A story in the Washington Post yesterday about the Internal Revenue Service’s Cincinnati office, which does most of the agency’s nonprofit auditing, clearly contradicted earlier reports that the agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups was the result of rogue agents.
The Post story anonymously quoted a staffer in Cincinnati as saying they only operate on directives from headquarters:
As could be expected, the folks in the determinations unit on Main Street have had trouble concentrating this week. Number crunchers, whose work is nonpolitical, don’t necessarily enjoy the spotlight, especially when the media and the public assume they’re engaged in partisan villainy.
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“We’re not political,’’ said one determinations staffer in khakis as he left work late Tuesday afternoon. “We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do. . . . That’s why there are so many people here who are flustered. Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.”
The staff member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job, said that the determinations unit is competent and without bias, that it grouped together conservative applications “for consistency’s sake” — so one application did not sail through while a similar one was held up in review. This consistency is paramount in the review of all applications, according to Ronald Ran, an estate-tax lawyer who worked for 37 years in the IRS’s Cincinnati office.
This pretty plainly contradicts the story coming out of the IRS that rogue agents in Cincinnati were responsible:
News of (acting IRS commissioner Steve) Miller’s resignation followed revelations that the IRS has identified two “rogue” employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office as being principally responsible for the “overly aggressive” handling of requests by conservative groups for tax-exempt status, a congressional source told CNN.
Miller said the staffers have already been disciplined, according to another source familiar with Miller’s discussions with congressional investigators. The second source said Miller emphasized that the problem with IRS handling of tax-exempt status for tea party groups was not limited to these two employees.
In related news, I also noted how the Post’s story on the Cincinnati office also appears to contradict what Miller told Congress this week about how many auditors the IRS has covering nonprofit groups. Miller said the figure was between 140-200, but the Post story puts the figure at 900. The Post doesn’t source the figure, but presumably that also came from people the reporters talked with in Cincinnati. Story Continued
– By Philip Rucker,
President Obama on Sunday summoned the graduates of historically black Morehouse College to “transform the way we think about manhood,” urging the young men to avoid the temptation to make excuses and to take responsibility for their families and their communities.
Delivering a commencement address at the all-male private liberal arts college in Atlanta, Obama spoke in deeply personal terms about the “special obligation” he feels as a black man to help those left behind.
“There but for the grace of God, I might be in their shoes,” Obama said. “I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed. I might not have been able to support a family — and that motivates me.”
The president also reflected on the absence of his father growing up, noting that he was raised by a “heroic single mother” and urged the young graduates not to shrink from their family responsibilities.
“My whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn’t for my mother and me,” Obama said. “I want to break that cycle — where a father’s not at home, where a father’s not helping to raise that son and daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.”
In his 32-minute address, Obama was far more personal and reflective in his remarks than he traditionally has been, especially on matters of racial discrimination. Obama delivered a similar speech three years ago when he addressed the graduates of Hampton University in Virginia, another historically black college.
He paid tribute to Martin Luther King Jr., a Morehouse alumnus, noting that King’s education there “helped to forge the intellect, the discipline, the compassion, the soul force that would transform America.”
Obama added, “Laws and hearts and minds have been changed to the point where someone who looks just like you can somehow come to serve as president of these United States.”
Yet Obama acknowledged that “the bitter legacies of slavery and segregation” have not vanished, that discrimination still exists.
“As Morehouse men, many of you know what it’s like to be an outsider, to be marginalized, to feel the sting of discrimination. That’s an experience that a lot of Americans share,” Obama said.
Hispanic Americans, Obama lamented, are told to “go back” home while strangers pass judgment on the parenting skills of gay men and lesbians or stare at Muslim Americans with suspicion.
Obama said that too many young black men make “bad choices.”
“Growing up, I made quite a few myself,” Obama said. “Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency to make excuses for me not doing the right thing.”
But, the president implored, “We’ve got no time for excuses.”
“In today’s hyper-connected, hyper-competitive world, with millions of young people from China and India and Brazil, many of whom started with a whole lot less than all of you did, all of them entering the global workforce alongside you, nobody is going to give you anything you haven’t earned,” he said. “Nobody cares how tough your upbringing was. Nobody cares if you suffered some discrimination.”
