Tag Archives: Bush Administration

When the IRS targeted liberals

When the IRS targeted liberals

Thanks to Jueseppi B. for bringing this to my attention.

So, my question to the “outraged” Tea Party, GOP and most Republicans in general:

Where was your outrage in 2006 when the Bush administration targeted dissenters of his administration?

Salon

Under George W. Bush, it went after the NAACP, Greenpeace and even a liberal church

While few are defending the Internal Revenue Service for targeting some 300 conservative groups, there are two critical pieces of context missing from the conventional wisdom on the “scandal.” First, at least from what we know so far, the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test (an ugly one, mind you) for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political. Keep in mind, the commissioner of the IRS at the time was a Bush appointee.

The second is that while this is the first time this kind of thing has become a national scandal, it’s not the first time such activity has occurred.

“I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,” California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said on MSNBC Monday. “I found only one Republican, [North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones], that would join me in calling for an investigation during the Bush administration. I’m glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.”

The well-known church, All Saints Episcopal in Pasadena, became a bit of a cause célèbre on the left after the IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status over an anti-Iraq War sermon the Sunday before the 2004 election. “Jesus [would say], ‘Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine,’” rector George Regas said from the dais.

The church, which said progressive activism was in its “DNA,” hired a powerful Washington lawyer and enlisted the help of Schiff, who met with the commissioner of the IRS twice and called for a Government Accountability Office investigation, saying the IRS audit violated the First Amendment and was unduly targeting a political opponent of the Bush administration. “My client is very concerned that the close coordination undertaken by the IRS allowed partisan political concerns to direct the course of the All Saints examination,” church attorney Marcus Owens, who is widely considered one of the country’s leading experts on this area of the law, said at the time. In 2007, the IRS closed the case, decreeing that the church violated rules preventing political intervention, but it did not revoke its nonprofit status.

And while All Saints came under the gun, conservative churches across the country were helping to mobilize voters for Bush with little oversight. In 2006, citing the precedent of All Saints, “a group of religious leaders accused the Internal Revenue Service yesterday of playing politics by ignoring its complaint that two large churches in Ohio are engaging in what it says are political activities, in violation of the tax code,” the New York Times reported at the time. The churches essentially campaigned for a Republican gubernatorial candidate, they alleged, and even flew him on one of their planes.

Meanwhile, Citizens for Ethics in Washington filed two ethics complaints against a church in Minnesota. “You know we can’t publicly endorse as a church and would not for any candidate, but I can tell you personally that I’m going to vote for Michele Bachmann,” pastor Mac Hammond of the Living Word Christian Center in Minnesota said in 2006 before welcoming her to the church. The IRS opened an audit into the church, but it went nowhere after the church appealed the audit on a technicality.

And it wasn’t just churches. In 2004, the IRS went after the NAACP, auditing the nation’s oldest civil rights group after its chairman criticized President Bush for being the first sitting president since Herbert Hoover not to address the organization. “They are saying if you criticize the president we are going to take your tax exemption away from you,” then-chairman Julian Bond said. “It’s pretty obvious that the complainant was someone who doesn’t believe George Bush should be criticized, and it’s obvious of their response that the IRS believes this, too.”

In a letter to the IRS, Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel, Pete Stark and John Conyers wrote: “It is obvious that the timing of this IRS examination is nothing more than an effort to intimidate the members of the NAACP, and the communities the organization represents, in their get-out-the-vote effort nationwide.”

Then, in 2006, the Wall Street Journal broke the story of a how a little-known pressure group called Public Interest Watch — which received 97 percent of its funds from Exxon Mobile one year — managed to get the IRS to open an investigation into Greenpeace. Greenpeace had labeled Exxon Mobil the “No. 1 climate criminal.” The IRS acknowledged its audit was initiated by Public Interest Watch and threatened to revoke Greenpeace’s tax-exempt status, but closed the investigation three months later.

As the Journal reporter, Steve Stecklow, later said in an interview, “This comes against a backdrop where a number of conservative groups have been attacking nonprofits and NGOs over their tax-exempt status. There have been hearings on Capitol Hill. There have been a number of conservative groups in Washington who have been quite critical.”

Indeed, the year before that, the Senate held a hearing on nonprofits’ political activity. Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the then-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the IRS needed better enforcement, but also “legislative changes” to better define the lines between politics and social welfare, since they had not been updated in “a generation.” Unfortunately, neither Congress nor the IRS has defined 501(c)4′s sufficiently to this day, leaving the door open for IRS auditors to make up their own, discriminatory rules.

Those cases mostly involved 501(c)3 organizations, which live in a different section of the tax code for real charities like hospitals and schools. The rules are much stronger and better developed for (c)3′s, in part because they’ve been around longer. But with “social welfare” (c)4 groups, the kind of political activity we saw in 2010 and 2012 is so unprecedented that you get cases like Emerge America, a progressive nonprofit that trains Democratic female candidates for public office. The group has chapters across the country, but in 2011, chapters in Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada were denied 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. Leaders called the situation “bizarre” because in the five years Nevada had waited for approval, the Kentucky chapter was approved, only for the other three to be denied.

