I like the bulldoggedness of Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA). He should have been more of his usual self this morning when IRS official Lois “planted question” Lerner was called to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
She made a brief statement about having done nothing wrong, then took the Fifth.
Issa excused her, overruling an objection by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) who said “You don’t get to tell your side of the story and then not stand for cross examination. She waived her right against self-discrimination, she ought to sit here and answer our questions.”
I don’t know if Gowdy was correct on the law or procedure, though his argument makes sense.
However, regardless of Gowdy’s accuracy, Issa should have kept Lerner there, asked her more questions, and made her repeatedly refuse to answer.
The Republicans almost never get a chance at a story where the media might actually be sympathetic to them or their supporters such as Tea Party groups, and they should make the most of it. Few things could annoy the Obama administration more than having a senior IRS official repeatedly taking the fifth in questions about targeting American citizens for their political views.
Darrell Issa is one of the most aggressive, persistent members of Congress in going after Obama administration malfeasance. He should have stuck with those traits today.
When (predictably) asked by socialist Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) about what additional taxes and regulations should be dumped on our nation’s financial system, Fed Chairman Bernanke made a remarkable statement, which flies in the face of current liberal dogma:
“I think Glass-Steagall is not the solution because, as we saw in the crisis, investment banks and commercial banks separately got into trouble.”
Just last week, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced a bill to bring back Glass-Steagall. I guess The Bernanke just stuck a fork in that one…
Bernanke went on to suggest that a primary way to deal with “too big to fail” is to require higher capital requirements for larger banks.
Lois Lerner, the IRS director of tax exempt groups, said she did nothing wrong in her opening statement before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, before pleading the Fifth and refusing to answer any questions.
Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked her to reconsider her decision based on the fact that she offered testimony in her opening statement and confirmed her previous answers to other questions to appear on the record of the hearing.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) interrupted, saying that the hearing room should be treated like a courtroom, and that Lerner had already waived her rights by testifying before the committee. “She waived her right to Fifth Amendment privilege. She ought to stay here and answer our questions,” he said. He compared her actions to a a witness offering testimony in a courtroom but not being subject to cross-examination, which is prohibited.
The committee eventually determined that Lerner was not subject to courtroom rules. Issa dismissed her, but the dismissal was subject to recall if it was determined she had indeed waived her Fifth Amendment rights.
At last, the candidate New Yorkers have been waiting for:
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Talking Points Memo
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney went “birther” on Major Garrett of CBS News.
Garrett was asking Carney to elaborate on Obama Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer’s comments over the weekend about Republicans going on “partisan fishing expeditions, trumped up hearings and false allegations.” After going back and forth for a couple of minutes, Garrett brought up HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius soliciting donations from health care companies to implement Obamacare. To which Carney replied, “We could go down the list of questions. We could say what about the president’s birth certificate, was that legitimate?”
Carney’s retort is absolutely specious. Garrett was merely asking a question about Sebelius’ conduct in her official capacity as a cabinet member in the Obama Administration and is well within in his right to do so.
Of course, Carney knows this but he cannot defend Sebelius. So when in doubt bring up something which is entirely irrelevant to the matter at the hand. Usually, race is brought into the discussion. This time it is birtherism. Perhaps next time Carney will ask, “Is the president a Muslim, was that legitimate?”
It’s enough to make me long for Robert Gibbs. Well, almost.
Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS’s tax-exempt-organizations division, will plead the Fifth in a hearing before the House Oversight Committee tomorrow.
Lerner, who has known of the targeting for two years, will not answer questions before the committee according to a letter from her lawyer to committee Chairman Darrell Issa, reported by the Los Angeles Times.
“She has not committed any crime or made any misrepresentation but under the circumstances she has no choice but to take this course,” said a letter by Taylor to committee Chairman Darrell E. Issa, R-Calif. The letter, sent Monday, was obtained Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times.
Taylor, a criminal defense attorney from the Washington firm of Zuckerman Spaeder, said that the Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation, and that the House committee has asked Lerner to explain why she provided “false or misleading information” to the committee four times last year.
Since Lerner won’t answer questions, Taylor asked that she be excused from appearing, saying that would “have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.” There was no immediate word whether the committee will grant her request.
It’s hard to see how this helps Lerner’s case at this point. She’s already become the central figure in this scandal, and for good reason. She tried to claim the targeting came after a huge influx of cases following the 2010 Citizens United decision, but it’s been proven that the influx didn’t happen until long after the targeting process began. She claimed she looked into the targeting after hearing about it in the press, but its been proven that she knew about it at least six months, if not more, before the first press rumblings started.