“Moreover,” Obama continued, “you have to remember that whatever you’ve gone through, it pales in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured — and if they overcame them, you can overcome them, too.”
Obama told the graduates they needed to be role models for others in their communities and not just chase after high-paying jobs and fancy cars. If they get a law degree, he told the graduates, they shouldn’t only defend the powerful, but also the powerless. If they get an MBA and start a business, Obama said, they shouldn’t merely try to make money but also consider the broader purpose their business might serve.
“No one expects you to take a vow of poverty,” Obama said. “But I will say it betrays a poverty of ambition if all you think about is what goods you can buy instead of what good you can do.” Story Continued
When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material.
They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails.
It probably wouldn’t have stopped the probe, but the process would have played out differently.
The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press.
At a time when President Obama’s administration is under renewed scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, the Kim case provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one such probe.
Court documents in the Kim case reveal how deeply investigators explored the private communications of a working journalist — and raise the question of how often journalists have been investigated as closely as Rosen was in 2010. The case also raises new concerns among critics of government secrecy about the possible stifling effect of these investigations on a critical element of press freedom: the exchange of information between reporters and their sources.
“Search warrants like these have a severe chilling effect on the free flow of important information to the public,” said First Amendment lawyer Charles Tobin, who has represented the Associated Press, but not in the current case. “That’s a very dangerous road to go down.”
Obama last week defended the Justice Department’s handling of the investigation involving the AP, which is focused on who leaked information to the news organization about a foiled plot involving the al-Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. AP executives and First Amendment watchdogs have criticized the Justice Department in part for the broad scope of the phone records it secretly subpoenaed from AP offices in Washington, Hartford, Conn., and New York.
“The latest events show an expansion of this law enforcement technique,” said attorney Abbe Lowell, who is defending Kim on federal charges filed in 2010 that he disclosed national defense information. A trial is possible as soon as 2014. “Individual reporters or small time periods have turned into 20 [telephone] lines and months of records with no obvious attempt to be targeted or narrow.”
The president said press freedoms must be balanced against the protection of U.S. personnel overseas. According to the office of Ronald Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District, its prosecutors followed federal regulations by first seeking the information through other means before subpoenaing media phone records. Machen’s office is investigating both the Kim and AP cases. The Justice Department said in a statement that in both cases it had abided by “all applicable laws, regulations, and longstanding Department of Justice policies intended to safeguard the First Amendment interests of the press in reporting the news and the public in receiving it.” Story Continued
– It is apparent that President Obama has the same attitude toward those under him (the American Public) that Richard Nixon had. There is the obvious arrogance that both parties have or had. But with Obama the lack of life experience seems to play an ever larger role in his decisions and how this present dilemma is overwhelming America. The most disheartening aspect of all the talk is that if Obama is forced out then we have Joe Biden. PdC
News reports from the time indicate the now-chief counsel of the IRS, William Wilkins, helped a church connected to President Barack Obama’s friend Rev. Jeremiah Wright get out of an IRS probe in 2008 while working as a private attorney.
“Lawyers from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr have won the dismissal of an IRS case against United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama’s denomination,” The American Lawyer’s Zach Lowe wrote on May 22, 2008.
The IRS initiated an investigation early this year after a speech by Obama at a 50th anniversary celebration of the church last June. It was a reference by Obama to his presidential candidacy in a talk otherwise focused on faith that caught the agency’s attention. Tax laws prohibit non-profits–including churches–from engaging in political speech or promoting candidates. The IRS can withdraw an organization’s tax-free status if the organization is found to violate the rule.
Lowe noted that Obama had been a “member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago–a UCC congregation–for more than 20 years. The church has been in the headlines for several months now as the congregation lead by the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright.”
William Wilkins, then a Wilmer Hale law firm partner, said, “We were so interested in the case we offered to do it pro bono.”
Lowe wrote that Wilkins and other firm lawyers worked with the church’s national counsel, Donald Clark, and proved they had invited Obama to the event before he announced his candidacy for president. “Evidence presented in a letter sent to the IRS in late March pointed to ground rules the organization had established for Obama’s visit; the church even cautioned churchgoers against engaging in any political activity,” Lowe wrote. “Had the IRS pursued the matter, it would have raised serious questions about the First Amendment’s application to church activities, Wilkins says.”
