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“Republican’s ‘Un-American’ Activities”: Darrell Issa Tries McCarthyite Move To Revive Flailing IRS Probe

GOP congressman and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa’s quest to uncover the smoking gun of the IRS scandal story — the missing Gotcha! moment that will cause the Obama administration to crumble under the weight of its own corruption — has run aground lately, primarily due to the people in Issa’s cross hairs pleading the Fifth Amendment. But that doesn’t mean Issa is quite yet ready to give up.

According to a report in the Huffington Post, Issa and his allies are considering making a rare argument and a procedural move in order to force former IRS official Loris Lerner to testify. Lerner used to be the head of the IRS department tasked with figuring out whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups claiming to be apolitical in nature and focused primarily on “social welfare.” Republicans have charged that the IRS disproportionately targeted right-wing organizations for review. Lerner resigned and has spoken to Issa’s committee, but has also refused to answer some questions by pleading the Fifth.

In response to Lerner’s invocation of this constitutional right, Issa is now arguing that because the former government official did speak with the committee before pleading the Fifth, she waived her right to do so and is thus eligible to be held in contempt of Congress and even possibly face criminal charges. A report by the Congressional Research Services that is pushing Issa’s argument calls Lerner “critical to the Committee’s investigation[.]” Further, the report states that “Without [Lerner’s] testimony, the full extent of the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party applications cannot be known, and the Committee will be unable to fully complete its work.”

One potential problem with Issa’s latest move, however, is the fact that no American has ever been successfully prosecuted for pleading the Fifth before Congress. Indeed, even the attempt to prosecute on such grounds is rare, with most of the examples in recent history having occurred during the McCarthyite years of the 1950s.

More from HuffPo:

Most of the cases involved the House Un-American Activities Committee and its communist witch-hunts in the 1950s. But one that is particularly instructive involves a Buffalo, N.Y., woman named Diantha Hoag, who was fired from her factory job after Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) and his Senate Committee on Government Operations accused her of being a communist and she pleaded the Fifth.

In that case, Hoag answered many more questions than Lerner did. She listed several places where she had lived, said she worked at a Westinghouse plant, and told committee members that she knew Westinghouse contracted with the military. Lerner never went beyond a short opening statement professing her innocence.

Hoag flatly refused to answer questions about her associates and any communist connections she may have had.

When McCarthy attempted to compel her testimony through the courts, as Issa is now threatening, a judge did not look kindly on the bid, declaring: “I reach the conclusion that the defendant did not waive her privilege under the Fifth Amendment and therefore did not violate the statute in question in refusing to answer the questions propounded to her. Therefore, I find that she is entitled to a judgment of acquittal on all counts.”

 

By: Elias Isquith, Salon, April 9, 2014

April 10, 2014 Posted by | Darrell Issa, IRS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A New Toy To Play With”: Where Darrell Issa Sees A Potential Political Scandal, Everyone Else Sees Reality

The discredited IRS controversy clearly didn’t work out the way House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had hoped, to the point that he no longer remembers the serious-but-false allegations he carelessly threw around just a month ago. The far-right Californian now wants to “expand” his investigation, which is a pleasant-sounding euphemism for, “The questions I asked produced answers that didn’t fit my preconceived narrative, so I’ve come up with new ones.”

And this week, after Issa grew tired of his broken old toys, he found something new to play with: officials at the Federal Election Commission apparently asked the IRS’s tax exemption division last year about the status of some conservative political groups. Issa pounced, ordering the FEC to produce “all documents and communications between or among any FEC official or employee and any IRS official or employee for the period January 1, 2008 to the present.”

So what seems to be the trouble? There’s no evidence that the IRS shared private information with the FEC, but Issa and his allies want to know if maybe it happened anyway, and if there’s some convoluted way to connect this to the debunked “scandal” Issa was so invested in.

As Dave Weigel explained, there’s just not much here.

This level of scrutiny, with this much evidence, is a puzzle to some former FEC commissioners. “From what I’ve seen so far this doesn’t look like anything,” said Larry Noble, a Democratic appointee until 2000 who now advocates for public funding of elections. “It looked like what happened was that the staff contacted the IRS and asked for what was public. When I was there, certainly, it was always clear that the IRS would not give out anything that was not public. The IRS has a list of c3 groups, but it’s often out of date, so people check with the source. This looked like a routine inquiry for public information.”

A former Republican FEC commissioner said largely the same thing.

Where Issa sees a potential political scandal, everyone else sees routine and uncontroversial bureaucracy.

Tax Analysts reported this week:

“There are many legitimate or at least innocuous reasons for the FEC and the IRS to be sharing information about politically active nonprofits. The two agencies share regulatory oversight authority,” [James P. Joseph of Arnold & Porter LLP] said.

Ofer Lion of Hunton & Williams LLP said it makes sense for the IRS and FEC to talk to each other when dealing with politically active tax-exempt organizations and applicants. “Most of this probably falls within the FEC’s field of expertise anyway, so it makes sense that they would collaborate,” he said. He added that it would be disastrous if the two agencies went after organizations for political reasons but that he sees no evidence yet that they have done that.

John Pomeranz of Harmon, Curran, Spielberg & Eisenberg LLP said it’s possible an FEC staffer contacted Lerner to find out if a particular group had tax-exempt status, which is public information. If Lerner provided an answer, that would be fine, he said.

“It would be great if everybody went through official channels to get information like that, but I think there are a lot of people who rely on contacts inside the IRS to get a quick answer when it takes too long to get an answer the other way,” Pomeranz said.

