the panel voted 23-14 along party lines to send a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting he take the former head of the IRS tax-exempt division to court – though the department already has an ongoing investigation.
The scandal, spurred when Lerner publicly acknowledged extra scrutiny of tea party groups followed by a critical inspector general report, has surged back into the spotlight in recent months as congressional committees finish their investigations.
Lerner became a lightning rod for Republicans after she pleaded the Fifth and refused to testify before a House panel. The original inspector general report found that the targeting was inappropriate but found no evidence of partisan motivations.
Republicans want her charged for improperly influencing the IRS to take action against conservative organizations; disclosing confidential taxpayer info, a felony; and impeding an investigation.
Democrats cried foul play, accusing Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) of releasing private taxpayer information, and said its protests have nothing to do with holding Lerner accountable.
“This executive session isn’t about any of us condoning the mismanagement at the IRS tax-exempt division,” top panel Democrat Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said after the public was dismissed from the hearing, according to a release. “It now seems clear that Republican members of the Ways and Means Committee have decided that they do not want to be left behind in the Republican campaign to declare this a scandal and keep it going until November.”
Lerner’s lawyer William Taylor III said he had not heard from Ways and Means on the issue, and maintained his client’s innocence.
“Ms. Lerner has done nothing wrong,” Taylor, a partner of Zuckerman Spaeder LLP said in a statement. “She did not violate any law or regulation. She did not mislead Congress. She did not interfere with the rights of any organization to a tax exemption. Those are the facts.”
Camp defended the release.
“We have a right and obligation to protect the American people and to oversee the IRS and to hold them to account for their actions,” he said. “This was a career employee at the IRS so we have to make sure the signal goes out that this can’t happen again.”
The Justice Department said it will review the letter and noted it is already probing the matter.
“It remains a high priority of the Department,” Justice spokeswoman Emily Pierce said.
The actions come a day before the House Oversight Committee will vote to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions on the controversy.
Advocates for reform of campaign finance rules say the scandal obscures an important policy debate about whether such politically active groups deserve tax-exempt status in the first place.
Crossroads spent $176 million during the 2012 election cycle – 99 percent of the time to back Republicans and bash Obama and Democrats. Its nonprofit arm spent about $70 million.
Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center, which advocates stricter campaign finance rules, said it is perfectly appropriate for Lerner to advocate denial of tax-exempt status if it was based on agency review of facts. He called the data dump part of a witch hunt against a career civil servant.
“If she was pushing for a denial based on facts that had been ascertained by her agency, that sounds to me that she was doing her job,” said Ryan, who attended one of the meetings cited in the letter. He said Lerner did not reveal any sensitive taxpayer information and in fact he left the meeting frustrated.
He also said the focus on Crossroads and not for example, the pro-Obama Priorities USA, was understandable given that the latter had raised scant funds at the time, compared to Crossroads.
So-called tax-exempt social welfare groups, organized under section 50(c) 4 of the tax code, are barred from using a significant amount of their resources for political purposes, though the standard is murky after an IRS regulation later changed the benchmark.
The documents released Wednesday include those that suggest Lerner was misleading when asked about the timeline of when she found out that “tea party” was a trigger word on a be-on-the-lookout list for groups that should get extra IRS scrutiny.
In an interview with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Lerner said she first learned of the BOLO on June 29, 2011.
But the panel has evidence that she knew that “tea party” cases were being treated differently as early as April 2010, when the whole shebang started, although whether she knew of the list is unclear.
On April 28, 2010, Lerner received an email alerting her that “there are 13 tea party cases out in EO Determinations.”
A few months later, on Aug. 3, 2010, Lerner asked her assistant to print the sensitive case report that detailed how the tea party groups were being handled. A few months later, in early 2011, she would write to her colleagues that the “Tea party matter [is] very dangerous.”
That was when she instructed the Cincinnati IRS officials handling the cases to send them to IRS counsel in Washington, D.C., where they would end up sitting for years, virtually untouched.
The documents also show that Lerner met with a group named Democracy 21, which made several complaints about Crossroads between 2010 and 2012. That Jan. 4, 2013 meeting included the Office of Chief Counsel and the Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, according to the committee letter.
Before that, Lerner sent emails asking what happened to the Crossroads application, including whether the group had been audited or selected for audit.
When IRS official Tom Miller said it had not, she sent an email to IRS officials asking why: “I reviewed the information last night and thought the allegations in the documents were really damning, so wondered why we hadn’t done something with the org,” she wrote, later adding: “You should know that we are working on a denial of the application, which may solve the problem because we probably will say it isn’t exempt.”
The week later she followed up on her instructions: “As I said, we are working on the denial for [Crossroads], so I need to think about whether to open an exam. I think yes, but let me cogitate a bit on it.”
Steven Law, Crossroads GPS president in a statement said “it is now apparent that Ms. Lerner was directly and improperly involved in targeting our application, which may explain why we are still awaiting final action on our 501(c)(4) certification.”
