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US Politics & Events

#563
May18.2013 
Sorting through the so-called IRS/Obama scandal

Dig deep enough under the government and the MSM and you’re sure to hit a vein of pure bullshit. Mine it and . . . well, read on.

Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code provides  "non-profit" status to those groups with net earnings devoted exclusively to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes. Such groups are not taxed on their income and may use it to influence legislation (lobby). They may participate in political campaigns as long as the participation is the promotion of the common weal and not the promotion of one candidate over another.

Obviously, there is a very thin line between what advertising is promoting the common weal and what advertising is promoting a candidate, and after the USSCt totally fucked up Citizens United v. FEC there was virtually unlimited supplies of corporate and union money available for campaigning/lobbying that unscrupulous people wanted to funnel anonymously through a non-profit. It was IRS’ job to insure that money going to political candidates was not flowing through 501(c)(4) organizations. Note: the law does not require that donors of the (c)(4)’s income be identified. The identity of donors to an organization is irrelevant to the IRS’ determination of whether the organization is qualified for (c)(4) treatment. This is an important point. Very important.

The real question in this mess: Was there bias?

To listen to the Republicans and the MSM, the disaster that led to the resignation of IRS head and 25-year employee Steven Miller is that IRS employees in Cincinnati plugged the words "tea party" into a computer program that was used to search the names of organizations applying for (c)(4) status in an attempt to find those who were using their income to promote political candidates, not social issues.

Now, if I had been tasked with searching for organizations who were trying to pull of a (c)(4) naughty, probably the first thing I would have plugged into the search program would have been "crossroads" followed pretty quickly by "tea party." That is not because I have anything against the Karl Rove/Koch brothers funded Nazis or the tea baggers or other conservatives; it’s merely a logical term to search on if you’re looking for a political organization.

So the question here is not whether IRS mules tried to find conservative groups improperly applying for (c)(4) status – that’s what the mules were supposed to do. The question is whether the IRS mules looked exclusively for conservative groups. IOW, the scandal is not whether or why the IRS plugged "tea party" and "patriot" into the search engine; it’s whether they also searched on words that would identify liberal groups and unions – maybe "occupy," or "united," or "choice," or "parenthood." The only valid question here is not whether the IRS was targeting conservative groups, but whether they were exclusively targeting conservative groups.

Or at least I thought that was the only valid question until I dug down into the BS vein and I read the IG report. But we’ll get to that.

The plagiarism sideshow

For a week now I have been looking for some indication as to whether or not the IRS was looking for liberal, progressive political groups trying to get an illicit (c)(4) status and not just right-wing, conservative groups. Was the IRS doing something really lopsided in going after just right-wing nuts? Or were they looking for tax cheats on both the left and right, but only the right-wing nuts are screaming? I could not find an answer to this basic and pivotal question. I couldn’t even find someone, anyone – a reporter, a congressman, a bureaucrat, Ronald McDonald – who was asking it.

For instance, even as late May15, the day after the IG report came out, a daft NPR article by Frank James purportedly pulls 10 most important points out of the IG report on the IRS scandal. Nowhere does James ask or address this most salient question: Did the IRS target liberal groups and unions, or just the conservatives? Zilch.  

But in the wee hours of this morning, digging deeper and deeper, I finally hit pay-shit.

First let me identify what everyone is now calling "the IG report." The Office of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is a governmental watchdog that is supposed to keep the IRS in line. The actual IG is J. Russell George who is the only person in Washington with a status higher than chauffeur who does not have a Wiki page, but you can check him out at his Treasury page.  Mr. George looks like a man who has done a lot of good work in the Washington cess-pool. 

The IG report, oddly, does not have George's name on it, unless it is in one of those annoying areas that are redacted.  In fact, it has no one listed as being responsible for it but it does list a few IRS grunts who contributed to it, George is not among them. But presumably, since George is the IG, it’s his report.

The IG investigation was carried out between Jun2012 and February2013. The 54 page report is dated May14.2013. Not only is the report silent as to whom is responsible for it, the report is vague as to who initiated the investigation or why. It says only that "[w]e initiated this audit based on concerns expressed by Congress and reported in the media regarding the IRS’s treatment of organizations applying for tax-exempt status."

This is important because it means that the IG investigation was not the result of IRS employees or management seeing that something untoward was going on and calling in the watchdog to sort it out. Dozens of IRS employees must have stepped into this mess in one way or another, and not a one of them blew a whistle. One must wonder whether Obama’s unprecedented and obsessive persecution of whistle-blowers had something to do – intentionally or not – with 18 months’ silence of dozens of IRS employees.