When President Obama nominated Wilkins to be the IRS’s chief counsel on April 17, 2009, his White House cited Wilkins’ experience as an attorney on issues relating to tax-exempt status organization. “He has a broad tax practice that includes counseling nonprofit organizations, business entities, and investment funds on tax compliance, business transactions, and government investigations,” according to the White House release announcing Wilkins’ nomination.
Prior to joining Wilmer Hale, Wilkins was Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Committee on Finance. Wilkins joined the Democratic staff of the Committee in 1981 and served as tax counsel before becoming Staff Director and Chief Counsel in 1987.
In the release, which included the announcement of a second Treasury Department nominee, President Obama himself said he was “confident in the abilities of these two fine public servants as we work to turn our economy around and give American families the relief they need during these difficult times. Under the leadership of Secretary Geithner, they will work to serve the American people and bring their unique areas of expertise to the job as we work to put America on the path to prosperity.”
Upon the resignation of Steven Miller, several news outlets have pointed out that Wilkins will likely become a public target of congressional investigators digging into the scandal surrounding the IRS’s targeting of conservative and Tea Party organizations.
Reuters wrote that GOP lawmakers’ aides said their bosses will soon “focus” on Wilkins as they “seek to determine whether the White House acted improperly.”
“Wilkins’ office was made aware of the targeting of conservative groups as early as August 2011, according to the inspector general report,” Reuters wrote. “The report does not make clear whether Wilkins – who reports to the Treasury Department’s general counsel – himself knew of the targeting in 2011, or when he first learned of it.”
“Another question is whether Wilkins, whose office employs about 1,600 lawyers, might have taken the matter elsewhere within the Obama administration,” Reuters added. “The IRS issued a statement saying Wilkins did not participate in the August 2011 meeting, which the agency said involved ‘staff attorneys several layers below Wilkins.’”
As Town Hall magazine highlighted recently, White House spokesman Jay Carney has already been pressured by reporters on Wilkins’ role in this scandal. Story Continued
– By Jeffrey Lord on 5.20.13 @ 6:11AM
President met with anti-Tea Party IRS union chief the day before agency targeted Tea Party.
“For me, it’s about collaboration.” — National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley on the relationship between the anti-Tea Party IRS union and the Obama White House
Is President Obama directly implicated in the IRS scandal?
Is the White House Visitors Log the trail to the smoking gun?
The stunning questions are raised by the following set of new facts.
March 31, 2010.
According to the White House Visitors Log, provided here in searchable form by U.S. News and World Report, the president of the anti-Tea Party National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen Kelley, visited the White House at 12:30pm that Wednesday noon time of March 31st.
The White House lists the IRS union leader’s visit this way:
Kelley, Colleen Potus 03/31/2010 12:30
In White House language, “POTUS” stands for “President of the United States.”
The very next day after her White House meeting with the President, according to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General’s Report, IRS employees — the same employees who belong to the NTEU — set to work in earnest targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups around America. The IG report wrote it up this way:
April 1-2, 2010: The new Acting Manager, Technical Unit, suggested the need for a Sensitive Case Report on the Tea Party cases. The Determinations Unit Program Manager Agreed.
In short: the very day after the president of the quite publicly anti-Tea Party labor union — the union for IRS employees — met with President Obama, the manager of the IRS “Determinations Unit Program agreed” to open a “Sensitive Case report on the Tea party cases.” As stated by the IG report.
The NTEU is the 150,000 member union that represents IRS employees along with 30 other separate government agencies. Kelley herself is a 14-year IRS veteran agent. The union’s PAC endorsed President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles to anti-Tea Party candidates.
Putting IRS employees in the position of actively financing anti-Tea Party candidates themselves, while in their official positions in the IRS blocking, auditing, or intimidating Tea Party and conservative groups around the country.
The IG report contained a timeline prepared by examining internal IRS e-mails. The IG report did not examine White House Visitor Logs, e-mails, or phone records relating to the relationship between the IRS union, the IRS, and the White House. Story Continued
– Painful choices include appointing a special prosecutor on the IRS and offering an apology to The Associated Press.
Swamped in controversies, President Obama and his slow-footed team are essentially telling the American public, “We’re not crooked. We’re just incompetent.”