The letter also charged that Lerner targeted conservative groups Americans for Responsible Leadership, Freedom Path, Rightchange.com, America is Not Stupid and A Better America after a January 2013 ProPublica story ran, accusing the “dark money groups” of lying to the IRS and over-engaging in politics when they aren’t supposed to.
Lerner forwarded the email to her colleagues and asked to meet on the groups. Ultimately three of the groups were selected for an audit.
A little later that month, Lerner seemed to be considering a job at a left leaning social welfare organization, Organization For Action.
But it’s unclear if she was serious or joking in her email to an IRS employee in response to a news story about the new group: “Oh – maybe I can get the DC office job!”
The House Ways and Means Committee has voted to 23-14 along party lines to refer former head of tax exempt groups at the IRS Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for prosecution. Although the details about exactly what charges will be have not yet been released, lawmakers are arguing Lerner has not been truthful with Congress or the IRS inspector general and leaked confidential tax information.
Last time a referral like this happened, it was to Major League Baseball player Roger Clemens, who was pursued by the Department of Justice for lying to Congress but was exonerated in court.
This is a test for the Department of Justice and the Obama administration. What’s more important? Baseball and steroids? Or the most powerful federal agency abusing its power to target innocent conservative groups?
Last summer President Obama called the targeting “outrageous” and promised to hold people responsible and accountable for what happened. If the Justice Department refuses to pursue charges against Lerner, it’s fair to say one reason is because they don’t want information leading back to the administration coming out in court.
Tomorrow the House Oversight Comittee will vote on whether to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress.
Former IRS director Lois Lerner, the center figure in the scandal surrounding conservative and Tea Party groups once joked about getting a job with Organizing for Action while investigating the reorganization of President Obama’s former campaign operation into a 501(c)(4) group.
Lerner, the director of Exempt Organizations, emailed a colleague about OFA on January 24, who noted that they would primarily operate out of Chicago – but would have an office in Washington D.C.
“Oh – maybe I can get the DC office job!” Lerner emailed back.
See an image of the email below as provided by the House Ways and Means Committee.
IRS workers in several offices have been openly supporting President Obama, including by donning pro-Obama paraphernalia and urging callers to reelect the president in 2012, according to allegations contained in a new government watchdog report.
A report by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, released Wednesday, cited accusations that workers at a Dallas IRS office may have violated federal law by wearing pro-Obama items like shirts, stickers and buttons. The Hatch Act forbids Executive Branch workers from engaging in partisan political activity.
The report comes as two House committees move to take action against former IRS official Lois Lerner regarding the agency’s targeting of conservative groups.
The report, further fueling allegations of bias at the agency, claimed that several accusations were made against the Dallas office claiming pro-Obama gear was “commonplace” there. Employees allegedly wore Obama shirts, buttons and stickers to work and had Obama screensavers on their IRS computers.
The report said it was unclear whether this activity happened before or after the 2012 election, but an advisory was issued to Dallas employees that such activity was prohibited.
Another example cited in the report states an IRS employee in Kentucky also violated the law by touting her political views to a taxpayer during the 2012 election. According to the report, the employee told the caller she was “for” the Democrats because “Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and… they’re going to take women back 40 years.”
The employee then told the taxpayer that she was not supposed to disclose her views “so you didn’t hear me saying that.” The report says the employee admitted violating the Hatch Act and will serve a 14-day suspension.
However, the Kentucky example was not the only IRS employee found to be urging taxpayers over the phone to vote for Obama. The report cites another unnamed customer service representative, who was accused of telling multiple callers in 2012 they needed to vote for Obama.
According to the report, the employee told the callers a chant based on Obama’s last name that touted his campaign and urged them to reelect him. The report does not say where the employee was located, but says the Office of Special Counsel is seeking “significant disciplinary action” against him.
The accusations come as a House committee on Wednesday voted to formally ask the Justice Department to consider criminal prosecution against Lerner. A separate committee will vote Thursday on whether to hold her in contempt of Congress for twice refusing to testify on the targeting scandal.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is an independent government watchdog that investigates claims of wrongdoing by federal employees.
California State Rep. Jackie Speier, a democrat of course, is calling on President Obama to ban the importation of all foreign-made firearms, and her reason defies logic. Because of Leland Yee’s arrest last week, where her fellow democrat was accused of trying to import illegal machine guns and rocket launchers, Speier thinks we should stop the importation of legal semi-automatic rifles.
Speier released a statement yesterday, blissfully unaware of her hypocrisy and apples-to-oranges comparison:
“This FBI investigation of Leland Yee reveals how easy it is to import lethal assault weapons that were previously banned. This case should be a warning to us all that even the most trusted appearing among us are ready to do real harm. Since Congress can pass no meaningful gun-control laws, even after the mass killing in Newtown, President Obama should use his pen to slow the import of these weapons, which have no place in our homes.”
