Special Report

IRS Commissioner Aided Tax Cheat Congressman

Shulman rallied for Rangel: Jason Furman, Media Matters, Fox News, Jarrett and a job.

By 6.4.13

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And the Liberal Dog Whistle Blows.

Congressman Charles Rangel of New York.

Ex-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.

The new chairman of the president’s Council on Economic Advisors, Jason Furman.

And George Soros, Media Matters, Gail Furman -- Jason Furman’s mother -- and Susan Anderson, Douglas Shulman’s wife. Did I mention President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, Joe Biden -- and a post-IRS job for Douglas Shulman? A job he has now had to give up in the wake of the IRS scandal.

Did I mention Fox News?

Let’s get to it.

January 30, 2009.

The New York Post headlined the story this way:

IRS BIG PAYS RANGEL A VISIT

Wrote the Post (bold print for emphasis):

The IRS's top man came to Harlem -- and shared a stage with an accused tax cheat, Rep. Charles Rangel.

Commissioner Douglas Shulman and other officials yesterday urged New Yorkers to get the most out of their tax returns.

Asked about appearing with a pol who's being probed for failing to pay taxes, Shulman said, "He's one of the leaders in this country on tax policy issues. I work closely with him every day, and I'm honored to be on this stage with him. 

You read that right.

As the tax waters were quite publicly rising on Congressman Rangel -- he would eventually be censured by the House for among other things having “shortchanged the IRS for 17 years by failing to pay taxes on income” and forced to step aside as chairman of the tax writing House Ways and Means Committee -- IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman personally rode to Rangel’s rescue.

The Harlem event was a campaign-style public relations function featuring Rangel with Shulman and local officials at the Food Bank for New York City. Rangel would in fact face not one but five challengers in the looming 2010 primary, with his opponents making much of his IRS problems. The food bank benignly advertised the occasion this way:

As New York taxpayers begin the February rush to file tax returns, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman joins Congressman Charles Rangel, NYC DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz, Food Bank Pres. & CEO Dr. Lucy Cabrera, & Food Bank Chairman of the Board, the Rev. Henry Belin, to discuss the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-wage workers and options for free tax preparation.

Safe to say, IRS commissioners are not famous for campaigning with politicians, much less showing up for photo ops at a food bank. So why was Shulman lending the prestige of the IRS to a man under withering fire as a tax cheat? And doing so at a food bank event, of all things?

We’ll come back to that question.

But the tax-cheating powerful Rangel wasn’t the only one for whom the then-tax chief Shulman had a soft spot.

The famous 157 White House visits made by Shulman -- more than any other senior Obama appointee -- included six to Jason Furman.

Who is Jason Furman?

You may now recognize the name since just last week the Obama White House aide was promoted by President Obama to the non-Senate confirmable post of Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. In 2009 Furman was Deputy Director of the National Economic Council in the White House.

But there’s a lot more to Jason Furman than being just another promoted White House aide with a lofty governmental title, so we’ll come back to him in a minute.

LET'S START WITH the Rangel-Shulman tale.

January 30, 2009.

Congressman Charlie Rangel is in very big, very personal tax trouble with the IRS. As noted in that news story -- one of many news stories all over the mainstream media -- Rangel had “shortchanged” the IRS for 17 years. Seventeen years!

But IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was only too happy to lend a very public IRS hand to assist the liberal, tax-challenged Rangel.

Rangel’s tax problems began in July of 2008, a mere eight months before the Harlem Rangel/Shulman event when the Washington Post reported the following:

Rangel's Pet Cause Bears His Own Name

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel is soliciting donations from corporations with business interests before his panel, hoping to raise $30 million for a new academic center that will house his papers when he retires.

The story launched a tornado of ethics problems for the longtime Harlem congressman. Stories flowed from the mainstream media, including the New York Times, that swirled around accusations of not paying federal taxes on various assets. There was the villa in the Dominican Republic -- on which he owed years of back taxes. Then came issues of renting Harlem apartments at below-market value, using a House of Representatives garage as a storage unit for his Mercedes-Benz, and questions on unreported assets and income.

On September 14, 2008, even the New York Times editorial board had had enough of Rangel’s tax problems, in an editorial titled “Chairman Rangel,” said:

Mounting embarrassment for taxpayers and Congress makes it imperative that Representative Charles Rangel step aside as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee while his ethical problems are investigated.