The IRS targeting conservatives, the Justice Department snooping at The Associated Press, the State Department injecting politics into Benghazi, the military covering up sexual assaults, and the Department of Veterans Affairs leaving heroes in health care limbo – each of these so-called scandals share two traits.
First, there is some element of “spin,” the cynical art of telling just enough of the truth to avoid political embarrassment. Obfuscation and demagogy, the dirty tools of political quackery that Obama pledged to purge from Washington, enjoy top-shelf status at his White House.
Second, there is almost comical bungling. While denying involvement in high crimes and misdemeanors, the Obama administration appears to be pleading guilty to lesser crimes of bureaucratic incompetence. But that is an unsustainable position for a president who wants Americans to believe again in the power and grace of good government, particularly as it relates to the implementation of Obamacare.
–IRS agents targeted conservatives. Their bosses lied about it for months.
–Justice Department investigators violated internal guidelines to secretly spy on The Associated Press.
–White House and State Department officials minimized their role in shaping initial explanations for the Benghazi attack.
–Military officers assigned to sexual assault prevention units are charged with sexual battery. The Pentagon’s own study finds that 26,000 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012. It’s not a new problem.
–Despite a 40 percent increase in funding, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs cannot ease a backlog of cases. The typical wounded warrior waits more than 300 days for action on a claim. In major cities, the wait can be 642 days.
The backdrop to this parade of buffoonery is a decades-long decline in the public’s faith in government, a trend continued under Obama. Restoring the public’s trust in his governance is the only way Obama can survive the controversies with his agenda and legacy intact.
In interviews, allies of the White House privately suggested a few things Obama could do, including:
Appoint a bipartisan oversight board to oversee the implementation of Obamacare. There is no way around the fact that a vast majority of voters will not trust the IRS to implement the greatest piece of social legislation in decades. Before the tempests, Obamacare was unpopular and largely misunderstood by most Americans. The law’s success hinges on the government recruiting young adults into insurance pools. And polls show young adults are the least likely to trust government.
Layer the White House communication team with experienced crisis managers. As I wrote here last week, Obama needs to realize that the dedicated public servants in the West Wing are not getting the job done.
Apologize to the AP and announce a new policy for leaks investigations. The White House needs to punish people who leak classified information that endangers national security. But the scope of the snooping at AP combined with Obama’s unprecedented zeal for leaks investigations raises doubts about his commitment to transparency and to an unfettered media. He has pursued more such cases than all previous administration combined, according to the Washington Post. The paper also reported that the administration spied on a Fox News reporter at the State Department. Again, this is a matter of trust.
Appoint a special prosecutor on the IRS. The last thing the country needs is another subpoena-powered fishing expedition like the Whitewater inquiries. But we might need a special prosecutor with a narrowly defined mission to investigate the actions and motives of IRS agents and their superiors. Is there a better way to restore the agency’s integrity? The administration investigating itself will not lift the cloud from Obama’s White House.
Reset the narrative and public expectations with a major speech on trust. Obama has spoken eloquently and convincingly about this issue. If his next address included painful solutions such as the ones above, he might restore the public’s audacity to hope. Story Continued
The union representing 12,000 adjudications officers and staff for the United States Citizen and Immigration Services Council (USCIS) came out in opposition to the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill on Monday morning.
The USCIS Council and its president, Kenneth Palinkas, joined the letter the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Council, the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers, and sheriffs from around the country have signed declaring the 867 page immigration bill makes problems worse for immigration law enforcement rather than better.
In that letter, law enforcement officials noted that there has been a rush on the border by illegal immigrants seeking to get inside the United States before the passage of the amnesty bill from the Gang of Eight. They also wrote that the bill “provides no guarantee of increased border security.”
USCIS officers would be crucial to the implementation of immigration reform if the current bill was passed; USCIS handles the applications of immigrants who want to enter the United States and would be charged with processing the applications for amnesty for the at least 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
In a statement announcing his group’s decision to join the ICE Council and others, Palinkas said Gang of Eight members did not consult his officers when crafting the bill. As a result, Palinkas argues, the bill “fails to address some of the most serious concerns the USCIS Council has about the current system which Congress must address.”
Specifically, Palinkas said under President Barack Obama’s administration, USCIS officers are currently “pressured to rubber stamp applications instead of conducting diligent case review and investigation.”