But to get back to my frustration at no one wanting to talk about the other side – harassment of the left side, if there was any – I found what I was looking for in an AP article by Stephen Ohlemacher that cited the IG report. Here’s what Ohlemacher said in an AP article time-stamped May17.13 6:40pm EDT:

Agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report said.

Bam! as Jon Stewart would say. This is precisely the information – the smoking gun – I was looking for! This tells us that the IRS was not just doing its job fairly and objectively by going after all political groups who were trying to pull a (c)(4) fast one. Rather the IRS was singling out right-wing nuts for harassment. Suddenly, this IRS debacle really was beginning to look Nixonian, if not down right Stalinian, and clearly beyond Mickey Mousian.

Thank you Mr. Ohlemacher. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Somebody who gets it!

Given the importance of Ohlemacher’s statement to my mental and emotional well-being, I just had to investigate further. I mean, where, exactly, did he get this information? What I found was, well, like I said was like hitting pay-shit in a deep vein of BS.

First I popped Ohlemacher’s 29-word sentence verbatim into Google to see where else it came up. Boy, was I surprised. I mean, I expected to get a lot of hits because, after all, AP sells their content to newspapers all over the world. But the first hit I got was a UK Telegraph article with Ohlemacher's 29-word sentence, which stumped me because it was dated May16 – the day before Ohlemacher’s article, and yet Ohlemacher's 29-word sentence was there word-for-word. 

But there was no mention in the Telegraph article of either AP or Ohlemacher.  The Telegraph article was anonymous. Hmmm.  Of course, "plagiarism" is the first word that came to mind because it is virtually statistically impossible to string together 29 English words in precisely the same order that someone else has strung them together without copying the other person. I don’t know what the deal is between papers and AP, but I’d bet a pretty pile of pound notes that papers are required to identify AP content as AP content and credit the AP author. Maybe the editors of the Telegraph are OK with ripping off other sources.

But hold the phone on this plagiarism theory . . . that Telegraph article is date-stamped May16 and the AP article is date-stamped May17. Maybe I got this plagiarism accusation backwards – maybe Ohlemacher ripped off the Telegraph. 

So I went back to my Google hit-list to see who else was using the quote. It turns out the same exact sentence is used by Ohlemacher in two separate AP stories, one on May16 and one on May17.  In the May16 article, the sentence is part of a 2-sentence paragraph.  In the May17 article the 29-word sentence stands as a paragraph of its own.  The Telegraph article of May16 also uses the whole 2-sentence paragraph.  And so the issue of who is ripping off whom was still not settled since virtually the same quote appeared on the same date.  It was going to be necessary to resolve the entire date-stamps to see who was first.

This is one of those situations when international time and time zones and daylight-savings time all conspire to make life real tough. The way to get around such a chronological mess is to convert everything to the same time: UTC.  When we do that and lay out the entire quotes, it becomes pretty evident that somethin’ don’t smell right. Here are the quotes laid before you in chronological order with their UTC date-stamps:

AP – Ohlemacher (May16, 11:20am, UTC)

The inspector general's report said that if agents saw the words "Tea Party" or "Patriots" in an application, they automatically set it aside for additional scrutiny. The agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report said.

Telegraph – anonymous (May16, 8:50pm, UTC) 

The inspector general's report said that if agents saw the words "Tea Party" or "Patriots" in an application, they automatically set it aside for additional scrutiny that could hold up approval for an average of nearly two years. The agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report said.  [Bold material appears in some versions of this paragraph but not in others, as above]

AP – Ohlemacher (May17, 10:40am, UTC)

Agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report said.

So it is looking like what is stinking the place up here is the UK Telegraph. It looks like the Telegraph copied Ohlemacher’s entire paragraph almost 10 hours after it was put out on the AP’s wire. Then Ohlemacher himself copied the second sentence of the paragraph in his own AP article published the next day.  In copyright and plagiarism cases, he who is first to publish is usually the person getting ripped off.  From what I have seen, there is no evidence that the Telegraph originally wrote the paragraph in question. 

But this is just a diversion – just a side show to the main IRS circus we are discussing. I point it out to remind you that the MSM can’t be trusted, which is what this site LogoPhere is all about. And now I’m going to push that unkind point even further, because it looks to me like Ohlemacher is not beyond or above blame here, either.  He is the bull-shitter.

