Speech Isn’t Free Anymore

SNOWFLAKES - good one

by Diane Rufino, May 20, 2017

George Washington once warned: “If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”   Indeed, the first and most essential principle of a free society is allowing its citizens to have a free flow of words in an open forum.

The First Amendment

The First Amendment –  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The first phrase of the amendment controls the language of the entire amendment:  “Congress shall make no law….

Then it explains how Congress cannot regulate five things:

  • Religion (It cannot make a law establishing an official national, government-sanctioned religion, NOR can it pass a law prohibiting the free exercise of one’s religion
  • Speech
  • Press
  • Assembly (peaceful assembly)
  • Petition government

These 5 things are considered essential to individual liberty and to a free society (“Ordered Liberty”)

Now, Liberty is understood by our Founders to be the extent to which one can freely exercise his or her rights – without burdening another’s free exercise in his or her rights.

The Bill of Rights were proposed and sent to the states by the first session of the First Congress, which convened in New York City in March 1789.  The anti-Federalists forced James Madison to provide a Bill of Rights to amend the US Constitution that was drafted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 and adopted in 1788 by the requisite number of states – 9 (as per Article VII).  The Bill of Rights (our first 10 amendments to the Constitution) was later ratified on December 15, 1791 and had, as its primary purpose, to provide express limits to government power as it relates to the individual. In fact, the preamble to the Bill of Rights (which everyone should read and memorize) reads:

“In order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of government powers, the Conventions of a number of the States, at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire to add further declaratory and restrictive clauses. Such further restrictions will increase public confidence in the federal government and will best insure the beneficent ends of that institution.”

****  This is why we say that the Bill of Rights doesn’t grant us our rights; it protects them. The federal government is one of limited powers and on top of that, it is prohibited from legislating or otherwise regulating the fundamental rights and civil rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The purpose of free speech is to encourage individuals to contribute their ideas and opinions to others – to put them out there in the so-called “marketplace of ideas.”

The metaphor “marketplace of ideas” is based on a market economy – on free exchange in the market. In such a market, many products are available and we, as rational (and hopefully, fairly informed and intelligent) consumers, choose freely what we want from among those available after careful comparison and after careful weighing of their relative quality. 

Free Speech makes every person who wishes to convey a thought, an idea, an opinion a competitor in the marketplace of ideas. Each speaker – whether it is vocal, visual, on paper, or on the internet, bids for the minds of men in the market place of ideas.  The true test of the thought or idea or opinion is how strongly it is accepted in that marketplace.

Because the contribution to the marketplace of ideas is considered so important, we don’t want to inhibit peoples’ right to do so. How else are we able to discuss what our government is doing and determine if it is bad or good… Right or wrong?  How else are we able to determine which candidates are best able to serve us in government?  And that’s why we have the First Amendment’s Guarantee of Free Speech and a Free Press.

Not all speech, however, is protected. There are basically 9 categories of speech NOT protected by the First Amendment:

  • Obscenity
  • Fighting words
  • Defamation (including libel and slander) ***
  • Child pornography
  • Perjury ***
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to imminent lawless action
  • True threats
  • Solicitations to commit crimes
  • Some experts add treason

***  You’ll notice that speech that is not truthful is not protected by the First Amendment. Untruths add nothing to the “marketplace of ideas” that the First Amendment was established to create.  (See Defamation and Perjury)

You may have heard folks on the left claim that “Hate Speech” isn’t protected.  Most notably, you may have heard this in the last month or so by one-time presidential candidate Howard Dean. But this is false. “Hate Speech” may sound like something that isn’t protected by the Constitution but the category doesn’t actually exist – at least in first amendment jurisprudence. It is an amorphous term that means one thing to one person and something else to another person. It is a term that is capable of constantly being enlarged, and in fact, if you look at the growth of the snowflake movement, you can see how easily it is to offend a liberal. How quickly do you think it will take this current group of thin-skinned emotional basket-cases to label speech that insults them as “hate speech”?

To be clear….  You have every right to say mean and hurtful things.

It is no coincidence that Speech is addressed in the first of the amendments to the Constitution. It was deemed to be critical in a free society. Speech is important because with speech and press, we are able to alert our fellow citizens when our rights and civil liberties are under attack. It is our first line of defense when government becomes corrupt and tyrannical.  We exercise the first amendment to criticize and protest government so that we don’t have to exercise the second against it!!

College Campuses and Snowflakes

Years ago, college campuses were popular havens for free speech. Students and speakers could freely express and exchange ideas, even ones that were unpopular. Berkeley was once seen as the home of the Free Speech movement, if you can believe it.

So, what happened?  What happened to Free Speech?

Back in February, Berkeley students covering themselves in black face masks went berserk when conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos was set to speak. They caused over $100,000 in damage to the campus and promoted the university to cancel the event.