None of this, apparently, was a red flag for IRS Commissioner Shulman. Why not? After months of a barrage of stories about Rangel’s problems with taxes and a mere four-plus months after the liberal New York Times was calling for Rangel to step aside, the IRS Commissioner was in Harlem at that food bank to personally lend the quite public support of the IRS to the embattled, left-leaning, tax-challenged Rangel.

 Well aside from the issue of political judgment for the head of the supposedly nonpartisan IRS to be publicly campaigning for a man so publicly and repeatedly charged with tax cheating -- the Rangel episode raised the obvious issue of whether, under the circumstances, Shulman was as obtuse as he appeared.

Was Douglas Shulman really that politically dumb? Or was he, in the ways of the left-leaning Washington Beltway crowd, clever, canny and smart?

Rangel was at the time the head of the uber-powerful tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. The Food Bank of New York City lists as one of its “Mission Partners” the “Soros Management Fund LLC” -- that being the firm of George Soros, the left-wing financial Godfather and funder of all manner of leftwing tax-exempt groups. The latter including Media Matters.

If you are the IRS Commissioner --and know you will eventually not be the IRS Commissioner and yet still need a job -- isn’t it smart to schmooze Mr. Chairman Rangel at a Soros Funded food bank? After all, other than an unflattering story in the New York Post -- who cares? 

But Shulman was a Bush appointee, Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats like to point out.

In fact, when it came time to pick a new IRS Commissioner at the end of the Bush administration, as Bush White House press secretary Dana Perino has noted Democrats were not about to approve a Bushie for the IRS job that carried a five-year term. Bush was at the end of his second term, the GOP had already lost the 2006 election that made Pelosi Speaker and Harry Reid the Majority Leader of the Senate -- the latter the place where IRS Commissioners are confirmed. Thus the IRS nominee had to be acceptable to Democrats. This was the supposedly “non-partisan” IRS, so the Bush administration simply decided this was one fight they didn’t need in the middle of two wars and all the rest of Bush troubles. At the end of November 2007, Shulman was nominated by Bush.

The last Bush Secretary of the Treasury -- for whom the IRS Commissioner works -- was Hank Paulson. Paulson, whose wife Wendy was an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter, had already drawn attention from columnist Robert Novak for giving major Treasury appointments to liberal Democrats. While the wealthy ex-Goldman Sachs head Paulson had in fact given money to Republicans, he was also a big giver to Democrats like Bill Clinton, Bill Bradley, Chuck Schumer and the left-wing feminist group Emily’s List. Paulson, as Secretary, had a big voice in selecting an IRS Commissioner. Concluded Novak of the people populating the Paulson Treasury Department :

It should be no surprise then that he (Paulson) is regarded in his own administration as less a true Republican secretary than a transition to the next Democratic Treasury -- a trademark of a lame-duck regime.

Thus -- the Bush appointment of Shulman, who is recorded by the Federal Elections Commission as a 2004 donor to the DNC in the year Bush won a close re-election over DNC candidate John Kerry. The same Douglas Shulman whose wife Susan Anderson, as noted here in the Daily Caller’s story by Patrick Howley, “works for liberal group fighting open campaign spending” as “the senior program advisor.”

The FEC also records Shulman’s wife Susan Anderson, the “Senior Program Adv” (adviser) for “Public Campaign,” as a donor to the left-wing Progressive Majority. In the so-far-an-interesting-coincidence category, Progressive Majority president Gloria Totten was listed as attending “Dinner 7” in a series of dinners for the liberal Women’s Campaign Fund, a 501(c)(4). Listed as a “co-host” of “Dinner 1” was -- Gail Furman. Jason Furman’s mother.

Whatever else this network of well-connected liberals says about the ex-IRS Commissioner, it is plain that Shulman himself is well connected in the world of Washington and liberal politics and big money.

