Monday, May 20, 2013
The president and chief executive officer of The Associated Press on Sunday called the government’s secret seizure of two months of reporters’ phone records “unconstitutional” and said the news cooperative had not ruled out legal action against the Justice Department.
Gary Pruitt, in his first television interviews since it was revealed the Justice Department subpoenaed phone records of AP reporters and editors, said the move already has had a chilling effect on journalism. Pruitt said the seizure has made sources less willing to talk to AP journalists and, in the long term, could limit Americans’ information from all news outlets.
Pruitt told CBS’ ”Face the Nation” that the government has no business monitoring the AP’s newsgathering activities.
“And if they restrict that apparatus … the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know and that’s not what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they wrote the First Amendment,” he said.
In a separate interview with the AP, Pruitt said the news cooperative had not decided its next move but had not ruled out legal action against the government. He said the Justice Department’s investigation is out of control and President Barack Obama should rein it in.
“It’s too early to know if we’ll take legal action but I can tell you we are positively displeased and we do feel that our constitutional rights have been violated,” Pruitt said.
“They’ve been secretive, they’ve been overbroad and abusive — so much so that taken together, they are unconstitutional because they violate our First Amendment rights,” he added.
There were new questions Saturday night concerning if anyone in the White House was aware of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.
Inspector General Russell George said he informed a deputy at the Treasury Department in June of 2012 about the probe into the IRS.
The Treasury Department confirmed the timeline but said they did not know the details of the investigation until last week.
It’s the first evidence that someone within the Obama administration knew about the practice during the presidential campaign.
It is unknown whether anyone in the White House was told of the federal investigation.
Republican Congressman Aaron Schock serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS.
“We don’t have any reason to believe at this point that it was anybody outside the IRS directing them to do this,” said Schock. “Obviously there’s been claims that the White House might have been involved and other groups. I don’t have any reason to believe that.”
He says the IRS’ behavior was criminal, claiming it hurt the ability of conservative groups to fundraise and that limited their influence.
“Until we know who it was responsible for the activities, we need to continue to investigate,” Schock said.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS executive in charge of the tax exempt division in 2010 when it began targeting conservative Tea Party, evangelical and pro-Israel groups for harassment, got more than $100,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2012.
More recently, Ingram was promoted to serve as director of the tax agency’s Obamacare program office, a position that put her in charge of the vast expansion of the IRS’ regulatory power and staffing in connection with federal health care, ABC reported earlier today.
Ingram received a $7,000 bonus in 2009, according to data obtained by The Washington Examiner from the IRS, then a $34,440 bonus in 2010, $35,400 in 2011 and $26,550 last year, for a total of $103,390. Her annual salary went from $172,500 to $177,000 during the same period.
The 2010, 2011 and 2012 bonuses were awarded during the period when IRS harassment of the conservative groups was most intense. The newspaper obtained the data via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described the Ingram awards as “stunning, just stunning.”
Bonuses as large as those awarded to Ingram typically require presidential approval, according to federal personnel regulations.
Was the White House involved in the IRS’s targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.
President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an “independent” agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.
But that’s not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn’t need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he’d like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.
Mr. Obama now professes shock and outrage that bureaucrats at the IRS did exactly what the president of the United States said was the right and honorable thing to do. “He put a target on our backs, and he’s now going to blame the people who are shooting at us?” asks Idaho businessman and longtime Republican donor Frank VanderSloot.
Mr. VanderSloot is the Obama target who in 2011 made a sizable donation to a group supporting Mitt Romney. In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a “wealthy individual” with a “less-than-reputable record.” Other donors were described as having been “on the wrong side of the law.”
This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land.
Twelve days later, a man working for a political opposition-research firm called an Idaho courthouse for Mr. VanderSloot’s divorce records. In June, the IRS informed Mr. VanderSloot and his wife of an audit of two years of their taxes. In July, the Department of Labor informed him of an audit of the guest workers on his Idaho cattle ranch. In September, the IRS informed him of a second audit, of one of his businesses. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never been audited before, was subject to three in the four months after Mr. Obama teed him up for such scrutiny.
The House voted to repeal ObamaCare on Thursday for the third time since Republicans took over the chamber in 2011.
Only two Democrats sided with Republicans in the party-line 229-195 vote — Jim Matheson (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). All Republicans voted in favor of repeal.
This is the 37th time the House GOP has voted to repeal or defund at least part of the bill, but this latest bill will also not become law given Democrats’ control of the Senate.
Still, many House Republicans had clamored for the bill from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to be considered, while Democrats accused the GOP of wasting the House’s time.
ObamaCare’s implementation is expected to be a major issue in next year’s midterm elections, and some Democrats have expressed worries that the law and its implementation problems could be a problem for their party.
The two Democrats who voted for repeal were part of a group of five Democrats who voted with Republicans in last year’s repeal vote. The other three are no longer in office — Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Larry Kissell (N.C.) and Mike Ross (Ark.).
The vote followed a two-hour debate in which Republicans said ObamaCare repeal is needed more than ever in light of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scandal, since the IRS will play a key role in enforcing the law.