President Obama’s approval rating is up slightly and his popularity steady, but both the Republican Party and the Tea Party still have negative perception with voters, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released Wednesday.
Only 32 percent of Americans have a positive perception of the GOP, with 41 percent negative, a net of -9. The Tea Party’s perception is up slightly since January of 2013 but only 26 percent report having a positive perception of the right-wing movement while 38 percent feel negatively, a net of -12. The number of Americans identifying with the Tea Party is up 4 percent to 24 but the share that says they’re not — 65 percent — has increased by one percent.
The IRS’s singling out of Tea Party groups that applied for non-profit “social welfare” status has renewed interest in the Tea Party movement. Earlier this year Republican strategist and fundraiser Karl Rove had created a new organization designed especially to hedge against Tea Partiers who could threaten safe seats by defeating establishment candidates in primaries. Since then, Republicans seem to have re-embraced the movement, using the IRS investigation to raise money and attack the president.
President Obama has a net positive of +7, which is unchanged since April, and his approval rating is slightly above water at 48/47, up from 47/48 a month ago.
The swirling accusations of scandal have slightly lowered the president’s reputation for truthfulness. Majorities say that the State Department’s handling of Benghazi, the Department of Justice’s handling of investigations of reports and the IRS’s focus on Tea Party groups raise doubts about the Obama administration.
The public supports investigations into these matters, saying they’re legitimate, not partisan, by a margin of 8 percent
But the public doesn’t seem to think the president is facing an unusually troubling time. In August of 2011, during the debt limit crisis, a majority said that the president was facing a “longer-term setback” that would be difficult to recover from. Now only 43 percent say the same in this poll. A total of 55 percent say that things are likely to get better or that the president is “not facing a setback.”
The share of Americans who identify with the Republican Party continues to decline with only 21 percent identifying with the GOP.
By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, June 5, 2013
“Time For Issa To Put Up Or Shut Up”: Proof That White House Was Not Involved In IRS Tea Party Targeting Finally Exposed
Appearing this morning on CNN’s “State of the Union” and “CBS Sunday Morning”, Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa, revealed that the manager responsible for the Cincinnati screening team involved in the 501(c)(4) investigations of conservative tea party groups—and the man that apparently first referred the issue to IRS technical office in Washington—has now weighed in on the controversy.
The Cincinnati based manager—a long-time employee of the IRS who self-identifies as a “conservative Republican”—was interviewed on Thursday by the staff of the Oversight Committee. What he had to say might well be the beginning of the end of Darrell Issa’s campaign to lay the blame for the IRS fiasco at the White House doorstep.
According to the transcript of the interview, the still unnamed supervisor was asked, “Do you have any reason to believe that anyone in the White House was involved in the decision to screen tea party cases?”
The manager’s response? “I have no reason to believe that.”
The gentleman is in a unique position to know what actually happened as he was the supervisor who, in 2010, sent the matter to the IRS technical office in Washington for further guidance after an IRS screener under his supervision identified an applicant for 501 (c)(4) status as a “high profile’” conservative organization. According to the manager, he forwarded the case to the Washington based technical folks for their guidance so that the matter could be treated “with consistency”.
What this tells us is that this was not a case of Washington instructing the Cincinnati office to target Tea Party applicants but rather it was the Cincinnati office that first sought guidance from the IRS in Washington as to how to handle the matter. This is a far cry, indeed, from what Chairman Issa has been trying to sell to the American public through his constant—yet fully unsubstantiated—claims that the targeting originated in White House.
According to the transcripts, the manager is now on record saying that there was no political motivation or instruction originating in the White House or anywhere else in the nation’s capital, noting “I do not believe that the screening of these cases had anything to do other than consistency and identifying issues that needed to have further development.”
In response to the interview with the Cincinnati supervisor, Representative Cummings suggested this morning that “Based upon everything I’ve seen the case is solved, and if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on to be frank with you.”
Of course, Cummings desire to put the matter to bed is unlikely to happen. Certainly, any hope that the tide can be turned on the full-scale GOP attack on the President will require that the public gets a look at the actual transcripts to see the full interview—a matter that has, in and of itself, been chock full of controversy.
While Chairman Issa made news last week by promising to release full transcripts in support of his still unsupported claims in this matter, he has failed to release a word of testimony despite numerous requests from various reporters and columnists, including myself.
It was during Issa’s own “State of the Union” appearance last Sunday when he stated that interviews with workers in the Cincinnati IRS office indicated that targeting Tea Party applicants was “a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters – and we’re getting to proving it. My gut tells me that too many people knew this wrongdoing was going on before the election, and at least by some sort of convenient, benign neglect, allowed it to go on through the election. I’m not making any allegations as to motive, that they set out to do it, but certainly people knew it was happening.”
Despite Issa’s indication that the transcripts of interviews with the Cincinnati employees would be forthcoming, the transcripts have not been released including the transcript with the manager providing the testimony that would appear to clear the White House.