Sorting out Ohlemacher

What Ohlemacher is telling us is that the IG report says that the IRS agents did not flag progressive or liberal applications for (c)(4) status. Like I say, that is a huge point because if they did flag the lefties as well as the righties then they were just doing their job in trying to hunt down all organizations trying to game the system. But if, as Ohlemacher says the IG report says, the IRS mules flagged only the right-wing nuts, then that’s a whole different matter. And I mean a WHOLE different matter. That is trying use the intimidation of the IRS to swing the election. Remember, this was late 2011 and through 2012.

And so it was essential for me to wade through the IG report and see what Ohlemacher was talking about; i.e., to locate where the report said that IRS mules "did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels," or words to that effect. 

The bottom line is that I could not find any such assertion in the IG report – not even close. IOW, it appears to me that Ohlemacher’s assertion of IRS bias is itself biased bullshit. Let me walk you through it.

First, if you have opened the pdf of the IG report, you can verify the following by using the word search facility. You will find that there is no mention within this report of "progressive" or "liberal." Those words aren’t used. Neither is "scrutiny." There is no "singled out" or even "singled." In other words the same words Ohlemacher used to make his allegation of what the IG report said about there bing a bias were not words used in the IG report.

That is not a bad thing and not suspicious; it just makes it harder to track down what it is Ohlemacher is talking about for in asserting that the IG report alleges bias, Ohlemacher does not cite page or paragraph. It is a very serious assertion for Ohlemacher to be accusing the IG of making, and his failure to put his finger on it in the report is valid ground for concern. If I were an honest reporter and I made such an important statement about what the IG report said, first, I would quote it verbatim and, second, I would certainly tell you where you needed to look to find it in the report. Ohlemacher does neither.

On reviewing the IG report carefully, the best conclusion I can come to is that the IG report is of such poor quality that this important point of bias against right-wing groups, while suggested, is not actually asserted. 

Certainly the report says over and over that the IRS mules employed the terms "tea party," "9/12," and "patriots" in screening the (c)(4) applications. But no where does the report say these were the only terms searched on. And no where does it say that terms related to left-wing causes were not used by the IRS mules. The report is mum on this point. The closest it comes is the following . . .

At page 8 of the report, the IG, Mr. George, tells us that his investigators "reviewed the names on all applications identified as potential political cases." Their data are summarized in Figure 4 of the report, which is reproduced at the top of this article.

I believe "all applications identified" means from the beginning of this screening snafu in Mar.2010 until May31.2012, the date given in the figure. There were 298 such cases identified. But from Figure 2 on page 3 of the report we know that there were thousands and thousands of (c)(4) applications filed during these years. So the total number flagged – less than 300 – represents only a tiny, tiny percent of the whole. Quantitatively speaking, the whole thing is a shit-storm in a teapot. But that’s just the gross numbers, the real picture shows the shit-storm getting bigger and the teapot getting smaller.

That Figure 4 shows that of all 298 cases flagged, only about 32% of the organizations had the words "tea party," "9/12," or "patriots" – which is to say just 96 applications out of may thousands were flagged for having the right wing-nut indicia.  WTF?

What about those 202 applications in the blue?

But the vastly more important question that is not addressed by George, Ohlemacher, or anybody else.  It is this: What about that other 68%???? Yeah, those 202 cases in blue. We know they were flagged -- that's why they're included in the pie chart.  How many of them were flagged because they have left wing-nut indicia like "parenthood," or "occupy," or "choice" in their names? ALL OF THEM for all we know!!!! 

I mean, this is a graph of all the "potential political cases," and the right wing-nut cases are identified by the 96 cases in yellow, green, and beige.  So what does that leave the blue to represent?  There’s right wing-nuts and there’s left wing-nuts – who else is there??? So if the 68% blue area represents "potential political cases" that are not conservatives, then those 68% must be liberals, which means Ohlemacher is completely full of shit and this was really an IRS witch-hunt mostly against the left that has been hijacked by the Republicans to make it look the opposite.  Wouldn't be the first time Rove and Armey have orchestrated something like that.

OK, it's beginning to look like this whole "scandal" is nothing more than a Republican inspired shit-storm in a Democratic teapot.  Out of nearly 10,000 application for (c)(4) status, you’ve got 72 flagged because the organization has "tea party" in the title. A fraction of 1% of the total applications.  Big fucking deal, as our beloved but brain-ded vice president would say. So why did Obama fire Steven Miller, the IRS head guy?