Essentially, Lerner knows she’s in trouble so she decided to plead the Fifth and avoid answering any questions rather than having to lie or contradict herself under oath.
UPDATE: Lerner is still under subpoena, according to Oversight Committee communications director Ali Ahmad, the Washington Post is reporting:
Ahmad said Lerner, the head of the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division, would still be required to appear before the committee, which means she will have to plead the Fifth in person and on camera.
“Ms. Lerner remains under subpoena from Chairman Issa to appear at tomorrow’s hearing — the committee has a Constitutional obligation to conduct oversight,” Ahmad said. “Chairman Issa remains hopeful that she will ultimately decide to testify tomorrow about her knowledge of outrageous IRS targeting of Americans for their political beliefs.”
I recently asked a wise friend of mine who lives in Virginia what his take is on the upcoming election for governor between the state’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, and former DNC chairman, Clinton confidante and fund-raiser Terry McAuliffe.
My friend said “At this stage, it’s hard to figure. Cuccinelli is really weak…McAuliffe, on the other hand, has more baggage than a wagon train. I’d say it’s McAuliffe’s to win. He’s a colorful character, if a bit shady. Cuccinelli has a tough race ahead of him…Cuccinelli will have an awful time trying to get anyone beyond the base to vote, far less vote for him… As to Cuccinelli, I still think he and McAuliffe deserve each other and none of us deserves either of them.”
Not living in Virginia, and thus having only limited contact with that state’s politics since George Allen’s disastrous “macaca” moment, I’ve been favorably inclined toward Cuccinelli as one of the leading champions of the legal fights against Obamacare, despite the results due to the treachery of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Virginia is a very important state, a bellweather of purple states, and potentially critical in a presidential election. Whether the governor is a Democrat or a Republican matters.
I had been hoping that my friend was too pessimistic, though he’s right far more often than wrong, but this weekend’s turn of events at that state’s nominating convention now has me thinking that Virginia will soon have the unbelievable spector of Governor Terry McAuliffe, a nouveau-riche carpet-bagger in perfect Clinton style.
Due, I’m told by a (different) friend who was a the convention, to a rousing speech, brimming with deeply felt conservative principle, the party nominated E. W. Jackson to be Cuccinelli’s running mate, i.e. to run for the office of lieutenant governor.
Unfortunately, Jackson, who is a pastor, along with having a remarkable personal history of serving in the Marine Corps and then earning a law degree at Harvard Law School (items which the media will certainly ignore), has a history of, shall we say, extremely un-PC remarks about homosexuality.
The National Journal suggests that Virginia Republicans are “panicking” over Jackson’s nomination.
In a country that is moving rapidly toward acceptance of gays, connecting homosexuality to pedophilia is political suicide.
There is a lot to recommend Mr. Jackson, from his service to his obvious intelligence to his passion for the things he believes in. And of course, Republicans are always looking to put forward black conservative candidates. But politics is, as much as anything else, about winning.
With the choice of Jackson, Virginia Republicans showed either ignorance of his history (much like the disaster that befell Colorado when Tea Party groups championed the unaccomplished-at-best Dan Maes simply because he wasn’t “establishment”) or of recent political history, where outrageous (both in substance and in political idiocy) statements by Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock not only cost those men their elections but likely cost Republicans control of the Senate.
It appears that even among the most politically active and theoretically well-informed, one can prove the maxim that people get the government they deserve.
Unless Mr. Jackson steps aside, it strikes me as likely that Virginia will face the depressing prospect of Governor Terry McAuliffe. For the good of his state and of the country, I hope Mr. Jackson will consider removing himself from the ticket while there’s still time to find a credible replacement.
Let me put on my big surprise face:
The House committee should not excuse her from showing up. They should make her take the fifth, and get it all over the Internet.
“There’s no shifting going on, that I see at all,” Apple CEO Tim Cook explained to a Senate investigations subcommittee chaired by Carl Levin (D-Mich.), referring to his company’s Irish subsidiary AOI, which has been painted as a tax shelter. It has 4,000 employees, but it also helped Apple avoid roughly $20 billion in U.S. corporate income taxes last year. “I would say that the 30.5% effective tax rate is the relevant comparison,” Cook explained, alluding to domestic income.
