The IRS Watch

The Obama White House Tapes

Stunning videotapes of IRS union chief, Obamas, aides, and ABC journalists.

By 6.25.13

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“Things tend to kinda roll down hill to the front line managers and they first have to believe that it’s really OK to do this and then they have to believe that it’s valued.…If managers were told that this was not only OK to do but that it was expected -- and if they were recognized and rewarded when they do it, they would do it.” -- IRS Union Chief Maureen Kelley at the White House explaining the way the federal government bureaucracy works.

*****

“Good afternoon and welcome to the White House. I’m Valerie Jarrett, a senior advisor to President Obama…”

So begins a series of seven White House videotapes from March 31, 2010 -- the day before, as now reported by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration -- the IRS buckled down to the task of targeting the Tea Party.

The tapes, made by the White House for its “Council on Women and Girls” and the Council’s “Conversation on Workplace Flexibility,” reveal a close working relationship between the White House, the IRS union chief and, in addition, two ABC journalists.

As Jarrett opened the event for the small audience of elites sitting in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building’s small auditorium adjacent to and part of the White House complex, present was Colleen Kelley, the President of the National Treasury Employees Union. The IRS union. Ms. Kelley herself rose to the union presidency after serving fourteen years as an IRS agent.

On the stage where Ms. Jarrett was speaking was ABC senior correspondent Claire Shipman, who was about to serve that day as the moderator of the event’s initial panel. Shipman, who is married to Obama White House press secretary Jay Carney, was introduced by Jarrett not as the wife of an administration official but rather in her professional role as the “senior national correspondent for ABC News/Good Morning America.” 

In an event closed to the press, there was one other journalist present -- who would boast of her influence inside the Obama Administration. Said Jarrett: “I also wanted to acknowledge journalist Cokie Roberts. Cokie, where are you?” Ms. Roberts, listed these days by ABC News as “a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming” and also an NPR contributor, was in the front row. Where within minutes she would be joined by the speaker Jarrett was about to introduce -- First Lady Michelle Obama.

After some 51 minutes, during which Jarrett and the First Lady spoke, with Shipman moderating the leadoff panel, the group broke up into five “breakout” sessions, each moderated by a member of the president’s staff. 

Kelley participated in “Breakout 5” on “The Changing American Workforce,” moderated by Obama aide (and former Ted Kennedy staffer) Melody Barnes, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.

ABC’s Roberts participated in “Breakout 1” on “The Benefits of Workplace Flexibility,” moderated by then-Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers Christina Romer. 

ABC’s Shipman participated in “Breakout 2”on “Best Practices Day-to-Day,” moderated by General Services Administrator Martha Johnson and attended by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.

The event made news in May when it was revealed in this space that IRS union chief Kelley was listed by the White House Visitors Log as meeting “POTUS” (President of the United States) on March 31 -- as mentioned the day before the IRS began targeting the Tea Party and conservative groups in earnest, according to the IG report. Kelley’s interview in February of 2009 was also cited, in which the union president boasted that she had already been to the White House three times in the month following the president’s inaugural and that she viewed the union’s relationship with the Obama White House as one of “collaboration” and “partnership.” One of the questions asked in that column was this one:

“What was the subject of the Obama-Kelley March 31, 2010 meeting?”

The answer quickly emerged in this statement from Kelley, released after the appearance of the column:

On March 31, 2010, NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley attended the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility at the Old Executive Office Building. The forum was attended by approximately 200 attendees including business leaders, workers, policy experts and labor representatives discussing telework and worklife balance issues. Attendees were broken into five groups to discuss workplace issues. The president made opening remarks. President Kelley did not have any direct contact with the president or the first lady. President Kelley has never discussed the tea party with the president.

