IRS Scandal Shakes Constitutional Freedoms

Submitted by tnjp on May 18, 2013 - 5:55pm.

This Isn’t the First Time the IRS has Targeted Specific Groups
by Rainforest Action Network
May 17, 2013
Written by Melanie Gleason

At first glance, it may seem like another annoying addition to the scandal du jour list: Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged that the Justice Department and FBI began a criminal investigation on whether Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees broke the law when they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status–using search terms such as “tea party” and “patriot.”

However, what may initially appear as a political party tit for tat goes much deeper–in that the IRS has long been a vehicle of political retribution (with politics depending on what administration is currently seated in power)–and perhaps most disconcerting of all: tossing the constitutionally guaranteed equal protection clause right out the window.

The recurrent theme of governmental power targeting marginalized political communities has been a consistent, abysmal tradition dating back to the FDR administration. The administration admitted using inflated charges of tax evasion on political targets such as former Louisiana governor and senator Huey Long. And the tactic of wielding the IRS’ fiery wrath is an equal opportunity strategy for both sides of the aisle: under the Nixon administration, the IRS created the Special Services Staff (SSS) to look into thousands of perceived political enemies–including reporters who wrote critical stories of Nixon, such as Newsday’s Robert Greene, and civil rights organizations like the NAACP.

In fact, RAN has its own history with the IRS. In 2004, under the Bush administration, RAN was actually subpoenaed by the House Ways and Means Committee for all information relating to our demonstrations since 1993. Undoubtedly, this was part of a burgeoning effort by the Bush administration to stifle dissent and control free speech of activist groups. Six months before the subpoena, RAN had successfully won two major corporate campaigns: leading the first major logger, Boise Cascade, out of old-growth forests and transforming the lending practices of the world’s largest bank at the time, Citibank. Was it a coincidence that RAN was served a subpoena fresh off the heels of winning two of its biggest corporate victories?

So, the latest news of the IRS under the Obama Administration supposedly overreaching its tentacles into right-wing groups is certainly no foreign concept. In fact, what is happening currently with the Tea Party is probably one of the least egregious examples in this sordid, intertwined history. It’s also worth mentioning that these same right-wing groups were silent when RAN, Greenpeace and other allied organizations were subpoenaed under the Bush Administration. Still, this should be a wake-up call for those watching on the sidelines. This is symptomatic of our checks and balances system utterly failing.

The strategy of utilizing the IRS to do a political party’s bidding reveals something undeniably malignant: the government has a lot of leeway to unleash its fury on its desired targets. It is a wrath that is felt disproportionately according to what administration is in power and what interests are not currently serving the status quo. The truth is, this “scandal” should really be a full-fledged exposé on how the government may be inflicting both disparate intent and impact on people and groups that are not serving the current administration’s interests.

This is all indicative of a much larger problem we have in American government: the synergy and integration of government and corporate/special interests. If you’re sitting on the wrong side of the fence, the administration is essentially condoning the fact that it is okay to violate your equal protection rights. So, it is more than a political party spin job–it is about our government having unbridled power with launching intimidation tactics–that come at a heavy monetary and time cost. RAN and other organizations that have been subpoenaed have spent thousands in legal fees and have had operations stalled for months.

No presidential administration should be able to rattle this constitutionally protected dissent and free speech. As former Executive Director of RAN, Mike Brune, wrote in 2004 in response to Bill Thomas, former chairman on Ways and Means: “We firmly believe that citizen activism is a patriotic American tradition and a basis for a healthy democracy, and that it is not only a right, but also a responsibility.” And this all begs the question: what other entities does the US government have synergy with so it can continue inflicting additional oppression on marginalized political targets?

This post was originally published by Rainforest Action Network.

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IRS targeted groups critical of government

Submitted by tnjp on May 26, 2013 - 7:28pm.

Wasn't just teabaggers...
IRS targeted groups critical of government, documents from agency probe show - The Washington Post
By Juliet Eilperin, Published: May 12 E-mail the writer
At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service officials singled out for scrutiny not only groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

The staffers in the Cincinnati field office were making high-level decisions on how to evaluate the groups because a decade ago the IRS assigned all applications to that unit. The IRS also eliminated an automatic after-the-fact review process Washington used to conduct such determinations.

Marcus Owens, who oversaw tax-exempt groups at the IRS between 1990 and 1999, said that delegation “carries with it a risk” because the Cincinnati office “isn’t as plugged into what’s [politically] sensitive as Washington.”

Owens, now with the firm Caplin & Drysdale, said that before the agency’s most recent reorganization, it had a series of “tripwires in place” that could catch unfair targeting, including the fact that the IRS identified its criteria for special scrutiny in a public manual.

“There’s no longer that safety valve, and as a result, the IRS has been rolling the dice ever since,” said Owens, who worked at the agency for nearly a quarter-century and now represents some organizations seeking tax-exempt status.....

Liberal Groups Probed With Similar Letters From IRS

Submitted by tnjp on May 26, 2013 - 7:40pm.

Liberal Groups Probed With Similar Letters From IRS That Triggered Tea Party Fury
by Sarah Wood • May 16, 2013
With the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) coming under fire for admitting to targeting specific Tea Party-supporting groups, it seems that they also targeted liberal-leaning groups as well. In fact, one of those groups even had their tax-exempt status changed, whereas none of the Tea Party groups were required to change anything.

According to Bloomberg,a group called Emerge America, whose primary goal is to train Democratic women and encourage them to run for office, also came under investigation and received a letter similar to the one sent to the Tea Party groups. Karen Middleton, Emerge America’s president, said that they are now required to be incorporated under section 527 of the tax code which forces them to list all donors. A 527 group is listed specifically as being used for political purposes.

The angered Tea Party groups are all still listed under section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code. In fact, in the span of 11 months, from May 2012 to March 2013, the IRS approved 45 Tea Party-supporting groups even after the scrutiny. There are actually 54 organizations with “Tea Party,” “9/12,” or “patriot” in their title which have been granted 501(c)(4) status since 2010 according to the IRS. Under 501(c)(4) status groups are not required to list their donors.

....Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.....

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