Gregory L. Colvin of Adler and Colvin said he is not surprised the IRS and FEC contacted each other regarding the AFF and other organizations that spend money on broadcast advertising featuring candidates for federal office. He said that for years the two agencies have been criticized for not coordinating their enforcement of tax and election laws, which “overlap in some respects and leave gaps in others.”

In other words, the “scandal” is that some folks at the FEC were looking for official information on a couple of political groups that were flouting tax-exempt rules, and instead of following bureaucratic, inter-agency procedures, they just sent emails to the IRS.

If you care deeply about bureaucratic, inter-agency procedures related to the FEC and the IRS, this might be fascinating, but if Darrell Issa wants the political world to stay awake, he’s going to have to do better than this.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 9, 2013

August 10, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Review The Transcript”: Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath To Congress?

Members of Congress who questioned Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker when he testified before a US House committee last year are asking the chairman of that committee to help them determine whether the controversial anti-labor governor made deceptive statements while under oath.

The ranking Democratic member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, joined Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly and Connecticut Congressman Christopher Murphy in signing a letter to Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-California, which asks Issa to contact Walker and seek “an explanation for why his statements captured on videotape appear to contradict his testimony before the committee.”

The Congressmen began their letter: “We are writing to request that you ask Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to clarify his testimony before our Committee hearing on April 14, 2011, in light of a new videotape taken of Governor Walker three months earlier and an article published last week by The Nation entitled “Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?” Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?’”

Here’s the May 14 article that got members of Congress asking questions anew of Governor Walker:

Did Scott Walker Lie Under Oath to Congress?

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker met with a billionaire campaign donor a month before he launched his attack on the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector workers and public-school teachers, he engaged in a detailed discussion about undermining unions as part of a broader strategy of strengthening the position of his Republican party.

After he initiated those attacks, Governor Walker testified under oath to a Congressional committee. He was asked during the April 2011 hearing to specifically address the question of whether he set out to weaken unions—which traditionally back Democrats and which are expected to play a major role in President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign—for political purposes. Walker replied: “It’s not about that for me.”

During the same hearing, Walker was asked whether he “ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?”

Walker replied, not once but twice, that the answer was “no.”

So, did the governor of Wisconsin lie, under oath, to Congress? The videotape of Walker talking with Diane Hendricks, the Beloit, Wisconsin, billionaire who would eventually give his campaign more than $500,000, surfaced late last week. Captured in January 2011 by a documentary filmmaker who was trailing Hendricks, the conversation provides rare insight into the governor’s long-term strategy for dividing Wisconsin. And the focus of the conversation and the strategy is by all evidence a political one.

In the video, Walker is shown meeting with Hendricks before an economic development session at the headquarters of a firm Hendricks owns, ABC Supply Inc., in Beloit. After Walker kisses Henricks, she asks: “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions?”

“Oh, yeah!” says Walker.

Henricks then asks: “And become a right-to-work [state]?”

Walker replies: “Well, we’re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we’re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”

After describing the strategy, Walker tells the woman who asked him about making Wisconsin a “completely red state”: “That opens the door once we do that.”

In a transcript of raw footage from the conversation, Hendricks asks Walker if he has a role model. Walker replies that he has high regard for Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, who early in his term used an executive order to strip collective-bargaining rights away from public employees and who, more recently, signed right-to-work legislation. Walker described the use of the executive order to undermine union rights as a “beautiful thing” and bemoaned the fact that he would have to enact legislation to achieve the same end in Wisconsin.

Within weeks, the woman who asked Walker about his strategy to make Wisconsin “a completely red state” wrote a $10,000 check to support his campaign. (She would eventually up the donation to $510,000, making Hendricks the single largest donor in the history of Wisconsin politics.) Within a month, Walker had launched the anti-union initiative that the two had discussed as a part of that “red-state” strategy, provoking mass protests that would draw the attention of Congress.

Testifying under oath to the US House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Walker said in his formal statement and in response to questions from committee members that his efforts to restrict the collective-bargaining rights of unions— including moves to prevent them from collecting dues, maintaining ongoing representation of members and engaging effectively in political campaigns—had nothing to do with politics.

Walker was asked specifically about a Fox News interview with Wisconsin state Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald, in which Fitzgerald said of the anti-union push: “If we win this battle, and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you’re going to find is President Obama is going to have a much difficult, much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of Wisconsin.”

Congressman Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, asked Walker about Fitzgerald’s statement. “I understand you can’t speak for [Fitzgerald] but you can opine as to whether you agree with your state Senate leader when he says this is ultimately about trying to defeat President Obama in Wisconsin. Do you agree?”

“I can tell you what it is for me,” Walker answered. “It’s not about that. It’s ultimately about balancing the budget now and in the future.”

Under questioning from other members of the committee (especially Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley), however, Walker admitted that many of the moves he initiated had no real impact on the state budget.

They did have the impact of weakening unions in the workplace and in the politics of the state, however.

It was in that context that Congressman Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, pressed Walker on the matter of political intentions.

“Have you ever had a conversation with respect to your actions in Wisconsin and using them to punish members of the opposition party and their [union] donor base?

“No,” replied Walker.

“Never had such a conversation?” Connolly pressed.

“No,” said Walker.

The videotape from several months earlier, in which Walker speaks at length with his most generous campaign donor, suggests a very different answer to the questions from Murphy and Connolly. Indeed, the videotape shows Walker having just such a conversation.

 

By: John Nichols, The Nation, May 22, 2012

May 23, 2012 Posted by | Collective Bargaining | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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