A former IRS official told the New York Times that probably meant the applications were sent to different offices, which use slightly different standards. Different offices within the same organization that are supposed to impose the exact same rules in a consistent manner have such uneven conceptions of where to draw the line at a political group, that they can approve one organization and then deny its twin in a different state.

All of these stories suggest that while concern with the IRS posture toward conservative groups now may be merited, to fully understand the situation requires a bit of context and history.

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How the rich created the Social Security “crisis”

Salon

The Bush tax cuts coupled with a decades-long smear campaign are the real threat to the successful program

Now and then, George W. Bush told the unvarnished truth—most often in jest. Consider the GOP presidential nominee’s Oct. 20, 2000, speech at a high-society $800-a-plate fundraiser at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria. Resplendent in a black tailcoat, waistcoat and white bow tie, Bush greeted the swells with evident satisfaction.

“This is an impressive crowd,” he said. “The haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.”

Any questions?

Eight months later, President Bush delivered sweeping tax cuts to that patrician base. Given current hysteria over what a recent Washington Post article called “the runaway national debt,” it requires an act of historical memory to recall that the Bush administration rationalized reducing taxes on inherited wealth because paying down the debt too soon might roil financial markets.

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Dick Cheney Takes Credit for al-Awlaki Strike, Wants Obama to Apologize

:::Gagging:::

Proponents of the last administration are trying their best to undermine President Obama’s foreign policy successes.  Cheney is the latest in a long line of pundits and ex-Bush administration officials trying to give Dubya credit for his foreign policy programs which enabled Obama’s latest foreign policy coup.

Firedoglake

I realize that Dick Cheney is basically a troll these days, but I’m going to go ahead and feed him a little for this one.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney applauded the U.S. drone strike that killed American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki but added that President Obama now owed the Bush administration an apology for claiming they “overreacted to 9/11.”

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, Cheney said Obama was inconsistent for criticizing the former administration’s approach to terrorism while also using “some of the same techniques the Bush administration did.”

We developed the technique and the technology for it,” said Cheney of the drone strike that killed Awlaki.

Cheney sounds a lot like Dubya, who basically took credit for killing bin Laden. But reports indicate that al-Awlaki was killed by a Predator (introduced during the Clinton administration) armed with Hellfire missiles (developed during the Reagan administration) — so it’s not clear what Cheney is talking about here.

The thing I’m waiting for is for the administration to go back and correct something they said two years ago when they criticized us for ‘overreacting’ to the events of 9/11,” said Cheney. “They, in effect, said that we had walked away from our ideals, or taken policy contrary to our ideals when we had enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Most Americans agree that setting up torture gulags all over the world, illegally spying on Americans, creating a sprawling new department of the federal government and launching a preemptive, unrelated war of choice that killed half-a-million people — was an overreaction.

But is Cheney claiming that the Obama administration found Awlaki through torture? If so, that’s news.

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Fired U.S. Attorneys: Bush Administration ‘Turned The Justice Department Into The Laughingstock Of The Country’

I followed the case of the fired United States Attorneys which took place during the second term of the Bush administration.  Most were fired for not carrying out the demands of higher ups in the administration which included prosecuting democrats and minorities for “voter fraud”.  Greg Palast also followed that news story very closely.

Huffington Post

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Five of the federal prosecutors whose firings in 2006 sparked an investigation into President George W. Bush’s Justice Department blamed their ouster Monday on politics in the department, which one of them said became a “laughingstock.”

The five former U.S. attorneys, among nine who were let go, appeared together during a forum in Little Rock.

They blamed former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ intense political loyalty to Bush for costing them their jobs.

“There were a number of people who made terrible decisions,” said John McKay, a former U.S. attorney for the western district of Washington state. “They turned the Justice Department into the laughingstock of the country.”

Prosecutors closed a two-year investigation into the firings in July with a conclusion that the Justice Department’s actions were inappropriately political but not criminal. The episode contributed to Gonzales’ resignation.

Other ousted prosecutors participating in the forum were Bud Cummins of Arkansas, Paul Charlton of Arizona, Carol Lam of California and David Iglesias of New Mexico.

The forum, held by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, comes as the man who temporarily replaced Cummins seeks a congressional seat in central Arkansas.

Skip Rutherford, the Clinton School dean, said the event had been in the works for several months and was not related to the election.

Tim Griffin, now the Republican nominee for the 2nd Congressional District, was named interim U.S. attorney for eastern Arkansas after Cummins’ firing. Griffin is running against Democratic state Sen. Joyce Elliott, who attended Monday’s forum.

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Blame | Video Cafe

 

 

Ya gotta love Jon Stewart… 

Crooks & Liars 

Brilliant. From The Daily Show: 

Fox &Friends” deems it inappropriate for the Obama administration to mention Bush when talking about the wars, economy or oil spill. 

…So everything bad that happened during the Bush administration, was Bill Clinton’s fault.

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Pelosi: We’ll stop blaming Bush when his problems go away

Crooks & Liars

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn’t hesitate to blame the Bush administration for issues facing this country and that isn’t going to change until the problem he created are solved. 

