Tag Archives: Internal Revenue Service

10 things you need to know today: November 27, 2013

Two unarmed B-52 bombers flew through airspace that China recently claimed as its own.

Two unarmed B-52 bombers flew through airspace that China recently claimed as its own. (AP Photo/U.S. Air Force)

The Week

The Supreme Court reviews another ObamaCare challenge, the U.S. challenges China’s claim over disputed airspace, and more

1. Justices agree to review another ObamaCare challenge
The Supreme Court is wading back into the battle over ObamaCare. The high court, which upheld the law’s individual mandate to buy insurance last year, agreed on Tuesday to review a provision requiring private companies to offer coverage of birth control and other reproductive health benefits with no co-pay. Appeals courts have sided with employers who say some treatments, such as morning-after pills designed to prevent embryos from implanting, violate their religious beliefs. [CNN]
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2. The U.S. and Japan defy China’s new airspace claims
The U.S. sent two unarmed B-52 bombers on a training mission over disputed islands in the East China Sea on Tuesday in defiance of China’s newly declared airspace defense zone. Japanese airlines also ignored Beijing’s claim to the airspace and flew through on Wednesday, without notifying Beijing. The provocative moves intensified a standoff between China and Japan over which country controls the area, and experts in U.S.-China relations said Beijing would be forced to respond if the flights continue. [Reuters]
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3. Government moves to limit non-profits’ political spending
The Obama administration is proposing new rules to curb the political activities of tax-exempt non-profit groups. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service want to spell out more clearly what constitutes political spending — such as TV ads or get-out-the-vote drives — and put limits on how much of it non-profits can do. The move threatens to drag the IRS deeper into partisan politics, as some Republicans complain it will encourage attacks on free speech by administration opponents. [New York Times]
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4. Storm fouls up Thanksgiving plans 
The deadly and messy winter storm that is fouling up Thanksgiving travel plans on the East Coast is threatening to disrupt another holiday tradition — the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The sloppy mix of snow, rain, and winds gusting to 36 miles per hour has already forced the cancelation of hundreds of airline flights. Parade organizers say if the nasty conditions continue through Thursday they could also force the grounding of the parade’s giant flying balloons depicting Snoopy, SpongeBob, and other cartoon favorites. [Christian Science Monitor]
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5. Pope Francis attacks the “tyranny” of unchecked capitalism
Pope Francis, in a statement outlining his papacy’s mission, called unchecked capitalism a “new tyranny” plaguing the world’s poor. “We… have to say thou shalt not to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills,” said the Pope, who has drawn admirers in and out of the church for his modest ways and defense of the poor. He called on world leaders to fight poverty and overhaul the global financial system to share the world’s wealth more evenly. “Money must serve,” he said, “not rule!” [Associated Press]
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6. CBS News star Lara Logan is put on leave
Lara Logan, a high-profile CBS News correspondent, has been placed on leave for using a discredited source in 60 Minutes’ October report on the Benghazi attack. Logan told an account of the attack, which left ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead, by security contractor Dylan Davies, even though he had told his employer he was not at the scene. CBS didn’t say whether Logan — or producer Max McClellan, who was also suspended — would be out, or whether she would still be paid. [USA Today]
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7. A once-distant comet zooms close to the sun
Comet ISON, which soared far out on the edge of the solar system for 4.5 billion years, will make a spectacular fly-by past the sun on Thursday. Some scientists believe the comet will burn up as it nearly grazes the sun, but they are also pretty sure that it will provide a never-before-seen glimpse of some of the building blocks that formed planets. If the comet survives, it could provide an impressive light show in the early December night sky. [New York Times]
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8. Microsoft executives debate how to block NSA spying
Microsoft is preparing a major push to better encrypt its internet traffic over growing suspicions that the National Security Agency might have hacked into its global communications networks. Microsoft was worried even before news reports in October that said the NSA had been intercepting traffic of Microsoft rivals, Google and Yahoo. Insiders say leading Microsoft executives are meeting this week to decide when and how to beef up their company’s encryption. [Washington Post]
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9. Historic book sells for a record $14.2 million
One of 11 surviving copies of the first book printed in America — the Bay Psalm Book — sold for $14.2 million at a Tuesday night auction at Sotheby’s in New York. It was the most ever paid for any book in an auction. The previous record was set in December 2010 when a buyer paid $11.5 million for John James Audubon’s Birds of America. David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of private equity firm Carlyle Group, purchased the Bay Psalm Book and plans to loan it to libraries. [Reuters]
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10. Maddux and Glavine make Hall of Fame ballot
Major League Baseball has unveiled this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, and it includes some revered pitchers, including four-time Cy Young Award winner Greg Maddux and two-time winner Tom Glavine. The nominees also include tainted heroes from baseball’s steroid scandal, including pitcher Roger Clemens and sluggers Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGwire. About 600 sports writers will cast votes. The inductees will be announced Jan. 8. [Associated Press]

