By Doug Porter
It’s ‘Plan B’, in case Congressman Darrell Issa’s crew can’t make the case for impeachment. They’re even willing to tie Presidents Obama and Nixon together.
I’m talking about the emerging ‘scandal’ that the Internal Revenue Service made life difficult for Tea Party type groups seeking to obtain tax exempt status. The story gets top billing in today’s UT-San Diego, slightly overshadowing coverage of Senator John McCain’s call for a special panel to investigate last year’s attack on the US diplomatic compound/CIA station in Libya.
Documents obtained by various media outlets over the past few days, including the Washington Post, the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal, tell a story about the behind the scene processes at the IRS in how it defined “social welfare groups” following the US Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizen’s United ruling.
The court’s decision allowed corporations and labor unions to raise and spend unlimited sums on electoral contests and allowed them to create tax exempt 501c(4) groups. The limitation placed on these groups was their ‘primary’ purpose could not be targeting specific electoral candidates.
The number of groups filing for this tax-exempt status more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, to more than 3,400, causing the IRS to centralize its audit operations at its Cincinnati offices. From the Associated Press account:
As part of the review, staffers look for signs that groups are participating in political activity. If so, IRS agents take a closer look to make sure that politics isn’t the group’s primary activity.
As part of this process, agents in Cincinnati came up with a list of things to look for in an application. As part of the list, they included the words “tea party” and “patriot”.
Three hundred groups during the time period in question were singled out for further scrutiny, according to the IRS. Of those groups, about 25% were flagged because they had “tea party” or “patriot” somewhere in their applications. No group had its tax exempt status revoked.
The head of the Internal Revenue Service’s exempt organizations division apologized on Friday for the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups during the 2012 election.
The Wall Street Journal:
“The bottom line is [IRS officials] used key words to go after conservatives,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “There has to be accountability for the people who did it. And, quite frankly…there’s got to be accountability for people who were telling lies about it being done.”
The Big Deal now for the Republicans will be to try to tie this story to higher ups in the Obama administration.
The Big Obstacle for the Republicans will be that they’ll have to take down one of their own to get there. From Columnist Rick Ungar atForbes:
Maybe then, it will interest you to know that there are only two officials at the IRS that are political appointments—the commissioner (who is the boss) and the chief legal counsel. And while you may be thinking that it would be a piece of cake for the White House to place a call to the Commissioner and nudge him into putting a little heat on Tea Party groups so that they would be kept busy defending themselves from government annoyance rather than putting their energies into defeating the President, it would not have been quite so simple a task for the White House to accomplish.
Because the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service during the period in question was Douglas Shulman, a political appointee of President George W. Bush.
In fact, not only was Commissioner Shulman a Bush appointee, he would certainly have had no motivation to do the political bidding of a Democrat president considering that Mr. Shulman had already announced prior to the election that he would be stepping down from his post in November.
It will be interesting to watch this latest GOP twist on altered reality.
UPDATE: This morning, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called on the IRS commissioner to be fired. The best he can do in that regard is to can Steven Miller, the acting commissioner since last November because Senate has not yet confirmed a full-time commissioner since Douglas Shulman, a Bush appointee, stepped down this past fall. So what he’s calling for is firing the guy who’s been temporarily in charge, since the guy who was in charge when all these things happened is no longer there. Wow.
And FYI, the IRS is a real pain in the ass to just about anybody who uses or implies the word ‘politics’ in a tax exempt application. I’ve been there, done that, got the teeshirt and somehow lived through the audit.
Issa in the Media Spotlight. Again.
Washington’s The Hill reports that our own Congressman Darrell Issa is expected to play a major role in House deliberations on immigration reform.
Issa, the powerful chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has been tasked with crafting a bill that would modify the immigration rules for highly skilled and educated foreign workers, The Hill has learned.
The bill will be the next piece of immigration business for the House Judiciary Committee, which is leading that chamber’s work on an immigration overhaul and has already taken up bills dealing with agricultural workers and the e-verify system.
Issa’s involvement is welcome news to the tech industry, which has viewed him as an ally since he helped lead the successful fight in Congress against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). In effect, they get to work with one of their closest GOP allies on the immigration issue that they care about the most.
Mmmmm… Think he’s got higher political ambitions, anybody?
The SUPER Act of 2013: A Positive Step on Climate Change
Congressman Scott Peters’ (CA-52) introduction of the Super Pollutant Emissions Reduction (SUPER) Act of 2013 is, excuse the pun, a breath of fresh air amidst the polluted emissions coming out of Capital Hill lately.
It’s a little technical, but suffice it to say the SUPER act is a potentially big step towards informing future actions regarding developing super pollutant legislation.
From Think Progress:
The SUPER Act reinvigorates the conversation about climate change by addressing “short-lived climate pollutants,” a potent group of gases referred to as SLCPs or “super pollutants.” While carbon dioxide (CO2) is the best-known greenhouse gas, it is certainly not the only one. On the contrary, nearly half of global warming is caused by super pollutants such as methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon.