The FBI investigation had nothing to do with the import of weapons that were previously banned. Yee is accused of trying to bring in full-auto rifles and shoulder-fire rockets. These things have always been banned.
What she is confusing here is the Clinton-era ban on imported semi-auto rifles. Under George W. Bush that ban was allowed to expire. Military-grade weapons and consumer-level firearms are not the same thing. Speier is purposefully erasing the line to push further gun ownership limitations on the people.
In addition, the FBI investigation does not show how easy it is to import illegal guns. It was a complex criminal organization involved in this scheme. Your average Joe would not be able to get the Chinese Triads to ship him a case of M4 rifles or Javelin missiles. Even the legal importation of semi-auto rifles is beyond an average person’s ability. It requires a license and all kinds of hoops to jump through.
Best line in her rant: This case should be a warning to us all that even the most trusted appearing among us are ready to do real harm.
What she must mean are that democrat gun grabbers can’t be trusted because I can’t think of one Republican that ever tried to raise campaign funds by selling illegal weapons. I fail to see how the dishonesty and hypocrisy of democrats should lead to a further erosion of the 2nd Amendment. Also, she should speak for herself; I never trusted Yee.
There is a subtle little twist in the gun grabber’s rhetoric included as well. Usually, the enemies of freedom like to say these guns don’t belong on our streets. Speier has switched it up and says they “have no place in our homes.” I sense this is a shift in strategy by the anti-gun crowd to convince us that not only don’t we not have a right to protect ourselves in public, but that we no longer enjoy that protection at home.
Lelenad Yee did a bad bad thing. He tried to illegally import weapons that themselves were illegal. Leave it to a democrat to use this situation as a reason to halt the legal importation of legal firearms.
Below is a list from Open Secrets of the campaign contributions of various groups. Try to find the infamous “Koch Brothers”:
If you noticed there are no less than 22 groups that donated more to the Democratic Party than the Koch Brothers donated to the Republican Party – congratulations! You have basic math, reading and comprehension skills.
For extra credit, take note that DNC “Uber Donors” gave $485,652,385 more to the Democrat Party for their progressive causes than all RNC “Uber donors” combined.
After the Supreme Court struck down an elections law on campaign funding caps, progressives took to the media to vent their supposed frustrations.
“Now we know corporations are people and money is people too,” CNN anchor Caroline Costello lamented (apparently not noticing that “CNN is people” and it has freedom of the press rights). One wonders if Democrats also object as vehemently to the notion that “progressive groups are people” or “colleges are people” or “unions are people.”
According to Open Secrets, in 2012, “Obama’s campaign spent about $737.9 million, compared to the combined Republican total of $624.8 million.” The grand total for all elections tilted Republicans’ way, but by the margins of 9% and 10% in the House and Senate, respectively. While PACs leaned GOP, the Democrats dominated the 527s. The point is that the media’s outrage at spending in politics is entirely selective.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) on Wednesday criticized a Koch Industries subsidiary for allegedly circumventing sanctions on Iran even though Reid has accepted tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from companies that have done exactly that.
Reid also claimed that the Kochs support the recently introduced House Republican budget proposal. Neither the company nor its owners has taken a position on the legislation.
Reid’s claims were part of an ongoing offensive against libertarian philanthropists Charles and David Koch. Reid has accused them of being “un-American” for donating to groups that oppose the Democratic Party’s agenda.
A page on Reid’s Senate website is devoted entirely to attacking the Kochs. It initially cited former White House economist Austan Goolsbee, who falsely claimed in 2010 that Koch Industries does not pay any corporate taxes.
That claim remains on the website, with its text crossed out. Below is an “update” that claims the Kochs “have supported the Ryan budget, which provides tax cuts for the wealthy and protects taxpayer subsidies for big businesses and oil companies.”
The page links to a website from a left-wing nonprofit on the budget introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) this week, on which the Kochs have not taken a position.
“The Kochs made improper payments to win contracts in Africa, India and the Middle East,” Reid claims. “And they sold millions of dollars of equipment to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism.”
After evidence of the said improper payments came to light, Koch Industries commissioned an internal investigation and fired the responsible employees, according to Bloomberg.
Reid has accepted campaign contributions from companies that engage in even more widespread corruption abroad.
According to the Washington Examiner, Reid has accepted more than half a million dollars in contributions since 2009 from employees and political action committees of companies under investigation for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Reid has also taken tens of thousands of dollars from companies that, like Koch, have done business in Iran through foreign subsidiaries, including General Electric ($25,500 in PAC contributions), Hewlett-Packard ($14,500 in PAC contributions), and Sony ($14,500 in PAC contributions).
Reid has also taken $26,000 from Boeing’s PAC. The company is currently trying to reestablish its presence in Iran even though the country remains on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.