Monday, May 20, 2013

Freedom; denied.

"I did not mislead Congress or the American people." Stephen Miller, IRS director.
Abuse usually has a history.  By the time such actions are public, there's often a trail of abuse.  The IRS has such a history.

This week's scandal, "'The inappropriate and intimidating investigation tactics included probing questions about organizations’ board members, officers, employees, and their families.  There were also demands for extraordinary detail on employee training, vending, and advertising.  Among other IRS demands, they required lists of “all issues important to your organization" with requests to "indicate your position regarding each issue.”  Tea Party organizations reported requests for complete lists of all the books their staffs had read in the prior 12 months with book reports on each.'"  ~From the office of congressman Jim Bridenstine

Coalition for Life of Iowa found itself in the IRS’s cross-hairs when the group applied for tax exempt status in October 2008. Nearly ten months of interrogation about the group’s opposition to Planned Parenthood included a demand by a Ms. Richards from the IRS which unlawfully insisted that all board members sign a sworn declaration promising not to picket/protest Planned Parenthood. Further inquiry by the IRS requested detailed information about the content of the group’s prayer meetings, educational seminars, and signs their members hold outside Planned Parenthood.

Early admissions by the IRS this time around suggest perhaps 75 such inappropriate events.  Subsequent claims suggest more than 500 specifically targeted and harassed organizations.  The IRS levied impossible and inappropriate reporting requirements, and withheld approval for years without legal reason or recourse.  IRS tactics included audits that lasted as much as 20 months with the associated legal and administrative burden.

The IRS has been the attack dog for various political interests since the 60's.  Nixon's impeachment documented such abuses.  NAACP officials claim the IRS unfairly targeted the group for an audit in the 2004 election cycle to discourage political activity. In the 1990s, conservative non-profits alleged similar targeting by the Clinton Administration.  This time, conservative organizations were the target during the run-up to the 2012 election cycle.

The IRS is not the problem.  The IRS, however criminal their behavior, is a tool.  The IRS has neither virtue nor nobility, neither commitment to serve nor the power to try.  It's a mechanical process; an adding machine.  Put things in, crunch, shovel results out.  There are fine folks who work for the IRS; we've actually met a few along the way.  The agency itself is just a tool with a soiled history. 

To keep things in perspective, left and right or liberal and conservative viewpoints are not in question here.  The author and this article do not endorse either stance and certainly not any of the parties involved.  The IRS has been illegally used by power players from across the spectrum.

UPDATE:  Even as the president was assuring the American people, more revelations were coming out about the extent of the targeting of organizations that could be broadly categorized as opposing the Obama agenda. Among the organizations the IRS investigated and audited were the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) and the 180-year-old Baptist newspaper the Biblical Recorder, published by the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. The IRS reportedly also targeted the humanitarian relief group Samaritan's Purse. Both it and the BGEA are run by Franklin Graham, son of famed evangelical preacher Billy Graham.

In the run-up to last year's presidential election, the BGEA took out ads in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other newspapers encouraging Christians to vote in line with biblical values. Shortly after the ads were published, both the BGEA and Samaritan's Purse were notified that they were being audited by the IRS.

Mark DeMoss, a spokesman for the BGEA, says it is the first time the ministry had been audited in its then 62-year history. “These certainly appear to be politically motivated since the ministry had run some newspaper ads — not mentioning any candidates — simply urging people to vote for candidates with biblical values,” DeMoss said.

The Baptist Biblical Recorder appears to have been targeted because of a now-famous interview it ran with with the Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy in which Cathy boldly spoke out in favor of traditional marriage and families.

Shortly after the interv
iew was published, the paper's editor, Allan Blume, began getting phone calls from the IRS. He reported that the calls definitely “raised some red flags and made me wonder why we were being targeted for an audit when we have been around since 1833 and have never been audited before. Putting it all together made me wonder.”

Blume said the timing of the investigation, right after the Cathy interview as well as the paper's running of the BGEA ads, appeared to be more than just coincidence. “There seems to be a very anti-Christian bias that has flowed into a lot of government agencies,” which he described as, “oppression literally against Christian organizations and groups. It makes you wonder what's going on.”

He added that while the paper was eventually given a clean bill by the IRS, the whole investigation represented “a lot of time and energy that we didn't have. It took some of our staff literally several weeks of doing nothing but that [audit].”

Similarly, both the BGEA and Samaritan's Purse were cleared by the tax bureaucracy, but, as Franklin Graham pointedly explained in a letter to President Obama, the cost was great to both organizations. “Unfortunately, while these audits not only wasted taxpayer money, they wasted money contributed by donors for ministry purposes,” wrote Graham, “as we had to spend precious resources servicing the IRS agents in our offices.”

According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report, senior IRS officials in Washington knew about the bullying of conservative-leaning organizations as early as the summer of 2011. This was roughly nine months before the IRS commissioner testified before a House subcommittee in March 2012 and categorically denied that any improper targeting was taking place. He lied.  By then, it was rampant.

This week, we also learned that the IRS released some of these conservative groups’ confidential information to a news organization. That's a felony. Earlier this year, the EPA illegally released personal information on 80,000 farmers and ranchers, including 500 farms and ranches in South Dakota, to left-leaning environmental groups. Curious what's going on in your government?   Think our partisan/polarized Congress can bring the truth to light?

Steven T. Miller, acting director, had spent 25 years inside the IRS.  From
As Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Miller provides direction and oversight for all major decisions affecting the four taxpayer-focused IRS Divisions: Wage and Investment, Large Business and International, Small Business/Self-Employed, and Tax Exempt and Government Entities. He also provides the executive direction and leadership for the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, which investigates income tax evasion and related financial crimes; the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, which administers the laws and regulations governing the practice of tax professionals before the IRS; and the IRS Whistleblower Office, which receives information on tax cheating and provides appropriate rewards to whistleblowers.
Prior to his appointment as the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Steve served as the Commissioner of the Large Business and International Division. In this position, he had oversight for federal tax administration for domestic and foreign corporations and partnerships with assets of $10 million or more that have a United States tax filing requirement. Previously, as the Commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, Steve oversaw the administration of tax law relating to employee plans, tax-exempt organizations and various government entities. Steve also served as the Director of Exempt Organizations and as the acting Assistant Commissioner and Special Assistant to the Assistant Commissioner, Employee Plans/Exempt Organizations. Other prior service includes several years in Chief Counsel, serving as a Congressional staff member for the Joint Committee on Taxation and work in private practice.
What are the chances he wasn't fully aware of and complicit in what was going on?