Super pollutants are far more potent than CO2, with between 25 and 4000 times more global warming potential over a 100-year period. Furthermore, these pollutants remain in the atmosphere for no more than 15 years. Some gases such as black carbon and tropospheric ozone last less than two weeks. CO2 has a much longer atmospheric lifetime. Quick action to reduce super pollutant emissions can have major short-term benefits, slowing down warming by as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.
The SUPER Act would take immediate action by streamlining the enforcement of existing federal policies for reducing super pollutants and supporting similar policies, such as California’s extremely successful diesel truck regulations and recent attack onhydrofluorocarbons, at the state and local level.
On the CO2 Front, Another Not-So-Good Milestone
Scientists reported on Friday that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have now been observed passing the average daily level to above 400 parts per million. It’s not the end of the world. The sky won’t fall. But it’s not exactly great news for the long-term viability of the ecosystem.
From the New York Times:
From studying air bubbles trapped in Antarctic ice, scientists know that going back 800,000 years, the carbon dioxide level oscillated in a tight band, from about 180 parts per million in the depths of ice ages to about 280 during the warm periods between. The evidence shows that global temperatures and CO2 levels are tightly linked.
For the entire period of human civilization, roughly 8,000 years, the carbon dioxide level was relatively stable near that upper bound. But the burning of fossil fuels has caused a 41 percent increase in the heat-trapping gas since the Industrial Revolution, a mere geological instant, and scientists say the climate is beginning to react, though they expect far larger changes in the future.
Indirect measurements suggest that the last time the carbon dioxide level was this high was at least three million years ago, during an epoch called the Pliocene. Geological research shows that the climate then was far warmer than today, the world’s ice caps were smaller, and the sea level might have been as much as 60 or 80 feet higher.
From the Los Angeles Times:
Chances appear remote that the United States, or any other major emitter of carbon dioxide, such as China or Europe, will take aggressive steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Rules to cut emissions from power plants, the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the U.S., have stalled so far in the Obama administration. Senate Republicans have blocked voting on the the president’s nominee to run the Environmental Protection Agency, in part because of her earlier work to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to signal their resistance to future efforts. Consumption of coal in the U.S. has fallen, but exports to power plants in China and India have risen.
It’s Okay. Religion Says the End of the World is Coming
You might wonder ‘why’ this is all so difficult. How did we get here?
I’ll let environmentalist Robert F Kennedy, Jr. do the explaining. From Reader Supported News:
The perversity of the modern conservative mind is displayed in two studies published last week. Those studies illustrate the extent to which the right wing has become the ideological sock puppet of Big Oil and the GOP’s army of right wing Christian fundamentalists oil industry foot soldiers. A peer reviewed National Academy of Sciences report shows that the label “energy efficient” on a product actually makes it less likely that self-identified conservatives will purchase that product. Why? Because morally twisted right wing orthodoxy has taken the “conserve” out of conservatism. Craven hatred of all things environmental has made the labels “clean,” “green” or “efficient” pariah among GOP acolytes. Conversely, dirty energy is patriotic and even “blessed.”
…use of the term “blessed” to describe unconscionable profligacy and immoral waste reflect another GOP orthodoxy — the notion that God wants us to burn oil. A second study published this week by University of Pittsburgh Professor David Barker and Professor David Bearce of the University of Colorado found that a fundamentalist Christian belief in biblical End Times is a significant motivating factor behind Republican voter resistance to curbing climate change. According to Bearce and Barker, 76 percent of self-identified Republicans say they believe in the End Times. “Since the world is going to end at a predestined time anyhow,” their logic goes, “it would be heretical to curb our destructive appetites under the delusion that we can do anything about pushing back God’s ordained date.”
Anointing rapacious behavior with religious gloss is an old strategy for both right wing conservatives and the extraction industry. When a House Oversight Committee summoned Ronald Reagan’s first Secretary of Interior, James Watt, to explain his caper to sell off American’s public lands, waters and mineral rights to oil, mining and timber companies at what the General Accounting Office called “fire sale prices,” Watt, a former mining and oil company lawyer, retorted, “I don’t know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.” Embracing his party line, along with its hook and sinker, Watt explained that environmentalism was a plot to “weaken America” and dismissed environmentalists as a “left wing cult which seeks to bring down the kind of government I believe in.”
Almost True Headline
It’s getting harder by the day to tell the parody web sites from the real ‘news’ purveyors. From the Freewood Post:
Darrell Issa Blames Obama For Not Traveling Back In Time
To Stop Bush’s Lies Which Led To War
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltrán, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: email@example.com
On This Day: 1955 – Elvis Presley’s performance at Jacksonville, FL, became the first Presley show at which a riot ensued. 1958 – Vice President Nixon’s limousine was battered by rocks thrown by anti-U.S. demonstrators in Caracas, Venezuela. 1967 – Mickey Mantle hit his 500th homerun.
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@