Cook was diplomatic but firm, steering the conversation toward tax reform. Ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) asked if he felt bullied or harassed by the committee or its members, taking a dig at Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) scathing rhetoric. The technology leader replied he was happy to participate in the process and contribute to tax reform, later telling Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), “unlike some of my colleagues I am not proposing zero.”
“I think it’s important to tell our story, and I want them to hear it from me,” he told McCain. “So you were not dragged here?” To mild laughter Cook replied, “I was not dragged here, sir.” He did take a stand on the question of income shifting, however, saying, “from what I see AOI does not reduce our taxes at all,” adding, “Sir, I have tremendous respect for you. I see this differently from you, I believe.”
Levin asked if Cook could understand the perception of an unfair advantage. “To be honest, I do not see this as unfair,” was his reply, “I am not an unfair person and I do not see that as unfair.” Apple Head of Tax Operations Phillip Bullock later asserted that “100% of the profits on any sale to a customer in the United States … all of that is fully taxed in the U.S. There are no outbound payments offshore.” Levin was not satisfied, however, telling Cook: “You shifted your crown jewels, the economic rights to your intellectual property to these three Irish companies, the most valuable things you own.” The Apple representatives disputed that representation, with Senior VP & CFO Peter Oppenheimer saying that AOI “fundamentally has not changed” since 1980 when an agreement was formed to handle these properties.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) expressed his outrage over the IRS process in a hearing on the IRS targeting scandal, but not about the right issue.
The perspective of any rational person would be that the IRS broke the public’s trust by targeting conservative groups and that’s the problem here.
The Democrats on the committee seemed to think otherwise. To them, the idea that conservative groups could have gotten tax exemption in the first place is outrageous, and they’re putting all their focus on reforming the rules on qualifying for 501(c)(4) tax exemption, which allows groups that primarily are used for social welfare purposes to pursue political acitivities and remain tax-exempt.
Baucus’s opening statement began on the issue of the targeting, but quickly moved to the focus on 501(c)(4) groups. “Today, there are countless political organizations at both ends of the spectrum masquerading as ‘social welfare’ groups in order to skirt the tax code,” he said. “These groups seek 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status. Why? Because it allows them to engage in political activity while keeping the identities of their donors secret.”
Several other Democratic senators, including Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), follow his lead.
“How can you all in the IRS allow these tax breaks essentially funded by taxpayers?” Nelson asked.
Wyden’s thoughts weren’t much different. He favored 527s, which are political groups that have to disclose their donors, over 501(c)(4)s, which do not. “Organizations that ought to be 527s are applying for (c)(4) status. There is an incentive for people to choose their tax status based on if they want to declare their donors,” he said.
“You all don’t seem to have done anything about it and I want to know why not,” he demanded to former IRS chief Douglas Shulman and acting IRS chief Steve Miller. Wyden’s outrage was apparent, but it was directed a the wrong issue.
I don’t want to go into the details on the various types of designations for groups, because it really doesn’t matter. The real questions of this hearing and of this scandal in general is what the IRS did in targeting conservative groups and why it was absolutely wrong.
Once all of this is resolved, politicians can debate 501(c)(4) status all they want. Democrats hate the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, and this is just another way for them to reinforce that view. Debating that is fine, but let’s at least get to the bottom of this issue and hold the right people responsible first.
Obamacare has not made the health insurance market more transparent, despite its attempt to create “exchanges” in every state. The Affordable Care Act foresaw challenges in registration for millions of uninsured Americans; that’s why it required each state to enlist nonprofits, professional associations, and unions to educate new enrollees as so-called “navigators.”
The states were supposed to pay for these services, of course! Where else would the federal government extract the funds necessary for this behemoth of a law? Alas, 34 states are now relying on federal exchanges.
Which means that the federal government has to hire the “navigators” with money it never allocated. The Departments of Health and Homeland Security scrounged up $54 million for 34 states with 28 million to insure.
Easy, right? Actually, it turns out that insurance companies already employ a large number of people for this very job: brokers! You know, the people educated to inform consumers on separate plans, the ones who handle your confidential medical and legal information.
The Wall Street Journal reported several issues with the administration’s approach. First, there’s the fact that these navigators will be handling Social Security numbers and important tax data. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) wants HHS to require the same tests for these bureaucratic brokers as those passed by IRS agents (as if we could trust those employees with our secrets).
Not only that, those same states that refused to develop their own exchanges want to mandate “navigators” to obtain separate state licenses to practice.
The House Oversight Committee was supposed to question the Department of Health and Human Services today, but I cannot find it online.