“The culture at USCIS encourages all applications to be approved, discouraging proper investigation into red flags and discouraging the denial of any applications,” Palinkas said. “USCIS has been turned into an ‘approval machine.’” Palinkas argues the Gang of Eight bill does nothing to fix this problem.
Additionally, Palinkas argues that the bill does not fix current administration policy that treats immigrants applying for entry into the United States as “customers” of the American government.
“A new USCIS computer system to screen applications known as ‘Transformation’ has proven to be a disaster as the agency has spent upwards of $2 billion for a system that would eventually allow an alien–now referred to as a ‘customer’ under current USCIS policy–to upload their own information via the internet for adjudication purposes,” Palinkas said. “To date, only one form can be accepted into the program that has been in the making for close to 10 years.”
Palinkas also notes that the Gang of Eight bill does nothing to fix the failures under the current administration for different agencies to coordinate, or de-conflict, on cases involving specific illegal immigrants. “USCIS has created an almost insurmountable bureaucracy which often prevents USCIS adjudications officers from contacting and coordinating with ICE agents and officers in cases that should have their involvement,” Palinkas wrote. “USCIS officers are pressured to approve visa applications for many individuals ICE agents have determined should be placed into deportation proceedings.”
Yet another issue the bill does not address, Palinkas notes, is a “secretive panel” that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano created that often denies immigration law officers’ requests to enforce the law. “USCIS officers who identify illegal aliens that, in accordance with law should be placed into immigration removal proceedings before a federal judge, are prevented from exercising their authority and responsibility to issue Notices To Appear (NTAs),” Palinkas claims.
“In the rare case that an officer attempts to issue an NTA, it must first be approved by a secretive panel created under DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, which often denies the officer’s request,” Palinkas explains. “Illegal aliens are then permitted to remain in the United States as USCIS officers are not able to take action or contact ICE agents for assistance.”
Perhaps most importantly, Palinkas argues that the current political leadership at his agency holds the belief that USCIS’s role is not to serve America or Americans; rather, he claims they believe that USCIS is supposed to serve the illegal immigrants and the immigration lawyers who come through the doors of the agency on a regular basis.
“The attitude of USCIS management is not that the Agency serves the American public or the laws of the United States, or public safety and national security, but instead that the agency serves illegal aliens and the attorneys which represent them,” Palinkas said. “While we believe in treating all people with respect, we are concerned that this agency tasked with such a vital security mission is too greatly influenced by special interest groups—to the point that it no longer properly performs its mission.”
Palinkas also notes that under the current law and system, USCIS reports a 99.5 percent approval rating for illegal immigrants seeking legal residency inside the United States. He said that high percentage began with President Obama’s and Secretary Napolitano’s new “deferred action” policy unveiled last summer. In addition, over the past year, Palinkas said USCIS has waived more than $200 million in fees from illegal immigrants seeking legal status. Story Continued
– Robert F. Kennedy Jr.President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Senior Attorney, NRDC
For once with good reason, the GOP is exorcised with the scandals involving the IRS targeting political groups and the FBI’s spying on A.P. reporters. The broader public is legitimately concerned. However, in its classic overblown breathlessness at all things Obama, the gleeful Republican leadership is already calling for impeachment and dragging out desperate comparisons to Nixon’s Watergate. This, despite caveats from its own sages not to overplay Republican good fortune. “We overreached in 1998,” Newt Gingrich admitted recently. He counseled restraint to the Tea Party jihadists he helped spawn. Gingrich recalled how the GOP’s scandal mongering against Clinton had only amplified Clinton’s popularity and cost Republicans the 1998 mid-terms and Gingrich his speakership. But this new generation of hysterical House members immune to that wisdom, are headed straight for the feinting couch in fits of anti-Obama hysteria.
In a characteristic spasm of partisan apoplexy, Iowa Congressman Steve King offered a shrill algorithm: “add Watergate and Iran Contra together and multiply by ten” to calculate the tyrannical evil of the Obama scandals.
As usual, the Fox-fueled GOP narrative swayed the mainstream press. On May 16, Reuters’ Jeff Mason interrupted Obama’s press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to ask the President, “How do you feel about the comparisons by some of your critics with the scandals of the Nixon Administration?” Obama responded with calm contempt; he would leave those comparisons to the journalists. But he urged Mason to “read some history.” If Mason takes that advice, here are some of the historical tidbits he might consider.