In fact, after Shulman’s exit from the IRS but before the IRS scandal exploded, Shulman was on track to take a director’s job at CBOE Holdings Inc. in Chicago. The scandal exploded and Shulman has withdrawn. But the publicity brought attention to this telling boast of connections by CBOE inside the Obama White House. Said outgoing CBOE chairman William Brodsky in the Chicago Tribune, reflecting on a possible job offer for himself in the Obama administration:

"I have a whole bunch of friends in this administration, including that guy there," Brodsky said, gesturing toward several photos, including one with a handwritten note from President Barack Obama. "(Vice President Joe) Biden and I went to law school together, and Valerie Jarrett and I have been friends for 20-some-odd years. If it were a different administration, it probably would not be a consideration. But this is not the top of my mind right now. The top of my mind is to make sure we have a good transition here."

Up until May 21 that “good transition” included plans for Shulman to become a director of CBOE.

This liberal network can easily explain Shulman’s 157 visits to the White House. It explains as well how Shulman could sit before an investigating committee of Congress and smirk that the only trip to the White House he could recall was for the Easter Egg Roll. It also makes perfect sense that Shulman would get a post-IRS job offer from a company whose CEO boasted of long relationships with the President himself, with Vice President Biden, and with Valerie Jarrett. 

So too can the liberal network easily explain why Douglas Shulman felt it necessary to be calling on Jason Furman, the senior White House economic aide whose mother was well known in left-wing circles as, along with George Soros the Harlem Food Bank funder, a serious funder for Media Matters. Media Matters, the left-wing 501(c)(3) that mysteriously escaped the attention of the Shulman-run IRS.

On the surface? Maybe Shulman and Furman were just talking economic matters. But nothing is as it seems in Washington. A President covered-up Watergate while saying he would never dream of it. Another President really did have “sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky,” even though he insisted that he would never dream of such a thing.

SO. LET'S MOVE ON from Shulman’s politicking ways with the liberal and powerful Charlie Rangel to Shulman’s White House meetings with Jason Furman.

Just appointed the other day as the new Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, Furman received 6 of those 157 White House visits from Shulman when Furman was still just Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, a job he took when President Obama entered the White House in 2009.

It is a common mistake to look at lofty government titles that seemingly proclaim political neutrality when in fact the person occupying that job has considerable personal political ties. Jason Furman is exactly this kind of government official. Furman was visited by Mr. Shulman at least 6 of those 157 times, none of them, it seems, in the month in which the Easter Egg Roll took place. The White House records those visits as follows, with the letters “Ww” standing for “West Wing” -- as in West Wing of the White House, home to both the Oval Office and the president’s most powerful senior aides.

Shulman, Douglas Furman, Jason 09/25/2009 16:30
Meeting Room: Ww […]

Shulman, Douglas Furman, Jason 12/01/2009 13:00
Meeting Room: Ww […]

Shulman, Douglas Furman, Jason 01/06/2010 14:00
Meeting Room: Ww […]

Shulman, Douglas Furman, Jason 02/17/2010 14:30
Meeting Room: Ww […]

Shulman, Douglas Furman, Jason 10/29/2010 17:00
Meeting Room: Ww […]

Shulman, Douglas Furman, Jason 11/16/2010 15:30
Meeting Room: Ww

What, in fact, is Jason Furman’s background? 

Why all this personal attention to Furman from the IRS Commissioner? What are Furman’s political relationships that would raise a red flag about Douglas Shulman spending even one of his 157 White House visits with Jason Furman, much less six? What is it about the IRS that means it has to be coordinated with left-wing economic policy? Furman’s formal job, after all, was about economic policy -- not the in-the-weeds implementation of Obamacare. The latter in which the IRS has a most serious role indeed.

And what does Jason Furman have in common with -- Congressman Charlie Rangel?

Answer? 

What Rangel and Furman have common is the perception of real power and influence in that liberal network -- the kind of power and influence that goes well beyond the surface job descriptions of being a mere Congressman from Harlem or some economic staff guy to the president.

For Rangel, this power was his position as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

And Furman?

If one reads his official White House biography (here) you get the standard bureaucratese.

Not mentioned is that Jason Furman is the son of Gail Furman, a wealthy Manhattan psychologist and philanthropist who heads the left-wing Furman Foundation. Gail Furman is a donor to Media Matters and served as a board member of the similarly George Soros-funded Democracy Alliance. She is also a donor to the Soros-backed J Street, the Tides Foundation, and the Center for American Progress. Jason Furman’s brother Jesse Furman, a lawyer and one-time treasurer of the Furman Foundation, was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in 2009 by President Obama and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The power of the Furman Foundation was more than enough to elicit this question in Jesse Furman’s confirmation hearing from Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley:

GRASSLEY: You served as Treasurer of The Furman Foundation, a family foundation. This Foundation has donated money to a number of liberal organizations and causes, such as the Alliance for Justice, Media Matters, and People for the American Way. While there is nothing wrong with that, it may concern future litigants, should you be confirmed.

a. Did you have any decision-making authority regarding where or to whom the Foundation donated money?