Last month, Ann Coulter was set to speak there. First she was invited, then uninvited, and then invited again – as long as she could be scheduled on a day when students didn’t have any actual classes on campus. When the school told her they could not assure her safety, even though her safety was at risk, she was forced to cancel her visit.

Berkeley students successfully shut down conservative speech. By violence. By intimidating. By threats.

Nowadays, it is fairly common for college students to shout over and shout down even moderate-leaning speakers. If they don’t like the message or the speaker, they aren’t going to let them speak. This is happening all over the country.  You have to ask yourself why we call these students Progressives, even thought that is the movement to which they belong. They certainly aren’t for the progression of civilized thought and conduct. They are not for the progression of freedom and liberty. Rather, they are for its regression.

Today’s liberal college students require safe spaces, trigger warnings, and days off from class in order to deal with their feelings. Our universities, bastions of liberal thought, have developed these concepts to help students deal with feelings rather than prepare them to deal with facts and articulation. Couple this with the constant smearing of any intellectual or political opponent as “racist” or “bigoted” or “homophobic,” etc, and they are succeeding in producing a generation of closed-minded individuals who are increasingly intolerant.  They are increasingly hostile to the notion of tolerance when it comes to views that are different from theirs. It is if they cannot intellectually or emotionally deal with opposite views. I guess you can say that today’s students are becoming increasingly intolerant of tolerance.

And we all know that the intolerance essentially comes from one side. Imagine if Tucker Carlson shouted down a guest on his show simply because he didn’t agree with the opposing viewpoint or imagine if Dinesh D’Souza refused to answer a question from someone in his audience who disagreed with him. They’d be labeled “hypocrites” and “intolerant.”

Today’s generation – and mainly those on college campuses – are treated like babies…  and that’s because that’s how they act.

We call the young liberal generation a bunch of snowflakes and there is a reason we call them this. “Snowflake” is a term that refers to fragility. These young people have an inflated sense of their self-worth and are therefore offended easily. They are so fragile that when they hear the slightest thing that causes them discomfort or uneasiness or that insults them, they melt. They have a melt-down. They are too easily offended and hence need “safe spaces” to retreat to. In these safe spaces, they are surrounded by those who think exactly like they do. [In the real world, we are told by the government that we have no right to be surrounded by only those who think like ourselves; we must be diversified!]  These young liberals have been coddled probably most of their lives, or at least indoctrinated by their parents or pandered to by society. And now they are ill-equipped intellectually and emotionally to face the real world. They are certainly unable to face life’s challenges (such as the 2016 election) and unable to confront opposing opinions with any amount of dignity.

To see how bad this situation has become, look at how this term “snowflake” has morphed in its definition. Back in May 2016, when Donald Trump was campaigning and all of a sudden it appeared that people all over the country were able to connect with him and were articulating very convincingly why he should be president, the term “snowflake” was defined as “an overly-sensitive person who is incapable of dealing with any opinions that differ from their own.”  It was used mainly in describing a liberal.. a Democrat. It was used to describe those who would show up and protest Trump rallies and do nothing but shout insults. After Trump was elected and the progressive protest-fest ensued, the definition was modified. Now it means “Any entitled millennial progressive tard who runs to her ‘safe space’ to play with stress toys and coloring books’ when triggered by various innocuous microaggressions.”  In other words, it describes a person incapable of dealing with persons who don’t think exactly like they do.

Universities becoming safe havens for snowflakes serves no good purpose, except I suppose for keeping young people blindly indoctrinated. What is being stolen from today’s college students is the ability to learn how to think about complex issues while in an educational setting (a relatively safe, coddling environment) so that they can be equipped to engage with the diverse array of ideas in the real world. And that type of diversity (the diversity of ideas and the diversity of thought) is far more important practically than the type of diversity that colleges love to brag about – the diversity of their student body based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, etc.

An open and robust discussion with a wide array of ideas and opinions is how we expand our knowledge and deepen our understanding. This is how we figure out what we believe in and how strongly we believe it. We don’t strengthen what we believe in by silencing or shaming or defaming those we don’t agree with.

The Right of Free Speech is Almost Absolute –

The right of Speech and Expression is almost absolute. We absolutely have the right to protest…   It’s one of the very reasons for the First Amendment in the first place.  In fact, the standard by which we gauge how strongly we embrace our right of free speech is how well we safeguard and respect people’s right to engage in unpopular speech.  We have the right to use our speech to counter someone else’s speech. What we DON’T have is a right to SILENCE someone else by using violence or intimidation.  We have the right to use Hate Speech, it’s true, but we shouldn’t.  And let me explain why.