Representative Cummings is now demanding that all of the transcripts be released for review.
Speaking to Candy Crowley on this morning’s edition of “State of The Union”, Cummings said:
“I wrote Chairman Issa on Thursday and I wrote to him this morning. I want those transcripts to be released,” Cummings said. “I’m willing to come on your show next week with the chairman with the transcripts if he agrees to do that. If he doesn’t, I’ll release them by the end of the week.”
It’s far past time for Issa to back up his over-the-top allegations with some evidence–evidence that even conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham acknowledges has not been forthcoming.
While there is no reason to imagine that the anti-Obama forces will actually allow the truth to get in the way of their political narrative—nor will there be any shortage of Americans who will be more than willing to ignore the testimony of the one man in the Cincinnati who actually knows what happened—the truth may serve to accomplish one real benefit for which we can all be grateful—
Just maybe, Darrell Issa’s fifteen minutes of truly illegitimate and undeserved fame may finally be over.
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, June 9, 2013
“Crossing The Line”: Tea Party Group Protesting IRS Has History Of Questionable Political Involvement
Tea Party Patriots, originally formed as a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation in 2009, has a history of questionable electoral activity. Nevertheless, as one of the largest of the movement’s national factions, it is taking advantage of the so-called IRS scandal to re-ignite the anger of Tea Partiers, encourage their (false) sense of victimhood, and increase their ranks.
Dubbed “Rein in the IRS,” nationwide rallies were organized to protest IRS scrutiny of Tea Party non-profit applications. The announcement, posted on the group’s website Monday, called for “anyone and everyone to protest the IRS’ complete abuse of power” at noon local time on Tuesday. Dozens of local Tea Party Patriots chapters around the country emailed their members about the protests.
The Tea Partiers claim that “the IRS has waged a three-year war against the Tea Party, harassing our groups and even auditing our individual members. This abuse of power is unacceptable and un-Constitutional, and it must stop.” No mention was made of the Inspector General’s findings that that not a single Tea Party group has been denied 501(c)(4) non-profit status, and that more than two thirds of the scrutinized Tea Party-like groups had engaged in political activity that would usually disqualify them.
The effort is also being used to fuse anger over several different political issues, from the Affordable Care Act to immigrants. For instance, in sample Letters to the Editor they distributed, the group links the IRS controversy with their attack on comprehensive immigration reform. “The IRS’s abuse of power highlights why the Senate needs to slow down with its amnesty bill. We simply cannot trust bureaucrats to make the right decisions. Immigration policy is too complex and too important for us to delegate to a group of bureaucrats who may be pursuing an agenda that doesn’t match Americans’ best interest.”
It should be noted that until late Monday, the Tea Party Patriots were using the official group website listed on their IRS form 990, and the resources of their 501(c)(4), plus their network of local groups—many of which have filed for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) status)—to organize the protests against the IRS. Suddenly Monday evening, after a day of soliciting volunteers to organize anti-IRS protests, all traffic to the group’s domain name teapartypatriots.org was directed to the group’s political action committee, The Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund (
), which features a “protest the IRS” page alongside a photo of Tea Party Patriots co-founder, Jenny Beth Martin.
The new PAC was formed in January 2013. Despite the current enmeshing of the 501(c)(4) and the PAC on the IRS protests, forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission curiously state that the PAC has no connected organization.
The sudden crossover to the group’s political action committee may be at least a tacit omission of questionable activity for a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. It also begs the question as to why any Tea Party groups so focused on politics would want to be a non-profit rather than a PAC.
Such concern about crossing the line and engaging in political activity was absent from the Tea Party Patriots, Inc. a year ago when the group threw its support behind Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in his recall election.
As IREHR noted last year, Tea Party Patriots, Inc., which registered with the IRS as a 501(C)(4) non-profit organization, may have run afoul of its tax exempt status with this electoral activity. Federally registered non-profit organizations with a 501c4 status are prohibited from devoting a majority of their energy and resources to support electoral campaigns.
On April 29, 2012, local Tea Party Patriots groups across the country voted 98 percent to 2 percent to throw all their energy and resources into Wisconsin for the recall elections. “We are deploying hundreds of volunteers into each of the targeted recall districts,” noted Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin in an email to supporters. “That’s 4,000 patriots going door to door and making phone calls” she added.
Tea Party Patriots brought activists to Wisconsin and did door-to-door canvassing, and had others make calls from their homes and spread the word on social media. Some of those activists were sponsored, with their costs covered by Tea Party Patriots.
At times, Martin and other Tea Party Patriots leaders have tried to suggest that the group was just engaged in GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts or some form of civic engagement, other times they’ve told their supporters that they’re directly intervening politically: “Tea Party Patriots—in conjunction with other local and national Tea Party groups—will spearhead efforts to help Walker and other candidates.”