In an interview that aired Friday on MSNBC, Chuck Todd asked Pelosi if there was a statue of limitations on placing responsibility on President George W. Bush.”Well, it runs out when the problems go away,” Pelosi replied. 

 

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Valerie Plame Movie ‘Fair Game’ Opens in Cannes

I have followed the Valerie Plame Wilson story since  Joe Wilson’s op-ed in the New York Times in 2003. 

I’ve read Mrs. Wilson’s book Fair Game and I enjoyed it as much as I could.  The CIA had her redact almost one-third of her book, legitimately fearing  exposing over seas operatives and for some other, rather mundane reasons.

The movie Fair Game had it’s debut at the Cannes Film Festival last week.  In my opinion, it’s about time!

Newsweek

Bringing the Valerie Plame affair to the silver screen, director Doug Liman explores the abuse of power in Washington.

When columnist Robert Novak unveiled Valerie Plame as a CIA undercover operative in his syndicated column in 2003, Plame reportedly confessed to a friend, “I didn’t plan for this day.” It would be safe to say that she also didn’t plan on a red-carpet world premiere for Fair Game, a film based on her story starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, at the Cannes Film Festival. Or the standing ovations both she and the film received at the gala black-tie screening on Thursday evening. “What a night!” Plame exclaimed to NEWSWEEK after the event.

And what a movie. In Fair Game, director Doug Liman bravely tackles the now well-known story of how Plame’s husband, former career diplomat Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times  accusing President George W. Bush of knowingly lying in his State of the Union address about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and how, in return, White House officials leaked Plame’s true identity to the media. As MSNBC’s Chris Matthews reportedly told Wilson, Karl Rove declared, “Wilson’s wife is fair game.”

But instead of mounting a play-by-play of the political scandal again, Liman and the film’s two screenwriters, Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, wisely decided to focus on how the media and political maelstrom affected both Plame and Wilson personally. As a result, the film is a crisp snapshot of Washington players, a rarity for Hollywood; critics in Cannes immediately began to compare it to Alan Pakula’s masterful All the President’s Men.

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Pat Robertson’s “Fallacy” v Historical Record

Televangelist Pat Robertson was telling a young woman on his show, a story about Haitians selling their souls to the devil and what happened to them regarding the latest earthquake disaster as well as previous disasters was merely God’s wrath.  This is Robertson’s story:

Transcript:

And you know Christy, something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French, uh you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True Story, and so the Devil said OK it’s a deal. And they kicked the French out. You know, the Haitians revolted and got themselves free. But ever since they’ve been cursed by one thing after the other desperately poor. That island is Hispaniola is one island. It’s cut down the middle. On one side is Haiti on the other side is the Dominican republic. Dominican Republic is prosperous, healthy, full of resorts, etc.. Haiti is in desperate poverty. Same island

Robertson, as usual is blaming the victims of this disaster for their fate because they disobeyed God.  Juan Cole speaks out on Robertson’s “Racist blaming of Haitian victims”.

Dr. Raymond Joseph, Haitian Ambassador to the United States was on  the Rachel Maddow Show  last night.  Dr. Joseph appeared  quite upset about the segment Rachel showed on Robertson’s version of history:

Dr. Joseph’s history lesson was impromptu but needed to be heard and Rachel allowed him to tell her viewers the historical background of Haiti’s revolution from slavery to independence.  In addition, Robertson’s distorted allegorical fantasy was revealed for the hateful metaphor that it is.

To blame the people of Haiti, who by the way, according to the  CIA World Fact Book  is 80% Catholic, for their plight is absurd!  One has to wonder just how long this malicious falsehood  has been out there?  

Historically, here in the United States,  Haitian refugees were refused entry to the United States when seeking asylum from brutal dictatorships while Cubans were allowed entry almost 100% of the time.  This has always been a glaring double standard of our country’s immigration policies against Haitians.

Mother Jones excerpts an article on how the Bush Administration flawed policy toward Haiti undermined democracy in that country.  The magazine quotes Walt Bogdanich and Jenny Nordberg  from their story “Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Toward Chaos.” Here’s their account of the events following Aristede’s 2004 departure:

The Bush administration has said that while Mr. Aristide was deeply flawed, its policy was always to work with him as Haiti’s democratically elected leader. But the administration’s actions in Haiti did not always match its words. Interviews and a review of government documents show that a democracy-building group close to the White House, and financed by American taxpayers, undercut the official United States policy and the ambassador assigned to carry it out.

As a result, the United States spoke with two sometimes contradictory voices in a country where its words carry enormous weight. That mixed message, the former American ambassador said, made efforts to foster political peace “immeasurably more difficult.” Without a political agreement, a weak government was destabilized further, leaving it vulnerable to the rebels.

Mother Jones continues:

While it can be counted on not to engage in these kinds of deadly shenanigans, the Obama administration hasn’t taken much meaingful action on Haiti in the past year. It did pull back on some of the harshest deportation policies of the Bush years, which affected Haitians fleeing their country’s shores. But it has implemented few of the recommendations, for example, put out by the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network after Obama’s inauguration, which included canceling debts and increasing trade.

 Juan Cole  has a message to President Obama.  In my opinion it is an excellent modest proposal.

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