When you use violence and intimidation – and even hate speech, it has a “chilling effect” on free speech. It results in self-censorship. People – candidates, politicians, writers, speakers, bloggers, radio and TV personalities – begin to watch what they say and keep their commentary “safe.”  This doesn’t serve the “marketplace of ideas” at all.  We in the conservative community and the Tea Party movement know all too well about self-censorship. We lived in fear for years under President Obama when he was using the IRS to target our “viewpoint” for audits and harassment.

Violence and intimidation quiets a speaker who simply would rather not deal with the threats and the smears and the protests. Where would our country be now if great men and women felt it was best to self-censure?

I think we all need a refresher course on what the First Amendment means and what its purpose is in our Constitution.  The First Amendment is about prohibiting the federal government – the government capable of consolidating and consuming the individual States – from passing any laws that affect free speech. It has absolutely nothing to do with the speech or expression of a private person and whether that speech or expression offends the sensibility of another person or group of people.

If you are offended by someone’s speech – by his or her ideas or opinions, then you have the right to counter with more compelling speech, with better ideas, better opinions, better arguments. That’s what you SHOULD do.  This is what universities should be teaching our students. This is what they should be preparing them for. They shouldn’t be teaching them to be emotional snowflakes and intellectual cowards.

As mentioned earlier, the standard by which we gauge how strongly we embrace our right of free speech is how well we safeguard and respect people’s right to engage in unpopular speech.  Judging according to this standard, today’s college students have no respect for the First Amendment and would just as soon allow the right of free speech to be doomed…..  except as it applies to themselves, of course.

I think we all need a refresher course on what Free Speech is and what the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech means. It secures a place not only in the Bill of Rights, but it is the subject of the very first of those essential amendments. The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is about prohibiting the federal government – the government capable of consolidating and consuming the individual States – from passing any laws that affects or burdens an individual’s freedom of speech and expression. Together with the guarantee of religious liberty, the First Amendment was added to the Constitution to prevent the government from establishing an absolute tyranny over the conscience and the thoughts and expression of We the People and our ability to comment critically on our government.  Thought control and the control of information is the tool of a tyrannical government.  Maximilien Robespierre, who manned the guillotine during the French Revolution, said: “The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

President Harry Truman spoke similar words in an address to Congress in 1950: ““Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

Tens of thousands of brave Americans, motivated by the words and sentiments expressed in the Declaration of Independence, fought and died to break the chains of British tyranny so that those sentiments could flourish here. These freedoms and these foundations are endangered when Americans are ignorant as to our founding and are otherwise unwilling to engage in the discussion necessary to keep our First Amendment vibrant and intact.

References:

Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing Township, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).  Referenced at:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/330/1

Professor Daniel Dreiisbach, “Origins and Dangers of the Wall of Separation Between Church and State,” Imprimis (Hillsdale College), Volume 35, Number 10 (Oct. 2006).  Referenced at:  https://imprimis.hillsdale.edu/origins-and-dangers-of-the-wall-of-separation-between-church-and-state/

Bill Fortenberry, “What Did Jefferson Mean By the Phrase ‘Wall of Separation’?“ The Federalist Papers (blog), November 1, 2013.  Referenced at:  http://thefederalistpapers.org/current-events/what-did-jefferson-mean-by-the-phrase-wall-of-separation

Charles C. Cooke, “Howard Dean is Peddling Hate Speech Hogwash,” The National Review, April 21, 2017.  Referenced at:  http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/446941/howard-dean-hate-speech-not-protected-first-amendment

Dave Rubin, “Ann Coulter’s ‘Hate Speech’ is Protected by the First Amendment, The Rubin Report.  Referenced at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2Fm9z4LGDs

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The IRS Scandal: A Study in Government Tyranny

JEFFERSON - When the People Fear Government, there is Tyranny by Diane Rufino, April 19, 2017

“The Obama administration and its fronts in the Senate accomplished what Richard Nixon wasn’t able to accomplish, which was the suppression of an entire movement against him. That’s how you steal an election; you make sure your political opponents can’t open an office.”  —  Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has sued the IRS to obtain documents related to the controversy

From 2010 until 2013, the IRS, under President Barack Obama, intentionally targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c) tax-exemption by delaying the processing of their applications, requesting burdensome information from them that was later deemed unnecessary, and by intimidating them into withdrawing their applications. The scheme was intended to intimidate and/or stop Tea Party and other conservative groups from engaging in political activity in the 2012 presidential election and in subsequent mid-term elections. The abuse by the IRS was orchestrated in response to the growing Tea Party/ conservative/ grassroots movement (which all of a sudden were applying in great numbers for tax-exempt organization status and which were donating in large amounts to Republican candidates and elections). The actions of the government, spearheaded by President Obama, were a clear example of government tyranny – using terror and intimidation (the full resources of the federal government) to silence political opposition.

As Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan of the House Oversight Committee explained in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koshinen: “This revelation that the IRS sent 1.1 million pages of nonprofit tax-return data — including confidential taxpayer information — to the FBI confirms suspicions that the IRS worked with the Justice Department to facilitate the potential investigation of nonprofit groups engaged in lawful political speech.”

To date, and there is no surprise here, the IRS and its officials, have escaped justice and punishment. Its aggressive 3-year campaign against conservative grassroots organizations to suppress their first amendment rights of speech, expression, and assembly, and its illegal leaking of private tax information for political purposes, and its turning of the executive branch of the federal government into a thug ring for the Democratic Party has been explained away as mere incompetency and a lack of proper oversight.

The fact that Lois Lerner escaped prison, that records were destroyed in a campaign to obstruct justice and allow other guilty parties to escape punishment, and that John Koskinen retain his job as the IRS commissioner are scandals in and of themselves. Last fall, House Republicans took steps to have John Koskinen removed by impeaching him for his role in covering up Lerner’s crimes, his misleading a congressional investigation, his obstruction of Congress (defying a subpoena), and outright lying to Congress. Unfortunately, on December 6, House GOP leaders managed to derail impeachment, forcing the debate back to a committee for more study, where it silently died when Congress adjourned at the end of the year.

While most believe the scandal and the government abuse subsided in 2013 when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released an audit report concluded that the IRS had in fact used inappropriate criteria to identify, target, and then harass Tea Party and other conservative organizations in their applications for 501(c) tax-exempt status, the fact is that the IRS continued to improperly use its power to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and apparently still has hold-over rogue elements from the Obama administration who are secretly trying to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. How else could Donald Trump’s tax returns have been leaked?  How else was it possible that Trump’s 1995 tax information was leaked during the 2016 presidential election season to Clinton’s team, just in time for the presidential debates? How can we forget her accusation and then the ensuing political pressure from the media for Trump to release his tax returns.  Remember what she said in the September 2016 debate;  “You’ve gotta ask yourself, why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told, through investigative reporting that, he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes. Because the only years that anybody has ever seen, were a couple of years where he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license. And they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.”

And how was it that an “anonymous” package with Trump’s 2005 tax return and tax info was mailed to the New York Times in early March?  [See my article “How Quickly Trump’s Tax Return Story Has Disappeared,” April 23, 2017].  Someone at the IRS, apparently still having the capability of treating it as a rogue agency, committed a felony. And Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, who received the tax returns from the Times and who was salivating over the chance to humiliate Trump, chose to insinuate that our President was the criminal and not the felon from the federal government.

Why do I suggest that the “leaked” tax information during the presidential campaign season and the anonymous package to the NY Times containing Trump’s 2005 tax return came from a rogue element still entrenched in the IRS?  Oh geeeezz, let me see…   All one needs to do is recall the 2012 targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups by the IRS for the purpose of reelecting President Obama.  The thought of someone at the agency doing a similar favor for Obama’s successor doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The tendency to hold on to power is natural.  Machiavelli explained this to us. The link between the IRS and Trump’s leaked tax returns is persuasive.

Furthermore, the history and modus operandi of both Hillary Clinton and Lois Lerner, head of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS and mastermind of the Tea Party targeting scandal, appear very similar similar….  break rules, skirt the law, and then destroy evidence by deleting emails and destroying hard drives and servers. It’s a Democrat thing.  They benefit from the lawbreaking but escape justice by destroying evidence, which is itself a crime. Both used their positions in government not to genuinely and constitutionally serve the legitimate interests of the American people in general, but rather to advance personal and/or political goals. Lerner targeted the Tea Party. And Hillary collected lots of money by making personal deals while as Secretary of State to enrich her presidential campaign.  And then she had officials of the government “provide” her with ammunition (Trump’s tax returns) to beat Donald Trump.  Both “lost” or destroyed the emails that would have proven their crimes.

The New York Times says “someone” sent the documents to a reporter so it has no criminal liability in publishing it. Constitutional law is fairly firm on this point. But as a lawyer, I find that at times it fails to pass the “smell test.” In other words, the policy sometimes stinks!!  How is an ordinary citizen supposed to reconcile this reality:  “If a private citizen receives stolen property, they go to jail.  But if a reporter receives stolen documents, they receive the Pulitzer Prize.”  [Daniel John Sobieski, “Rogue IRS Felons Vindicate Trump.” American Thinker]. To the very end, the Obama administration, through the officials he put in place, used the power of the federal government for strictly political purposes – for the purpose of assassinating the character of a presidential candidate, helping Hillary Clinton win the election, and to further entrench the agenda of the Democratic party in government. The IRS had never ceased serving as the nefarious arm of the political left to target conservatives and lessen their chances in the political arena. And even as a new administration is taking over the federal government, Obama officials still in remaining at the agency are using the same power to obstruct the efforts of a legitimately-elected president of another (an opposing) political party.