 

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VIDEO: House GOPer Won’t Push Back on Birther Calling Obama “Communist Despot”

Mother Jones

Martha Roby

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) Wetumpka Tea Party

Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) is no John McCain.

At a town hall forum in her district on Monday that was sponsored by a local tea party group, Roby was asked by an attendee what she would do to counter the supposed abuses of President Barack Obama, whom the man described as ineligible for office, a communist, and a tyrant. Here’s how the fellow put it: “What I need from you is to know what you can do, you and your fellow non-communist colleagues in the lower House, what you can do to stop these communist tyrannical executive orders laid down by this foreign-born, America-hating communist despot?”

After the room erupted in laughter and supportive applause, Roby responded with a smile: “Thank you for your question—he said it loud enough that you all heard it.” Roby did not push back on the questioner’s claims. Instead, she validated his fears. “Look I can’t emphasize the oversight part of my job enough,” she said. “And I think that that gets lost in what we do every day, because that’s exactly what we’re doing—we’re chasing down these executive orders, we’re chasing down these rules that are promulgated, that are backdoor legislation, whether it’s the EPA, the IRS, go down the list.”

Watch:

 

Contrast Roby’s dodgy reply with the direct response employed by McCain during the 2008 campaign, when a McCain supporter called then-Sen. Obama “an Arab.” McCain grabbed the microphone and wouldn’t let this stand:

 

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House GOP To Hold 40th Obamacare Repeal Vote

The classic definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

The Huffington Post

House Republicans plan a 40th attempt at repealing Obamacare next week, with legislation that would block the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any portion of the health care reform law.

House Republicans have scheduled a vote next Friday on Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013.

“Public distrust continues of agency that has dozens of powers under Obamacare, and whose actions President Obama has called outrageous,” said Doug Heye, spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “As an ever increasing number of Americans — including labor unions and moderate Democrats — worry that Obamacare has become a nightmare, it is critical to prevent the IRS from implementing any portion of the law.”

Both House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) issued statements Friday afternoon blasting Republicans for the anticipated vote.

“It is only fitting that Republicans would waste the last week at work this summer voting for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care Act and continue their record of no jobs bills, no budget agreement, and no solutions for the middle class,” said Pelosi.

“Every day wasted on yet another repeal bill that will never be taken up by the Senate, much less survive a presidential veto, is another day that could have been spent advancing legislation to create jobs for the middle class, negotiating a balanced and bipartisan approach to deficits that can end the painful budget sequester, or debating a path forward on immigration reform,” added Hoyer.

Price’s bill isn’t an explicit vote to fully repeal Obamacare, but it would have the same effect, crippling President Barack Obama’s signature law. The IRS is responsible for crucial elements of Obamacare, such as distributing the tax credits that individuals and small businesses will use to defray the cost of health insurance.

Republicans have been going after the IRS in recent weeks after revelations that it targeted tea party groups applying for nonprofit status with extra scrutiny. Later revelations, however, showed that the IRS also screened progressive groups.

“When it comes to an individual’s personal health care decisions, no American should be required to answer to the IRS — an agency that just forfeited its claim to a reputation of impartiality. It has always been an untenable and unacceptable scenario, and we ought to take this common sense step to take the IRS out of health care,” said Price when he introduced his bill in May.

Boehner recently said on CBS that the House GOP would continue pushing the repeal of Obamacare — even though it has no chance of clearing the president’s desk.