FURMAN: As Treasurer of the Furman Foundation from 2000 to 2008, I did not have any decision-making authority regarding where or to whom the Foundation donated money. The Foundation was established and funded entirely by my mother, and she exercised exclusive authority over decisions about where and to whom the Foundation donated money.”

So the obvious question.

If the relationship of the Furman Foundation to Obama judicial nominee Jesse Furman was enough of a red flag to have Senator Grassley inquiring, was that reputation strong enough to quietly motivate the IRS not to look into the tax exempt status of the Furman-funded Media Matters? As well as other left-leaning 501(c)(3)’s?

Just as in the fashion that caused IRS Commissioner Shulman to play the Washington power game and lend the prestige of the IRS to an embattled, tax-challenged but powerful Congressman Rangel -- the same IRS Commissioner was repeatedly trooping into Jason Furman’s White House West Wing office. While at the same time the IRS that somehow found the time to investigate the tax exempt status of conservative groups mysteriously couldn’t find the time to investigate Media Matters. The very same Media Matters that is funded by Jason and Obama judicial nominee Jesse’s mother Gail. In the same liberal network where a group -- the Progressive Majority -- gets a contribution from Shulman’s wife -- and sends its president, Gloria Totten, to a series of dinners for yet another liberal group where a co-host is…Jason Furman’s mother.

Coincidence?

Ahhhhh. But what was going on with Fox News and the Obama Administration while Shulman of the IRS was busy visiting Jason Furman in the White House in all those recorded visits between September of 2009 and November of 2010?

Recall?

Sure you do. That was the time when the Obama had declared war on Fox News. 

On October 19, 2009 -- less than a month after IRS Commissioner Shulman paid his first visit on Jason Furman in the White House West Wing -- the Associated Press was headlining this story:

White House steps up attacks on Fox News

Wrote the AP:

WASHINGTON — White House advisers have stepped up their attacks on Fox News, claiming the cable television network is a Republican mouthpiece whose programming "is geared toward making money.”

….Last week, White House communications director Anita Dunn said Fox News operates "almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party."

On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's chief of staff, said, "It is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective."

Tough looks at the administration

Fox News commentators Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have been strong Obama critics, and Bill O'Reilly has taken tough looks at the administration. Obama avoided "Fox News Sunday" when he visited five Sunday morning news shows last month; three aides carried the administration's message on Afghanistan, health care and the economy this Sunday to ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, but not Fox; and a recent White House blog post accused Beck of lying. Beck has called Obama a racist.

Over at Media Matters, the Daily Caller would later report that “Media Matters for America founder David Brock and president Eric Burns” were in receipt of a memo explaining that “Media Matters should launch a ‘Fox Fund’ whose mission would be to attack the Fox News Channel.”

Now.

STAY FOCUSED ON IRS Commissioner Shulman.

By the fall of 2009, Shulman has already -- nine months earlier -- had a quiver in his political antennae that told him -- appearances be damned -- he should show up at the literal side of the tax-challenged Congressman Charlie Rangel at a Soros-funded Food Bank in New York to send the message that tax challenged or not, the IRS loved Charlie.

Now, the Obama White House is in full-blown attack mode against Fox News. And the man Shulman is seeing for the first of 6 meetings in those 157 that are not the Easter Egg Role -- is with the Obama aide who is the son of a serious funder with Soros not just of Media Matters but other liberal 501(c)(3)’s as well.

For a man with the exquisite sense of Inside-the-Beltway and liberal network politics that Shulman possesses -- it’s a reasonable question to ask: Where was the IRS scrutiny of Media Matters? Or was that very exquisite sense of liberal network politics -- watching the Obama White House itself at its most senior levels go after the same target as the Soros/Furman funded Media Matters while simultaneously attacking the Tea Party -- a signal not just to the bureaucrats in the IRS but the Commissioner as well?