Think about this –  Hillary Clinton, as a candidate for president, continued to receive the highest levels of support from the government (including control of the media and access to illegally-disclosed confidential information) even after she had abused that government’s power and prestige and had clearly broken many of the laws put in place to provide transparency to the American people. And, the President of the United States and the Democratic Party (the party having full control and power in government) co-opted all the functions, resources, and instrumentalities of t government, and their influence/pressure as well, in order to help her and to interfere in the campaign of a presidential candidate that threatened their power. It wasn’t the Russians. It was the Obama administration itself.  If this isn’t the definition of government tyranny or the definition of government corruption, I don’t know what is.

It’s about time the American people learned the true extent to which the government had turned on them, had violated their precious liberties, sought to target and silence them, and threatened their voice in government.  This investigation is necessary so that We the People, and conservative watchdog groups, can seek protections to make sure it never happens again.

We exercise the First Amendment so that we don’t have to exercise the Second !!

INTRO — 

We all know how fundamental the rights of conscience, religion, and speech are.  The rights of conscience and religion are the beginnings of thought.  Speech is how we express that thought.

More than that, from a liberty point of view, it is our first amendment right that protects all the others by giving voice and publication when government violates them. It alerts the People to weigh for themselves how much they value their rights and liberties. And then it is the second amendment that ultimately secures all other rights from tyranny in government.

In the IRS scandal, we had the Obama administration using the IRS as a tool of terror, of intimidation to silence the Tea Party –  his party’s political opposition. In theory and practice, it was much like Hitler and his gestapo. Political speech was frozen by government action, first and foremost, and then there were the Tea Party groups and folks who self-censored for fear of having the IRS target them, audit them, and god-forbid come up with some trumped-up charge to make their lives a living hell, fine them, or imprison them.

Why?  Because he was working to win the 2012 election for himself and his party and to win mid-term elections.  In fact, documents released just last week by Judicial Watch confirm that President Obama’s IRS improperly targeted conservatives in order to help him win the 2012 presidential election.

On April 14, 2015, Judicial Watch announced it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS seeking “any and all records” related to the selection of both individuals and organizations for audits based upon applications filed requesting nonprofit tax status.

Political speech and expression is the most protectable form of speech; it was intended to help We the People flesh out ideas, assess honestly and fully what the government is doing, figure out which candidates are best to govern on our behalf, and to see that government operates as best and as responsibly as possible from our end. Our Founding Fathers appreciated the importance of protected political speech from the lessons taught throughout the colorful history of England. We can never forget that the government is OUR government and not the government of a political party. It operates on us, as individuals, in our lives, our property, our revenue, our liberty, and in our ability to live freely. Political parties are merely political organizations looking for power, not human results.

THE IRS and TAX-EXEMPTION

US federal tax law, specifically Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)), exempts certain types of nonprofit organizations from having to pay federal income tax. The statutory language of IRC 501(c)(4) generally requires civic organizations described in that section to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare“. Treasury regulations interpreting this statutory language apply a more relaxed standard, namely, that the organization “is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements.” As a result, the IRS traditionally has permitted organizations described in IRC 501(c)(4) to engage in lobbying and political campaign activities if those activities are not the organization’s primary activity.

TIMELINE of the IRS SCANDAL —

(1)  On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) is a U.S. constitutional law and corporate law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations. The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) that freedom of speech prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

All of a sudden, non-profit groups could spend money to engage in political activity and to influence elections. At the time, the Tea Party movement had just taken off, and:

  • Most of the applications to the IRS for tax-exempt 501(c) status were conservative groups, and
  • Most of the money pouring into TV and radio ads to influence elections were from conservative groups to benefit Republican candidates

(2)  Beginning in March 2010, when the Tea Party movement was the rage, the IRS more closely scrutinized certain organizations applying for tax-exempt status under sections 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code by focusing on groups with certain words in their names. IRS staffers began flagging applications from groups with politically themed names like “We the People” and “Take Back the Country.” Staffers also targeted groups whose names included the words “Tea Party,” “patriots,” and “912” (a movement started by Glenn Beck). Those flagged applications were then sent to specialists for a more rigorous review than is typical. (This info, this timeline, came from a draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, May 2013).

In May 2010, some employees of the “Determinations Unit” of the Cincinnati office of the IRS, which is tasked with reviewing applications pertaining to tax-exempt status, began developing a spreadsheet that became known as the “Be On the Look Out” (“BOLO”) list.