Below is a description of the March 2010 forum from the White House web site:

On March 31, 2010, President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and the White House Council on Women and Girls hosted the White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility. The Forum brought together small business owners, corporate leaders, workers, policy experts, and labor leaders to explore the importance of creating workplace practices that allow America’s working men and women to meet the demands of their jobs without sacrificing the needs of their families. Building on the momentum coming out of that forum, the Administration is hosting follow-up forums around the country and encourages others to convene events in their communities to engage in dialogue and take action on this important issue.

Sounds innocent enough, yes?

But a detailed examination of the videos reveals Kelley’s eye-opening description of how the federal bureaucracy really works. A statement that was echoed separately by Shipman in her “Breakout Session 2.” Unwittingly, they confirm exactly the charge made by an anonymous IRS official in Cincinnati that “everything comes from the top.”

A close look also reveals a stunning admission from Roberts of her own influence in the Obama White House as she openly boasts about directly influencing policy through Valerie Jarrett.

First, Kelley.

Remember here that the subject of this entire forum was “workplace flexibility.” In the video for Kelley’s Breakout Session 5 the IRS union chief makes a point of explaining how the federal bureaucracy that is staffed by her union members works, bold emphasis mine:

"Things tend to kinda roll downhill to the front line managers and they first have to believe that it’s really OK to do this and then they have to believe that it’s valued. …If managers were told that this was not only OK to do but that it was expected -- and if they were recognized and rewarded when they do it, they would do it."

Stop.

What is the IRS story of the last few days? That’s right, the story that the IRS is set to pay out $70 million in “bonuses.”

In the middle of the sequester and a chorus of calls for spending cuts, the IRS is set to hand out $70 million in bonuses? Or is there more here than meets the eye?

Look again at Kelley’s frank explanation of how the federal bureaucracy works. 

“If managers were told that this was not only OK to do but that it was expected -- and if they were recognized and rewarded when they do it, they would do it.” 

Understood? According to Kelley, the IRS bureaucracy takes its cues from the “things that kinda roll downhill.” And that if IRS bureaucrats realize that something “was not only OK to do but that it was expected -- and if they were …rewarded when they do it, they would do it.”

Separately, in her own “breakout session,” Shipman made the same point about how organizations work, saying:

“If they don’t see it coming from the top…it doesn’t tend to happen.”

All of which puts this $70 million dollars-worth of bonuses under brand new scrutiny and raises an explosive question.

That question?

Is a refusal to cancel this bonus out of concern that it is effectively no longer a bonus -- but hush money? Spread out along previously agreed, pre-scandal methods. But knowing that someone or some collection of someones in the IRS may have more of an incentive to talk openly to Congressman Darrell Issa’s congressional investigators if the bonus they once expected is suddenly not forthcoming?  

Is it crazy to think like this after Watergate? Hardly.

Let’s focus now on the presence of Shipman and Roberts at this event, an event closed to the very White House reporters Shipman’s husband Jay Carney has to deal with every day.

To illustrate how easily an astute media observer can get things wrong, recall this from Bernard Goldberg on the June 15 edition of The O’Reilly Factor. In a discussion about the relationships of journalists with Obama administration officials, Goldberg specifically cited the husband-wife Carney/Shipman relationship and said this:

“Let’s use an easy example. Jay Carney is the President’s spokesperson, spokesman. He’s married to Claire Shipman, an ABC News correspondent. There’s no way ABC News is letting her anywhere near the White House, OK? That’s not what troubles me.”

So here is Goldberg insisting that “there’s no way ABC News is letting her anywhere near the White House, OK?”…and…yes indeed. There is reporter Shipman sitting there in the flesh on stage at an official White House event, sharing the stage literally with Valerie Jarrett and First Lady Michelle Obama, then taking the controls to moderate an official White House event. Then she goes and participates in “Breakout Session 2,” where she is yet again a participant in an official panel run by Obama GSA Administrator Johnson, sitting just down and across from the Obama Secretary of Labor. Then she heads back for the final session, sitting in the front row when the President himself comes in to conclude the forum.