By 2011, Media Matters was virtually begging for IRS attention.

As Politico headlined here on March 27, 2011:

Media Matters' war against Fox

The liberal group Media Matters has quietly transformed itself in preparation for what its founder, David Brock, described in an interview as an all-out campaign of “guerrilla warfare and sabotage” aimed at the Fox News Channel.

The group, launched as a more traditional media critic, has all but abandoned its monitoring of newspapers and other television networks and is narrowing its focus to Fox and a handful of conservative websites, which its leaders view as political organizations and the “nerve center” of the conservative movement…

No sooner was this transformation of the group’s original purpose publicly stated than Fox itself picked up the challenge, as Politico also noted -- bold print for emphasis:

Fox News takes on Media Matters

For seven years, Fox News has pushed back against the daily scrutiny and criticism leveled at it by Media Matters, the liberal watchdog group. But after founder David Brock said in March that his group’s new strategy amounted to a “war on Fox,” the network ratcheted up its response.

In the past 10 days, Fox has run more than 30 segments calling for the nonprofit group to be stripped of its tax-exempt status. Its Fox Nation website has even provided a link to pre-completed complaint forms against Media Matters to send to the Internal Revenue Service.

…“Media Matters is not a media investigative organization,” Fox News contributor and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer said on “Special Report With Bret Baier” last week. “It’s a war on Fox. And you’re allowed to do that in a democracy. You can be as nasty as you want. The only thing is, don’t ask for a government subsidy.”

To get tax-free status, educational nonprofits have to support their claims with facts and refrain from directly engaging in politics — though they can be as ideological as they like. Fox argues that Media Matters has veered from that educational mission and should be stripped of its special status.

Former White House Counsel in the Bush 41 administration, Boyden Gray, laid out the case in a Washington Times column, pointing out: 

MMA was originally established as an Internal Revenue Service Section 501(c)(3) organization, that is, an organization that can receive tax-deductible contributions to engage in educational activities.

What MMA actually is doing, however, moves far afield from identifying possible bias to mounting a campaign to undermine a major media outlet and to promote the Democratic Party and progressive causes associated with it. Mr. Brock himself has described this new strategy as “a war on Fox,” an effort “to disrupt [Rupert Murdoch‘s] commercial interests” and look for ways to turn regulators against News Corp.’s media outlets.

MMA’s activities should disallow its tax-exempt status in two fundamental ways. First, IRS rulings make clear that attacks on individuals, statement of positions that are unsupported by facts and use of inflammatory language and other distortions will cost an organization its tax-free status. Second, in declaring “guerrilla warfare” on Fox as the “leader” and “mouthpiece” of the Republican Party and in developing a sophisticated Democratic-leaning media training boot camp, MMA has transformed itself into an aggressive advocate for Democratic and progressive causes and thus produced a second deviation from exempt educational activities.

The call for the IRS to take another look at Media Matters could not have been louder or more public.

But IRS Commissioner Shulman was missing in action. The IRS was now well down the path in investigating conservative groups and various Tea Parties.

Media Matters? Have the IRS apply the same standards to Media Matters that it was applying to these conservative and Tea Party groups? The IRS Commissioner himself had been having frequent meetings with the son of one of the Media Matters donors. In a White House that was itself very publicly attacking the same target Media Matters had declared war against -- Fox News. In fact, in 2010, Douglas Shulman’s own wife was giving money to the Progressive Majority whose president was attending 2010 anti-conservative fundraising dinners.

The liberal dog whistle was blowing loud and clear to any and every liberal in the liberal network.

The IRS Commissioner who thought himself savvy enough to go to Harlem and stand with one of the most famous tax cheaters in America was surely not thinking himself dumb enough to launch an investigation of Media Matters.

Did Douglas Shulman ever discuss Media Matters or liberal groups or tax exempt status or the Tea Party or Fox News with White House aide Jason Furman during his many visits? Did Douglas Shulman have to discuss Charlie Rangel’s tax status with Charlie Rangel during his visit to Harlem? Did Douglas Shulman need to discuss a job offer in Chicago with the President, the Vice President or Valerie Jarrett during those 157 visits?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Just maybe he didn’t need to.

Because IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman heard the Liberal Dog Whistle blow.

Photo: UPI

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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.