The list, first distributed in August 2010, suggested intensive scrutiny of applicants with names related to a number of political causes, including names related to the Tea Party movement and other conservative causes. Eventually, IRS employees in Ohio, California, and Washington, DC applied closer scrutiny to applications from organizations that:

  • referenced words such as “Tea Party“, “Patriots”, or “9/12 Project“, “progressive,” “occupy,” “Israel,” “open source software,” “medical marijuana” and “occupied territory advocacy” in the case file;[34][35]
  • outlined issues in the application that included government spending, government debt, or taxes;
  • involved advocating or lobbying to “make America a better place to live”;
  • had statements in the case file that criticized how the country is being run;
  • advocated education about theConstitution and the Bill of Rights;
  • were focused on challenging thePatient Protection and Affordable Care Act—known by many as Obamacare;
  • questioned the integrity of federal elections.

Over the two years between April 2010 and April 2012, there was an increase of applications for 501(c) tax-exempt status – from 1,500 applications to more than double that amount, 3,400.  The government (controlled by Democrats) took notice.  The IRS essentially placed on hold the processing of applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exemption status received from organizations with “Tea Party”, “patriots”, or “9/12” in their names. While apparently none of these organizations’ applications were denied during this period, only 4 were approved. During the same general period, the agency approved applications from several dozen presumably liberal-leaning organizations whose names included terms such as “progressive”, “progress”, “liberal”, or “equality.  Only 3 groups were targeted had the word “occupy” in their name.

Tea Party groups targeted by the IRS for scrutiny and delay were forced to provide such information as:

  • Names, addresses, and emails of all their members
  • Names, addresses, and emails of everyone who has ever attended any of their meetings
  • The names of the donors, contributors, and grantors. If the donor, contributor, or grantor has run or will run for a public office, identify the office. If not, please confirm by answering this question “No”.
  • The amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.
  • How did the group use these donations, contributions, and grants. Provide Details.
  • A copy of every presentation given by every speaker at their meetings
  • A copy of the flyer or announcement for each meeting
  • Copies of all materials passed out at all meetings
  • Biographies of every speaker at their meetings
  • “Provide the following information for the income you received and raised for the years from inception to the present. Also, provide the same information for the income you expect to receive and raise for 2012, 2013, and 2014.”
  • Copies of any contracts the group is a party to
  • Copies of all training materials the group has used or will use with the Koch Foundation
  • Copies of stories and articles that have been published about the organization and/or any of its members.

Organizations were told that if the information was not provided, they would not be certified as “tax-exempt.”  And even if all the information was provided, the IRS would scrutinize it and further delay the application by following up with probing questions. For example, The Coalition for Life of Iowa, a pro-life group, was asked to “Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3). Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your group spends on prayer groups as compared with other activities of the organization.”

(3)  In June 2011, Lois Lerner, Director of the director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reportedly became aware of what was going on and directed staffers to change to how they vetted nonprofit applications.

(4)  By the spring of 2012, so many conservative groups had complained about the IRS harassing them that Republicans in Congress took notice. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) sent the IRS a letter asking why it was targeting Tea partiers, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a hearing in which he grilled then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee, over the agency’s treatment of conservative groups. Shulman denied that his agency was targeting conservatives, and the controversy remained quiet until Lerner’s apology (in May; see below).

(5)  In early May 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Michael McKenney, released a preliminary audit report confirming that the IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify potential political cases, including organizations with Tea Party in their names. The final report would be released on May 14.

(6)  On May 10, in advance of the public release of the audit findings, Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, Lois Lerner, “apologized” for what she termed were “absolutely inappropriate” actions by the IRS. She would then blame the actions on lower-ranked employees out of a Cincinnati office.

(7)  On May 12, Republican and Democratic lawmakers called for a full investigation of the IRS. At a  press conference the next day, President Obama called the charges “outrageous” if true, and said those responsible should be held accountable.  On May 14, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the Justice Department to begin an investigation as to whether the conduct amounted to criminal behavior.

(8)  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found gross violations. His investigation found that of the 296 total conservative non-profit applications reviewed in the audit conduct in December 2012, no work at all was conducted on them for at least 13 months. Of those 296 applications, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant because of frustration and seeming harassment, none had been denied, and 160 were left open – without moving them forward – for more than three years and spanning two election cycles, During that time, the organizations were hit with burdensome questions and numerous requests for more information.

Clearly, the IRS was abusing its power.  Clearly, the Obama administration was abusing its government power to silence political opposition.

(9)  In early May, following the Inspector General’s report, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-OH), began an investigation into the IRS. Additionally, the House Committee on Ways and Means expanded its ongoing 2011 investigation into possible IRS political targeting.

On May 22, 2013, in her opening statement to the Oversight Committee, Lois Lerner stated: “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.” Lerner then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

House Republicans dismissed Lerner’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment as ineffective, with chairman Issa (R- OH) stating: “You don’t get to use a public hearing to tell the public and press your side of the story and then invoke the Fifth.”  Democrats characterized the contempt proceeding as a “witch hunt” geared toward the 2014 midterm elections.