“The program isn’t ready,” Boehner told the network. “This is not ready for prime time. This is not good for the country, and we’re going to stay at it.”

More than a dozen Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), arethreatening to block a continuing resolution that would keep the federal government open beyond Sept. 30 if it includes funding for the implementation of Obamacare. In other words, unless Obamacare is repealed, the government would shut down. Several Republican lawmakers have denounced this plan, calling it a “temper tantrum” and “shenanigans.”

Next week’s House vote will be the 40th attempt by Republicans to repeal or significantly cripple, Obamacare. Last week, the House GOP took its 38th and 39th such votes, passing legislation that called for one-year delays on two key provisions of the law. Obama promised to veto the measure, and the Senate indicated no plans to consider it.

This article has been updated to include background on House Republicans’ 38th and 39th attempts to repeal Obamacare.

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Wednesday Blog Roundup – 7-10-2013

America’s Secret Spy Court Has Been Radically Expanding The Powers Of The NSA

NY Times Editorial: The Laws We Can’t See

Pro-Hillary super PAC signs up top Obama aides

Snowden Asylum Applications Reveal More Stupidity

Insurer Refuses To Cover Gun-Carrying Kansas Schools

Perry decides not to seek another term as Texas governor

Defense in Zimmerman trial expects to rest its case Wednesday

Obama Calls On Congress To Help Streamline Government Services

Elisabeth Hasselbeck Joining Fox News, will Co-Host ‘Fox & Friends’

Dems to GOP: Your new anti-abortion push is dead on arrival in Senate

Media Matters staff: Limbaugh Walks Back His Criticism Of Fox, Declares “We’re On The Same Team”

 

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Saturday Blog Roundup 7-6-2013

On undermining Obamacare

The job-killing Republican sequester

The IRS ‘scandal’ evaporates into nothing

Zimmerman Judge Rejects Motion to Dismiss

Nicaragua, Venezuela offer asylum to Snowden

A good jobs report, but a new low-wage reality

U.S. reviews aid to Egypt, debates whether it was a coup

CNBC Host Loses It: Climate Science Is A ‘Bona Fide Cult’

Abortion limits at state level return issue to the national stage

David Brooks observes Americans will soon be ‘mutts,’ which does not go over well

 

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Darrell Issa and the overblown scandals

The Washington Post – Dana Milbank

This is how a scandal implodes:

First, the head of the investigation overpromises. “This was a targeting of the president’s political enemies, effectively, and lies about it during the election year so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House oversight committee, said in May of the IRS targeting scandal. He later declared President Obama’s press secretary a “paid liar” for stating otherwise.

Next, facts emerge to undermine the investigator’s presuppositions. Documents released by Ways and Means committee Democrats this week show that the IRS, in addition to targeting tea party groups, also had “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) lists for groups using descriptors such as “progressive,” “health care legislation,” “medical marijuana,” “paying national debt” and “green energy.”

Finally, evidence surfaces that the investigator stacked the deck. Tuesday night, the Hill newspaper quoted a spokesman for Treasury’s inspector general, Russell George, saying the group was asked by Issa “to narrowly focus on tea party organizations.” The inspectors knew there were other terms, but “that was outside the scope of our audit.”

Certainly, something went badly wrong at the IRS that caused groups to be targeted because of ideology. But it’s nothing like the conspiracy Issa cooked up in which the president and his men supposedly used the tax authority to attack their political foes.

The White House deserves some of the blame for letting things get this far; a full release of information by the administration at the outset would have put the controversy to rest quickly. But the collapse of the Issa-driven scandal has reinforced a growing impression in the capital that ultimately will help Obama: The chairman is full of it.

When I covered President Clinton’s second term, White House officials were delighted to have the eccentric Dan Burton in charge of the House oversight committee. He gained prominence by shooting a melon to try to prove that Clinton aide Vince Foster hadn’t killed himself but had been murdered.

Now Issa has fallen to Burtonian levels of credibility. He’s launched a dozen or so probes, but what often begins as a legitimate inquiry into government failure turns quickly into a lunge for the Oval Office, missing each time.