Well, one reason is that reporters like Ohlemacher are energizing this shit-storm with their inaccurate, piss-poor reporting.  Contrary to Ohlemacher's reporting, there is no statement in the IG report that the IRS mules targeted only right wing-nuts.  Ohlemacher is either punking us or just didn't do his job and read the IG report. 

Until we know the make-up of that blue area on the pie chart, no one can conclude that no progressives or liberals were targeted. The data presented by the report indicates just the opposite. Lousy reporting by AP – what’s new?? Why would the Telegraph go to the trouble to plagiarize it?

But the reason I would have fired Miller – and I would have – is found in the details of IG report. I mean that thing paints a picture of an organization so screwed up it doesn’t have the collective brains or skill to organize a 1-car funeral. Subordinates are over-ruling or ignoring management. People are coming and going in management positions like flies on a cow pat. This kind of thing is no new.  The IRS has been a mess for many decades.  One president -- Clinton? -- had to go so far as to publicly chastise the organization for its impudent over-reaching.  Seems to me that everyone who has been in the organization 25 years – not just Steven Miller – ought to be permanently "furloughed."

Donor lists of the 2-ton swine

But there is one dark side to this whole debacle that really bothers me. The IG report points out time and again that there is no statutory requirement when applying for (c)(4) status for organizations to reveal the identity of their donors. The income to the organization becomes tax-free, but that money was already taxed when it was received by the donor.  And that is precisely the point that has the left-wingos so bonking mad about these (c)(4) organizations – the DNC can’t see who is giving all that money to organizations trying to close down abortion clinics and ram-rod the XL pipeline down America’s throat. The Democrats seem to be the only ones who get their knickers in a twist over anonymous donors, especially after Citizens United.

But in spite of there being no law requiring disclosure of donors, these IRS mules had the audacity to send out letters to the organizations they flagged demanding that the organizations reveal their donors. This might easily lead skeptics like me to speculate that even if this mess did start at the ground level and not at the top, as appears to be the case, there were people at the ground level feeding the illicit donor information to the DNC or other Democratic operatives. This is not an allegation; it is just a hunch. If it is correct, there are people at the IRS and people at the DNC who ought to be going to jail.  The IG report talks about the people in the Cincinnati office who were flagging applications and making up the rules on what applicants had to disclose.  Again and again the managers told these people to back off, and the managers were just ignored.  Looks to me like there are some IRS mules in Cincinnati who the FBI ought to be looking at very closely for connections to Democrat or pro-Obama organizations.

Which brings us, finally but foremost, to the inane comparisons of Obama to Richard Nixon. Yes, there have been those complete idiots such as Piers Morgan comparing this case with Nixon who faced impeachmnet based, in part, on charges that he tried to obtain from the IRS confidential information on his enemies, and that he tried to use IRS audits to harass his enemies. 

The present case is, so far, not a Nixon case, and comparisons between Obama and Nixon, or calls for Obama's impeachment are being made only by morons wanting the public to take notice of them.  There is no comparison here.  For one thing, although they are both presumed to be pink on the inside, Nixon was white.  Furthermore, Nixon was not just white, Nixon was a stupid white crook.  

The point is that, unlike the situation in 1974, there is no indication whatsoever that Obama knew what was going on or directed the IRS mules to harass anyone or to collect information on any one, but there was clear information that Nixon and his lead goon Halderman actively selected enemies for IRS audits and at least attempted to collect information on enemies through the IRS.

While there is no indication that Obama knew about or orchestrated the present IRS scandal, if it turns out that any of the information about applicants for (c)(4) status illicitly collected by the IRS made its way to Obama, his aids or associates, or even the DNC, then suddenly we are back in 1974. But given the miniscule scale of this IRS screw-up, I don’t see how that is possible.  If the IRS mules wanted to harass the 2-ton swine on the right, they would have put "crossroads" into their search engine and then demanded that Rove turn over his list of donors.   After all, American Crossroads GPS is one of these "non-political" organizations with (c)(4) status.  

May19.2103 update:

Today Zach Carter at HuffPo observed that these very same 2-ton (c)(4) swine -- i.e., Rove's Crossroads GPS -- are the ones that the IRS should be looking at closely.  Said Carter:

Rove, a career political strategist, raised hundreds of millions of dollars during the 2012 election and spent them on political advertisements designed to influence the presidential and congressional races. Rove's Crossroads GPS is one of hundreds of essentially political organizations that receive tax-exempt status designed for "social welfare" groups.

-- The Gutter Grunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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