(10)  In June 2013, the IRS revealed that it had selected political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny based on their names or political themes. In other words, they were intentionally targeting conservative groups – particularly ones with the name “Tea Party” or “Patriot” or “912” in their name. It admitted that it improperly frustrated and held up their applications. Judicial Watch has recently confirmed (thanks to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) that the targeting began in 2010.

(11)  In August 2013, Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen (Md) filed suit against the IRS seeking to overturn a rule that had been on the books since 1959 which allowed social welfare groups to engage in political activity. For 54 years, the IRS has respected that rule and has allowed 501(c)(4) groups to engage in political activity, as long as it wasn’t their primary mission. That rule has been widely interpreted as allowing such tax-exempt groups to spend 49% of their money on politics — without disclosing where that money came from.

It was this 1959 IRS rule that was at the center of Tea Party scandal.

However, more insidiously, the law suit had a lot to do with the greater flexibility granted to groups to engage in political expression with the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.. This case overturned many previous restrictions on political campaign spending and allowed nearly unlimited and often anonymous spending by corporations and other groups to influence elections. Some Tea Party leaders began forming political action committees as offshoots of their 501(c)-tax-exempt organizations –  501(c)(4) groups – to spend money to influence elections or at least to become politically involved.

So, in 2012, Obama won re-election, although very narrowly.  Tea Party groups were actively speaking out against Obamacare and his bail-out policies, and everything else. And now they have been empowered to continue being active, by the Citizens united decision. Tea Party groups started raising money and pouring money into what is called “anonymous politics” –  not being part of the Republican or Democratic parties. Ordinary citizens, exercising their right of political expression in groups (where there is more power than being exercised at the individual level).

In September 2010, it was reported by The New York Times that almost all of the biggest players among third-party groups, in terms of buying television time in House and Senate races since August of that year, have been 501(c) organizations, and their purchases have heavily favored Republicans….     Remember, the Tea Party movement essentially started in 2009 – 2010.  [CNBC’s Rick Santelli was on the floor of Chicago’s mercantile exchange in Feb. 2009, ranting about the government’s bail-out policy and announced: He urged all capitalists to join him to start a new Tea Party movement].

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of applications the IRS received each year seeking 501(c)(4) certification doubled, many being Tea Party groups and other conservative groups. Democrats became worried. By early 2012, House and Senate Democrats started pressuring the IRS to scrutinize 501(c) non-profit applications and make sure they aren’t seeking the status to engage in political activity.

Van Hollen, who was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, by filing the lawsuit sought to force the IRS to draft new rules requiring that the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups strictly comply with the section of the IRS code that requires such groups to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”  Van Hollen and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to limit conservative 501(c) non-profit groups from pouring money into political campaigns.

Apparently, Van Hollen didn’t like how Democrats were responding to the emerging scandal which had just broken 2 months earlier and was hoping to emphasize the point that under the Obama administration, the IRS was merely trying to resolve the legal issues surrounding political activities by tax-exempt groups and return to the intention of the IRS code for tax exemption – to further social work.

Jay Sekulow and his American Center for Law & Justice, represented 41 Tea Party groups and sued the IRS over what he called “Political Targeting.” He said that Van Hollen’s agenda raises “serious First Amendment issues.”

Sekulow said: “Political speech is protected by the First Amendment.  Anonymous pamphleteering is as old as our country, and deserves just as much constitutional protection.”  He also said: “If Van Hollen wants to change the code, he should do that through the legislative process” and not try to by-pass the rightful branch, the legislative branch, by going to the improper branch, the judicial branch (or the federal courts).

(12)  On January 15, 2014, the FBI announced that it had found no evidence warranting the filing of federal criminal charges in connection with the affair. The FBI stated it found no evidence of “enemy hunting” of the kind that had been suspected, but that the investigation did reveal the IRS to be a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules that IRS personnel did not fully understand. The officials indicated, however, that the investigation would continue.

Disturbingly, in February, while the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was ongoing, President Obama stated there was “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS.

(13)  On April 9, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Department of Justice referring former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois G. Lerner for criminal prosecution. The Committee’s nearly three-year investigation uncovered evidence of willful misconduct on the part of Ms. Lerner.   In particular, the Committee found that Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence IRS action against conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.  The Committee also found she impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Finally, Lerner risked exposing, and it was actually alleged (even in a lawsuit) that she did expose, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of IRS section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.

(14)  Two months later, on June 13, the IRS notified Republican congressional investigators that it had lost Lerner’s emails from January 2009 to April 2011 because of a mid-2011 computer crash.  The emails were under subpoena as part of the congressional investigation. June 19, the IRS said that the damaged hard drive containing Lerner’s missing emails had been disposed of more than two years prior.