But Shipman’s behavior pales with that of Roberts. Singled out by Jarrett at the beginning of the forum, Roberts says nothing until she appears in “Breakout Session 1.” At which time, incredibly, the ABC News/NPR journalist says this, bold emphasis mine:

In recent days I actually sort of showed up on Valerie Jarrett’s doorstep and said 'We need to talk about this Council on Women and Girls and get it going and move it along. I feel very strongly that these issues are all about productivity and competition for the United States of America….'”

Got that?

Here is a veteran Washington journalist for ABC and NPR saying flat-out that she, Cokie Roberts, “showed up” on the doorstep of the senior advisor to the President of the United States and demanded that they “talk about this Council on Women and Girls and get it going and move it along…”

And it got done.

Now.

What we are witnessing here in what might be initially viewed by some as a sleep-inducing government non-event is in fact very illustrative of the problem at the IRS as well as with the liberal media.

IRS union chief Kelley is there, and describes in blunt fashion that the federal bureaucracy -- the IRS -- works in a top down fashion. That the bureaucrats follow the lead of those at the top. Shipman, like Kelley discussing workplace flexibility, makes the same point.

This is of course is exactly what those stories, like this one from the Wall Street Journal’s Kim Strassel.

Strassel began her May 19 column this way: 

Was the White House involved in the IRS's targeting of conservatives? No investigation needed to answer that one. Of course it was.

President Obama and Co. are in full deniability mode, noting that the IRS is an "independent" agency and that they knew nothing about its abuse. The media and Congress are sleuthing for some hint that Mr. Obama picked up the phone and sicced the tax dogs on his enemies.

But that's not how things work in post-Watergate Washington. Mr. Obama didn't need to pick up the phone. All he needed to do was exactly what he did do, in full view, for three years: Publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious deeds; publicly call out by name political opponents whom he'd like to see harassed; and publicly have his party pressure the IRS to take action.

Strassel's story in the WSJ and the story of that anonymous IRS official in Cincinnati have now been confirmed by both Kelley and Shipman.

What these seven videos illustrate in vivid fashion is how the Washington elite works.

Kelley, whose IRS union endorsed Obama twice and has repeatedly given 90-plus percent of the NTEU’s campaign contributions to Democrats in Congress, is given access to a no-press event with the President’s top advisers -- including Jarrett, Romer, Barnes and Labor Secretary Solis -- an event that includes the First Lady and the President himself.

Question: When the President left the stage and the event “concluded” -- was there a reception for all the attendees? A not uncommon practice in the White House? Giving all the participants a chance to schmooze and network with each other in, say the fancy EOB Indian Treaty Room or some such? A chance to discuss… hmmm. What, exactly? The Tea Party?

Just asking.

But without doubt, the news here is that one more piece of the IRS puzzle has been found.

The IRS union chief says the example for the bureaucracy “kinda” rolls downhill from the top. That if bureaucrats “ believe that it’s really OK to do this and…if managers were told that this was not only OK to do but that it was expected -- and if they were recognized and rewarded when they do it, they would do it.” 

A point that now gives the $70 million bonus issue a new cast. Is it just more arrogant IRS behavior -- or does it mask an effort at paying hush money?

Last but not least there is the role of ABC journalists Shipman and Roberts. Shipman for directly participating in an Obama White House event not as a spouse -- her relationship to Carney was in fact never mentioned -- but as a correspondent for ABC News.

And Roberts for boasting that, yes in fact, it was she who got the ball rolling on this particular Obama policy initiative. Something she accomplished because “I actually sort of showed up on Valerie Jarrett’s door step and said ‘We need to talk about this Council on Women and Girls and get it going and move it along.’”

What do we have in these White House videotapes?

The Washington Inside Game.

Is there any wonder no one trusts the IRS or the media?

Photo: UPI ("First Lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks while Good Morning America correspondent Clair Shipman (R) listens at the White House Council on Women and Girls' Forum on workplace flexibility in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House in Washington on March 31, 2010.")

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About the Author
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com.