Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Legislative and Oversight Accomplishments of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform | Committee on Oversight & Government Reform

Legislative and Oversight Accomplishments of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform | Committee on Oversight & Government Reform
For instance, in the IRS targeting scandal, the Committee reviewed millions of pages of documents from the IRS, Treasury Department, and other agencies and conducted 52 transcribed interviews that amounted to 309 hours of testimony (p. 69). The Committee’s investigation found that 80 percent of the delayed requests for tax-exempt status were for conservative non-profit groups, and that not a single “Tea Party” group was approved by the IRS between February 2010 and May 2013.

Full report compressed (document p 69)

Since IRS’s first admission of wrongdoing, the Committee has conducted an exhaustive investigation of the IRS’s targeting. The Committee reviewed over a million pages of documents from the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the Federal Election Commission, the IRS Oversight Board, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and other custodians. The Committee conducted 52 transcribed interviews, totaling 309 hours of testimony. Despite noncooperation from the Administration and the destruction of a sizeable number of emails from Lois Lerner, the investigation presented clear findings. A review of public information showed that while more than 80 percent of delayed applications were associated with conservative groups, less than seven percent were associated with progressive or liberal agendas.316 Between February 2010 and May 2013, not a single group identifying itself as “Tea Party” was approved by the IRS.317
POLITICAL PRESSURE ON THE IRS TO “FIX THE PROBLEM” During his State of the Union Address in January 2010, President Obama delivered a stunning rebuke of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. “With all due deference to separation of powers,” the President intoned, “last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”330

Over the next ten months, in the lead-up to the 2010 midterm election, the President, members of his Administration, and allies in Congress carried out an orchestrated effort to discourage political speech by conservative nonprofit groups in an effort to fix the Citizens United decision. On the campaign trail, the President called conservative groups “shadowy” entities with “innocuous” and “benign-sounding” names that in reality “are running millions of dollars of attack ads against Democratic candidates.”331 Calling them “phony” and “front groups,” the President urged a “fix” to the Citizens United decision, which he believed allowed these allegedly nefarious groups to “pose” as nonprofits.332 The President’s allies in Congress and elsewhere echoed this call, working aggressively to delegitimize the Court’s decision and the Constitutional protections for nonprofit political speech.333 Senator Jeff Merkley urged action “so that no longer do you have a shadowy front group,”334 and Senator Charles Schumer similarly complained that “the public is under siege by advertising from shadowy special interest groups.”335

This rhetorical assault on the legitimacy of tax-exempt groups engaged in political speech was felt by the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division. As the President’s public statements generated media attention, the IRS identified a Tea Party group applying for tax-exempt status as a “potentially politically embarrassing case.”336 Due to media attention, the IRS’s Washington office ordered the application to be elevated to Washington.337 The attention on media continued through the fall. In response to a tax-law journal article in September 2010,338 Lerner initiated a “c4 project” to assess the political activity of certain nonprofits in wake of Citizens United.339 She told her subordinates: “We need to have a plan. We need to be cautious so it isn’t a per se political project. More a c4 project that will look at levels of lobbying and pol. activity along with exempt activity.”340

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