Even before the Republican victory in 2010 gave him the chairmanship, Issa announced the discovery of “Obama’s Watergate” — the White House floating an administration job for a Democratic congressman to keep him out of a Senate primary. Issa backed off after learning that the Bush administration had done similar things.

Shortly before the 2010 election, Issa told Rush Limbaugh that Obama “has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” He later said Obama isn’t “personally corrupt” but his administration is.

Issa then set out to prove it. He led a probe into the failed “Fast and Furious” gun sting by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Issa declared that “it went all the way to the White House,” insisting that the plan was approved “at the highest levels of the Obama appointees,” and that the Justice Department “has blood on their hands.”

The Justice Department inspector general determined that Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t even know about the program until after it was shut down.

After the failure of Solyndra, a government-aided solar company, Issa probed Energy Department loan guarantees, saying “I want to see when the president and his cronies are picking winners and losers … that it wasn’t because there were large contributions given to them.”

The committee documented no cronyism and no presidential involvement.

Issa probed the response to Freedom of Information Act requests by the Department of Homeland Security, saying the matter “reeks of a Nixonian enemies list, and this committee will not tolerate it.”

Nothing Nixonian surfaced.

After the killing of U.S. officials in Benghazi, Libya, Issa accused then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of giving false information to Congress when she said she wasn’t involved in denying the Libyan diplomats’ security requests. He also said that it was “perhaps the White House” that later changed talking points to make it appear that the assault had begun as a protest.

It turned out Clinton wasn’t involved in the security decision and the White House wasn’t behind the change in the talking points.

Then came the IRS. Instead of delivering on Issa’s promise to reveal politically motivated harassment of conservatives by the Obama administration, the committee instead turned up evidence (including the account of a “conservative Republican” who managed IRS screening) that the actions weren’t political.

The most Issa et al. can hope to prove now is that conservatives were hassled by the IRS more than liberals. That’s a worthy topic to explore, but it’s no Watergate.

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The Last Word – Gitmo vs food stamps GOP hypocrisy exposed

I believe the GOP doesn’t care about their apparent hypocrisy.  Their House caucus has gerrymandered enough districts in this country to assure majorities in the House for a while.  Meanwhile, The Last Word reports on said “hypocrisy”…

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Cummings gets tired of waiting for Issa

Last week I embedded this clip from Lawrence O’Donnell’s show.  

It’s a good summary of what prompted the following move by Rep. Elijah Cummings  the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee .

The Maddow Blog

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, has seen the same interview transcripts as Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), documenting the interviews investigators conducted with IRS officials in Cincinnati. And with that in mind, Cummings was getting a little tired of Issa playing partisan games, releasing carefully edited, cherry-picked quotes from the transcripts in the hopes of keeping a “scandal” alive.

Indeed, Cummings has declared publicly, more than once, than if Issa didn’t provide the public with all of the information — rather than the portions Republicans found convenient — than Cummings would feel compelled to make the disclosures himself.

Today, the Maryland Democrat and his colleagues apparently got tired of waiting. Greg Sargent has the story:

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee have just released a full transcript of testimony from a key witness in the investigation of IRS targeting of conservatives — and it appears to confirm that the initial targeting did originate with a low-level employee in the Cincinnati office.

It also shows a key witness and IRS screening manager – a self-described conservative Republican — denying any communication with the White House or senior IRS officials about the targeting.

Imagine that. Issa didn’t want the public to see all of the relevant information, because the truth interfered with the preferred Republican narrative.

The documents are now online for public review. Part I (pdf) is 103 pages, Part II (pdf) is 102 pages, and both feature some redactions to protect the identities of specific individuals whose names are not relevant to the testimony.

Of particular interest were the remarks of one particular IRS official, whose interview led Cummings to argue that the entire controversy has been “solved” and it’s time for the political world to “move on.”

Continue reading here

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Ted Cruz Praises Sarah Palin On Fox For ‘Fearlessness’: Helped GOP Discover ‘A Backbone’

One of the right-wing blogs called the Fox News program in question a “Trifecta of Awesome”.  To that I say, “I think not!”