President Richard Nixon was aware that the IRS had audited him in 1961 and 1962 and presumed those audits were politically motivated by the Kennedy White House. When, early in his Administration, Nixon learned that his friends and political allies John Wayne and Rev. Billy Graham had endured recent audits by his own IRS, Nixon boiled over. He ordered White House Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman, “Get the word out, down to the IRS that I want them to conduct field audits on those who are our opponents.” Perhaps recalling the Kennedy era audits, Nixon ordered that its investigator begin with my Uncle’s, John F. Kennedy’s, former campaign manager and White House aide, then Democratic Committee Chairman, Lawrence O’Brien.
Nixon’s minions had the IRS set up a special internal arm “the Activist Organization Committee” in July of 1969 to audit an “enemies list” provided by Nixon. My uncle Senator Ted Kennedy was at the top of that list along with a small army of well-known journalists. The IRS later renamed its political audit squad “Special Services” or “SS” to keep its mission secret. The SS targeted over 1,000 liberal groups for audits and 4,000 individuals. The SS staff managed their files in a soundproof cell in the IRS basement.
On September 27, 1970, Nixon ordered Haldeman to get the IRS to investigate my Uncle Ted who was then the presumed frontrunner in the 1972 presidential contest, sharing the field with Edmond Muskie and Hubert Humphrey who Nixon also ordered audited.
Nixon personally put White House dirty trickster Tom Charles Huston, former president of the Young Americans for Freedom, in charge of setting up the new IRS “anti-radical squad” to make sure that the laggards in IRS’s bureaucracy didn’t drop the ball. Huston prepared a 43-page blueprint for Nixon outlining a government agency campaign targeting Nixon’s enemies. Uncle Teddy was still at the top. The scheme included tapping phones without warrants, infiltrating organizations that had been critical of the President and, purging IRS agents who refused to tow the Republican line. Huston told the President, “we won’t be in control of the government and in a position of effective leverage until such time or we have complete and total control of the top three slots” at the IRS. Nixon also enthusiastically authorized a series of “black bag jobs” including breaking into offices, homes and liberal think tanks like the Ford Foundation and the Brookings Institute which Nixon believed was home to many former Kennedy Administration officials.
As a disclaimer, Huston cautioned that the “use of this technique is clearly illegal; it amounts to burglary. It is also highly risky and could result in great embarrassment if exposed. However, it is also the most fruitful tool and can produce the kind of intelligence which cannot be obtained in any other fashion.”
According to historian and Nixon biographer, Rick Perlstein, Nixon “found the document splendid.” Haldeman ordered Huston to draft a formal decision memo outlining the illegal plan as a mandate to the heads of the intelligence and tax collecting agencies. Nixon ordered Haldeman and Huston to order the IRS, the FBI and the CIA to proceed with the plan.
In May 1971, Nixon used an IRS investigation of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s brother, Gerald Wallace, to pressure Gov. Wallace to run for President on the Democratic ticket as a spoiler rather than on a third party ticket as he planned. The blackmail scheme succeeded and most of Wallace’s white male supporters fled to the Republicans after the Democrats nominated civil rights activist George McGovern. Nixon’s tactic of having Wallace run as a Democrat was an indispensable element of the White House’s “southern strategy”.
Four months later, on September 8, 1971, Nixon raged at his counsel and Chief Domestic Policy Advisor, John Ehrlichman, about the IRS’s lack of progress on finding dirt on his enemies. “We have the power but are we using it to investigate contributors to Hubert Humphrey, to Muskie, and the Jews? You know they are stealing everybody…. you know they really tried to crucify Ho Lewis [Reader’s Digest editor, Hobart Lewis, a Nixon supporter who had been audited]! Are we looking into Muskie’s return? Hubert’s? Hubert’s been in a lot of funny deals. Teddy? Who knows about the Kennedys? Shouldn’t they be investigated?”
The following week he pleaded with Haldeman to light a fire under the IRS. “Bob, please get me the names of the Jews, you know the Big Jewish contributors of the Democrats…. Could we please investigate those cocksuckers?”
The following day he replayed that tune for Ehrlichman. “You see the IRS is full of Jews that’s the reason they went after Graham.” Haldeman recounted in his diary, “There was a considerable discussion of the terrible problem arising from the total Jewish domination of the media. Graham has the strong feeling that the Bible says there are Satanic Jews and that’s where our problem arises.”