There is also a question as to whether the funds of the group are going to “social welfare” as required. In 2010, the organization raised $12 million in fiscal 2010. But only about $3 million of that went to its “social welfare” mission, according to an IRS 990 form filed in May 2012. For fiscal year ending May 31, 2012, Tea Party Patriots raised over $20 million, but spent just $5.9 million on program service. Millions of dollars went to pay professional telemarketing firms, extensive travel costs, and legal fees from suing other Tea Party groups over control of the “Tea Party” brand.
Tea Party Patriots leader Martin has had her fair share of troubles with the IRS before. As noted in Tea Party Nationalism, according to court documents, Martin and her husband, Lee Martin (who served at the group’s “assistant secretary” and was intimately involved in the group’s financial matters), owed over $680,000 in tax debt, including over half a million dollars to the Internal Revenue Service, when the pair filed for bankruptcy in August of 2008.
Whether or not Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest national factions, can turn this scandal into a chance to regain lost ground will, in some measure, depend on the reception their protests receive by an informed public.
By: Devin Burghart, The National Memo, May 23, 2013
The conservative blogosphere is all-atwitter this afternoon over the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service targeted various Tea Party groups in the days leading up to the presidential election of 2012.
Sadly for the critics of the president, things are not always as they initially appear to be and the effort to paint the improper IRS activity as a White House directed political dirty trick is unlikely to gain the traction opponents would like to see catch fire.
Keep in mind that the kerfuffle does not involve the targeting of groups for audits seeking evidence of a failure to pay taxes. Rather, the problem involved the IRS’s review of applications filed by the various entities seeking tax-exempt status under the law.
At the time in question, many newly formed political organizations were seeking IRS certification that would allow them to avoid paying taxes on funds raised—the overwhelming majority of these organizations being Tea Party related groups. As the IRS believed that many of those filing for exemptions were stretching the limits of qualification, some low-level staffers at the agency’s Cincinnati, Ohio office decided to target for closer review those organizations with “Tea Party” sounding names, such as “patriot” and, of course, “Tea Party”. In the effort to dig deeper to determine if these groups qualified, the agency people involved asked many of the filing organizations to disclose names of those who had made contributions along with other data they deemed necessary to determine if the group qualified for tax free status.
The problem is that the agents involved were not randomly conducting these checks on all the political organizations seeking tax free status and were specifically targeting the Tea Party related groups.
This was, clearly, improper activity which is why the IRS issued today’s apology.
What’s that you say? You still don’t believe that the White House was not involved in this?
That’s what I thought.
Maybe then, it will interest you to know that there are only two officials at the IRS that are political appointments—the commissioner (who is the boss) and the chief legal counsel. And while you may be thinking that it would be a piece of cake for the White House to place a call to the Commissioner and nudge him into putting a little heat on Tea Party groups so that they would be kept busy defending themselves from government annoyance rather than putting their energies into defeating the President, it would not have been quite so simple a task for the White House to accomplish.
Because the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service during the period in question was Douglas Shulman, a political appointee of President George W. Bush.
In fact, not only was Commissioner Shulman a Bush appointee, he would certainly have had no motivation to do the political bidding of a Democrat president considering that Mr. Shulman had already announced prior to the election that he would be stepping down from his post in November.
If you imagine that the President’s staff had the ability to go around the top political appointee at the IRS and attempt to influence the civil servants who work at the agency, consider how many levels of civil servants the White House staff would have had to persuade to do their bidding given that those who pursued the policy were well down the totem-pole of seniority, working away at the Cincinnati office.
Indeed, to suggest that the White House could get career civil servants to do its political dirty work would truly defy the laws of political reality.
If you doubt this—and you are someone who believes that the State Department behaved improperly in the Benghazi matter—consider the inability of State to direct the three highly placed State Department civil servants who testified before Congress this week to do as the politicians asked. This should give you some indication as to just how impossible it is for elected or politically appointment officials to get government civil servants to participate in their political schemes—let alone keep it all a secret heading into a presidential election.
Of course, all the obvious and logical explanations in the world for what really happened here will prove insufficient when it comes to persuading some Tea Party groups that this was not the work of the White House.
As proof of what we can expect, check out what Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin had to say when calling for President Obama to personally apologize—
“It is suspicious that the activity of these ‘low-level workers’ was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred. President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again.”
Clearly, Ms. Martin has very little grasp on how widespread the activities of the IRS are if she imagines that, in the big picture, the relatively small number of reviews of Tea Party related applications in the Cincinnati office was going to somehow capture the attention of the IRS Commissioner…who happens to be a Republican appointee.
One wonders if Ms. Martin’s indignation has anything to do with the fact that she and her husband were indebted to the IRS in the amount of over half a million dollars when they filed bankruptcy in 2008? Maybe it is Ms. Martin who owes the apology?
Still, the opportunity to make some political hay over the error will likely prove irresistible to the GOP.
So, let the Congressional hearings commence! I can’t wait to see Darrell Issa’s movie-style poster hyping these hearings as he did in this one posted to his Twitter site to get us jazzed about his Benghazi hearings—
Maybe this time he’ll spring for full-color art
By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, May 10, 2013