Mediaite

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made her first appearance on Fox News on Monday after being resigned as a contributor with the network. Sitting down with the hosts of Fox & Friends, Palin questioned Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) about the revelations surrounding the National Security Agency’s communications monitoring regime. During that interview, Cruz praised Palin for serving as an example to conservative politicians and the “fearlessness” with which she has “advocated conservative principles.”

Palin recently told a crowd in Washington that she wished the federal government would spend some time on “cruise control… Ted Cruz control.” She clarified that what she meant was that she hopes his fellow senatorial colleagues would “let him speak.”

“I certainly think it would help if we got back to the principles our county was founded on,” Cruz replied.

RELATED: She’s Back: Sarah Palin Rejoins Fox News As Contributor

Cruz said that he is witnessing a more robust anti-establishment sentiment in Congress and commended Palin on setting an example for others to follow in that regard. He said to Palin that he “the fearlessness with which you’ve advocated conservative principles.” Cruz added that it was likely Palin’s example has helped some Republicans who have “magically discovered a backbone.”

Turning to the NSA scandal, Cruz said that he was concerned about those revelations but urged that the public “not rush to judgment about the entire program.”

“Part of the problem is that we’ve seen a pattern from the Obama administration – whether it’s the IRS, whether it’s targeting journalists, whether it’s Benghazi – of a willingness to use the machinery of government to implement political and partisan ends, and then to mislead the American people about it,” Cruz said.

Cruz chided the administration for claiming that the Congress was briefed on the NSA programs. He said that only the intelligence committees were fully informed.

Watch:

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Darrell Issa’s IRS Investigation Is Falling Apart

Representative Darrell Issa, right, confers with a staffer during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington

Representative Darrell Issa, right, confers with a staffer during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in Washington

Bloomberg Business Week

When Republicans won control of the House of Representatives in 2010, Representative Darrell Issa of California was supposed to become a star. Issa, who made no secret of his ambition, took over the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, vowing to use the power of his chairmanship to stage hundreds of hearings and hold the Obama administration to account. Anticipating what he promised would be “constant battle,” the White House hired extra lawyers and braced for the onslaught.

But Issa wasn’t the force people expected him to be. His biggest investigation, into the botched anti-gun smuggling operation that left a Border Patrol agent dead, incited right-wing talk radio listeners. Beyond that, though, it barely registered. After two years in power, Issa seemed more bark than bite.

Then came last month’s revelation that IRS agents had singled out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny. Here was an issue that seized public attention and posed a legitimate threat to Obama. Since then, nobody in Congress has pushed harder than Issa to pin the scandal on the White House.

But after a burst of attention, Issa’s investigation appears to have stalled. Although he turned up embarrassing material—has any government official been humiliated quite like the IRS commissioner in the dorky video dressed up as Spock?—Issa hasn’t made the all-important connection to the White House.  And he may not be able to.  The news this week that he won’t release the full transcripts of his interviews with IRS officials—interviews he selectively quoted from to imply White House complicity—suggests that what they contain may in fact exonerate the administration of the very charge Issa is laboring so hard to prosecute.

“Your push to release entire transcripts from witness interviews while the investigation remains active was reckless and threatened to undermine the integrity of the committee’s investigation,” Issa wrote in response to a letter from his Democratic counterpart, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who himself had selectively quoted the transcripts and then called on Issa to publicize the whole thing.

In theory, Issa could be building a case against the White House to rival Watergate that he just isn’t quite ready to unveil.  But that’s highly unlikely. Cummings has seen the transcripts and wouldn’t call for their release if they contained information that would fell his party’s president. Issa’s weak-tea defense of why he won’t comply—witnesses might be demoted or fired, he says—only buttresses this suspicion. So does the effort by Issa’s colleague, Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, to broaden the investigation’s scope to include donor audits. You don’t broaden an investigation if you’ve found the smoking gun and nailed the culprit.

“We’re not anywhere near being able to jump to conclusions,” Camp told reporters, including Bloomberg’s Richard Rubin, on Wednesday.  So the IRS investigations will continue. But it’s getting harder to imagine that they’ll turn up evidence of a Nixonian plot, and if they don’t, Issa will have failed again.

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