The “Jewish-controlled media” and the “liberal media” were never far from Nixon’s limbic system. Nixon also bugged reporters and used bribery, blackmail attempts, forgery, spying, burglary, and extensive bugging by national police agencies and by his own “plumbers squad” to monitor and manipulate the press for political purposes. Many of the top twenty names on Nixon’s political enemies list (which eventually included 47,000 Americans) were reporters. They included Daniel Schorr, Mary McGrory, Edwin Guthman and Walter Cronkite. Nixon’s staff and agencies bugged their phones, investigated their sex lives, rifled their trash, and had them watched and followed. Nixon directly ordered the investigation of imagined homosexuality by columnist Jack Anderson, a devout, tee-totaling Mormon with a happy marriage and nine children.
On March 24, 1972, a group of Nixon’s trusted operatives including former CIA spy E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, a murderous former Dutchess county, New York prosecutor and Adolf Hitler admirer, huddled in the basement of Washington’s plush Hay-Adams Hotel, across from the White House with Dr. Edward Gund, a CIA physician, poison and assassinations expert. Nixon had complained darkly to top staffers including Special Counsel Chuck Colson that Anderson was “a thorn in his side” and that “we have to do something about this son of a bitch.” According to Hunt and Liddy, Colson deployed them that day saying that Nixon had ordered Colson to “Stop Anderson at all costs.”
The three spooks plotted out the best way to murder Anderson including running him off the road, spiking his drink with venom, breaking into his home and lacing Anderson’s aspirin bottle (“aspirin roulette”) with a special toxicant undetectable by autopsy or simply shooting him with Liddy’s untraceable 9mm pistol. The plot is detailed by Mark Felstein in his 2005 book, Poisoning the Press, and elsewhere. Liddy suggested painting Anderson’s steering wheel with a massive dose of LSD which would cause Anderson to crash in a hallucinogenic craze. Dr. Gund warned them that the LSD would be traceable in an autopsy. They finally elected to stab Anderson outside his house. Liddy volunteered to do the bloody work and make the crime look like a bungled robbery. Luckily for Anderson, the plot fizzled and was forgotten when both conspirators were arrested shortly thereafter in the Watergate scandal while endeavoring to reset a bug in Larry O’Brien’s office.
On October 6, 1971, Nixon ordered Haldeman to have the IRS audit Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler who had transformed the Times from a right wing rag into a universally respected paper by recruiting top journalists from across the nation. Chandler and his very large family were close friends of my family and had spent the summer prior to my father’s death running the Colorado River with us. “I want Otis Chandler’s income tax,” Nixon told Haldeman. Nixon then called his Attorney General and former law partner, John Mitchel, and ordered Mitchel to fire the Los Angeles Director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. “The fellow out there in the Immigration Services is a kike by the name of Rosenberg.” The President explained to Mitchel, “He is to be out.” Fulminating on, Nixon told Mitchel, “I want you to direct the most trusted person you have in the Immigration Service to look at all the activities of the Los Angeles Times… let me explain as a Californian, I know everybody in California hires them… Otis Chandler… I want him checked with regard to his gardener. I understand he is a wetback. Is that clear?” When the Attorney General replied, “Yes, sir.” Nixon crowed triumphantly, “We’re going after the Chandlers! Every one, individually and collectively, their income taxes… every one of those sons of bitches.”
In August of 1972, Edmund Muskie withdrew as George McGovern’s Vice Presidential running mate. After my Uncle Ted demurred at McGovern’s request that he join the ticket, McGovern recruited another of my uncles, Sargent Shriver. On August 9, Nixon had a meeting with his staff to discuss how to destroy the Democrats. Turning to Haldeman, he asked, “What in the name in of God are we doing on this one? What are we doing about the financial contributors? Now those lists there… are we looking over the financial contributions to the Democratic Committee? Are we running their income tax returns? Is the Justice Department checking to see if there are any anti-trust suits? We have all this power and were not using it. Now what the Christ is the matter? In other words I’m just thinking for example if there is information on Larry O’Brien. What is being done? Who is doing this full-time? What in the name of God are we doing?” Nixon abruptly narrowed his sights on McGovern’s top contributor, Henry Kimmelman, and said emphatically, “Scare the shit out of him,” He repeated the order to Ehrlichman, “Scare the shit out of him. Now there are some Jews with the mafia and they are involved with this too!”