The states have $54 million to acquire these employees and pay for “extensive” training on privacy. That definitely won’t be enough money to compensate these navigators as they undergo state licensing; I suspect some of this money will go to insurance companies in a desperate attempt to sell Obamacare.
Again, we’re witnessing the huge flaws of a bill that relies upon the states’ willingness to dance to the blaring, noxious brass band of the Fed.
As the death toll in Oklahoma rises due to yesterday’s devastating tornado, Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island wasted no time blaming Republicans for the disaster.
Whitehouse criticized Republicans for denying the existence of global warming, thereby facilitating the onslaught of such natural disasters by refusing to help decrease its effects.
“So, you may have a question for me. Why do you care? Why do you, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, care if we Republicans run off the climate cliff like a bunch of proverbial lemmings and disgrace ourselves? I’ll tell you why. We’re stuck in this together,” Whitehouse said, according to the Daily Caller.
If Whitehouse had taken just a few minutes to check his facts, he would know that the Continental U.S. Temperature Lower Troposphere is actually below average. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the amount of tornadoes in the U.S. in 2012 was also below average. In addition, the U.S. Tornadoes Daily Count and Running Annual Total are below average.
According to the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, highly destructive tornadoes form from mesocyclones, which are rotating thunderstorms with a defined radar circulation. While tornado formation sometimes relates to the temperature differences across the downdraft air on the mesocyclone, studies show that temperature variation often plays no part in the formation of a tornado. For example, the outbreak of over 70 tornadoes on May 3-4, 1999, which claimed over 40 lives, showed hardly any temperature variation at all.
The Senate observed a moment of silence at noon for the victims of the tornado. Whitehouse needs to take a few moments to sort out his priorities by helping efforts to aid the devastated areas instead of seizing the moment to bash Republicans for weather-changing powers they do not possess.
“You drag America with you to your fate,” Whitehouse said to Republicans. “I will keep reaching out and calling out, ever hopeful that you will wake up before it is too late.”
Clearly, it’s Whitehouse who needs the wakeup call.
In a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, former IRS chief Douglas Shulman refused to apologize for the targeting of conservative groups under his leadership.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) directly asked for an apology to his constituents. Shulman refused to take any responsibility. “I don’t know the details of your constituents,” he said. “As a general principle, as IRS commissioner, I didn’t touch individual cases.”
Not surprisingly, Cornyn was visibly upset. He asked the question we’ve all been thinking since the beginning: “The buck doesn’t stop with you?”
Like everybody else talking about this matter, Shulman wouldn’t take any blame. “I certainly am not personally responsible,” he said. “With that said, this happened on my watch and I regret that this happened on my watch.”
Cornyn, clearly annoyed by Shulman’s response, said, “I don’t think that qualifies as an apology.”
On Friday, acting IRS chief Steve Miller also denied that he was responsible.
I’m with Cornyn on this one. If the buck doesn’t stop with Shulman or Miller, where does it stop?
Shulman refused again to take any responsibility for the matter. Republican ranking member on the committee Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) directly asked Shulman to acknowledge his responsibility, saying “It’s only three words: I am responsible.” And yet again, Shulman passed the buck, saying “I am deeply regretful” but never admitting any culpability.
Billionaire Frank VanderSloot made headlines last week when he said he faced two audits from the IRS and one from the Labor Department after donating to Mitt Romney’s campaign.
VanderSloot has been talking about this since it happened, and Kimberely Strassel told his story in the Wall Street Journal in July:
Mr. VanderSloot, who is 63 and has been working since his teens, says neither he nor his accountants recall his being subject to a federal tax audit before. He was once required to send documents on a line item inquiry into his charitable donations, which resulted in no changes to his taxes. But nothing more—that is until now, shortly after he wrote a big check to a Romney-supporting Super PAC.
Two weeks after receiving the IRS letter, Mr. VanderSloot received another—this one from the Department of Labor. He was informed it would be doing an audit of workers he employs on his Idaho-based cattle ranch under the federal visa program for temporary agriculture workers.
Little attention was paid to VanderSloot’s story when it first came out, but that’s all changed with the recent spate of scandals that have emerged from the IRS.
And more of these stories are coming out of the woodwork. Wayne Allen Root spoke on the Bill Cunningham Show about how he recently faced two audits after donating to Romney. Worse than that, he says he knows at least 15 people who were audited within 90 days of donating to Romney.
This scandal seems to be reaching further and further with every day. Individual conservatives have been talking about these issues for years, but people are starting to pay attention now and the evidence against the IRS is piling up.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?