George Schultz was now Treasury Secretary. Nixon directed Haldeman to order Schultz to audit Kimmelman. “Everybody thinks George is an honest, decent man,” Nixon observed contemptuously. “George has got a fantasy… what’s he trying to do say? That you can’t play politics with the IRS? Just tell George he should do it.” Three days later Nixon had Kimmelman’s tax returns as well Larry O’Brien’s who had by then agreed to manage McGovern’s faltering campaign and whose office would be the target of the Watergate break-in.
On March 12, 1973, even with the erupting Watergate scandal and its related Congressional investigations incinerating his presidency, Nixon was still intent on using the IRS to disable his enemies. That day he asked Haldeman, “What happened to the suggestion that the IRS run audits on all the members of Congress?”
Those who bother to read these historical snippets will find many important departures and only tenuous parallels between the Obama Administration’s IRS affair and Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era IRS scandal. A principal distinction is the ingredient of direct presidential involvement. President Nixon was the fulcrum, the visionary and the principal conspirator in his various capers to use the IRS as a political weapon. Nixon personally directed and persistently harangued his staff to audit, investigate and gather dirt on his enemies for personal purposes. Nixon went to reckless extremes even punishing IRS agents who refused to participate in his vendetta. A mean-spirited viciousness and his contagious enthusiasm for law breaking were also distinctive Nixon bailiwicks. In contrast, there is no evidence that Obama even knew of the IRS investigations which were presided over by Donald Shulman, a Bush appointee. The most recent evidence indicate that the Tea Party audits resulted not from intentional political targeting of conservatives from the sheer preponderous of Tea Party applications among the hundreds of 501(c)(4) tax exemption requests that deluged a tiny understaffed IRS field office. The 200 demoralized officials, already drowning in tax exemption petitions, also audited several liberal groups including Progress Texas and Sea Shepard. Detailed reporting in Sunday’s New York Times indicates that the problem arose because the Cincinnati branch is already debilitated and overwhelmed by years of personnel and budget cuts, now aggravated by the sequestration — and confused by new rules applying to the cascade of political “charities” unleashed by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. The GOP’s comparisons of today’s IRS blunders to the Watergate era scandals broadcast a willful blindness toward history.
As to the A.P. eavesdropping scandal, any spying directed at journalists should set off fire alarms in a democracy. The Associated Press is justified in its outrage at the Justice Department caper. Fear that a reporter’s phone may be bugged will inhibit disclosures and discussions with the many secret sources and whistleblowers upon whom journalists rely to keep our democracy transparent and our public informed.
Obama’s Justice Department’s eavesdropping on the Associated Press, however, is in no way analogous to Nixon era bugging. The Obama eavesdropping was an, unfortunately, legal investigation of national security leaks involving a Nigerian terrorist bomber planning to blow up an American airliner en route from Amsterdam to New York. Nixon’s bugging in contrast was illegal and his purposes were political and personal having little or nothing to do with national security.
Many states have “journalist shield” laws that make eavesdropping on reporters illegal and give a limited, but critical privilege to the relationship between journalists and their sources. Obama has long promised to support federal shield legislation. This week, apparently motivated by damage control, he finally asked Senate leaders to produce a federal shield law, a reform that could transform this scandal into a national plus for American democracy. That legislation will require GOP support. Republicans could also work with the White House to find adequate funding and training for the IRS and remedy the morale and governance problems in Cincinnati. The big question now, is whether Republicans will sideline genuine reform in their efforts to exploit the “scandal.” Republican legislators have apparently been ordered by their leadership to hold scandal-mongering hearings but to stall any legislation for genuine reform. The real scandal is the Republican Party’s devotion to grandstanding over governance and its preference for slime over substance. Story Continued
– This article is a reasoned approach to historical data concerning the Nixon Administration and the historical methodology that people in our government utilize to gain their unfair advantage they perceive is needed to be successful. The only point that is not made in this treatise is that we do not know the historical actions taken by the Obama Administration has we have not been able to undercover all the deeds be they good and evil. We still cannot trust our government as we could not then. PdC