On July 9, 2014, Republicans released an April 13, 2013 email from Lerner in which she cautioned colleagues to “be cautious about what we say in emails.”

(15)  On September 5, the IRS said it lost additional emails of five workers under congressional investigation, blaming computer crashes. These five workers include two people based in Cincinnati who worked on Tea Party cases.  According to the IRS, the crashes all predate congressional investigations and had occurred between September 2009 and February 2014.

(16)  On September 5, 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released its report on the scandal, finding that inappropriate screening criteria were definitely used but concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing or political bias in the use of the criteria.  A few months later, in December, Chairman Issa released a new report that found that “the IRS’s inability to keep politics out of objective decisions about interpretation of the tax code damaged its primary function: an apolitical tax collector that Americans can trust to treat them fairly.”

(17)  In January 2015, the US Senate requested that the White House produce all communications it has had with the IRS since 2010.

(18)  On August 5, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee released a report that concluded that management at the IRS had been “delinquent in its responsibility to provide effective control, guidance, and direction over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status filed by Tea Party and other political advocacy organizations” and that it was only guilty of poor planning and oversight.

(19)  In October 2015, the Justice Department notified Congress that there would be no charges against the former IRS official Lois Lerner or against anyone else in the IRS. The investigation found no evidence of illegal activity or the partisan targeting of political groups and found that no IRS official attempted to obstruct justice. The DOJ investigation did find evidence of mismanagement and Lerner’s poor judgement in using her IRS account for personal messages but said “poor management is not a crime.”

(20)  Four days after the Justice Department closed its investigation, 19 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by the Committee’s Chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), filed a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Those sponsoring the impeachment resolution to remove Koskinen from office accused him of failing to prevent the destruction of evidence in allowing the erasure of back-up tapes containing thousands of e-mails written by Lois Lerner, and of making false statements under oath to Congress. In a statement released by the Committee, Chaffetz said Koskinen “failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress.”

(21)  Last month, as part of an ongoing investigation into the IRS scandal and an ongoing inquiry by Judicial Watch, the government released names of 426 organizations which had been improperly targeted by the IRS because of their politics. Another 40 were not released as part of the list because they had already opted out of being part of the class-action suit. That total is much higher than the 298 groups the IRS‘ Inspector General identified back in May 2013, when investigators first revealed the agency had been subjecting applications to long and potentially illegal delays, and forcing them to answer intrusive questions about their activities.

(22)  Courts have already ruled against the IRS.  For example, in 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did so and noted in its ruling: “501(c)(4) groups may not collect tax-deductible donations, but they may engage in relatively unfettered political advocacy, including election advocacy. 501(c)(4) groups range from national organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, and the Sierra Club—to local neighborhood associations.”

(23)  There has been a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch and its investigation into the scandal continues. It has just received almost 700 pages of documents (61% redacted) under the Freedom of Information Act which proves the scheme by the Obama administration to target Tea Party groups into silence and inactivity in political elections. Its current lawsuit is seeking at least 7000 pages of documents related to the IRS scandal that have been hidden from Congress and the American people. The IRS, under the Obama administration, intentionally sought to restrict Tea Party activity and especially in political elections.

Responding to the lawsuit, Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in a sworn declaration that Lerner’s Blackberry was “removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”   In a USA Today opinion column, James S. Robbins wrote, “For a scandal that is frequently derided as ‘fake,’ it is amazing how often real evidence disappears. The disappearing act is so frequent, it is reasonable to wonder whether it is really a systematic attempt to destroy evidence of abuse of power.”

(24)  The current US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has been asked by Congressional Republicans to re-evaluate the evidence against the IRS and against Lois Lerner and re-open the investigation.  At present, Sessions seems noncommittal on the matter.  Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics. 

TARGETING POLICIAL OPPOSITION IS TYRANNY –

The IRS scandal was egregious and conservatives should be enraged. I would say all Americans should be enraged but judging from the conduct of Democrats, they seem to be fine with anything that shuts up a conservative – even if it means denying their basic constitutional rights.  But an assault on the rights of one group in the end will be an assault on everyone’s rights down the road. Looking the other way while the government violates the rights of certain citizens is a dangerous thing. Allowing the government to get away with it is worse.  Allowing the government to silence political opposition is to put our free society at risk.

As President Harry Truman once warned: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”  [In a Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]

References:

Audit Report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, “Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review.”  Referenced at:  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201310053fr.html

Diane Rufino, “How Quickly Trump’s Tax Return Story Has Disappeared,”  Forloveofgodandcountry blog, April 23, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2017/04/23/how-quickly-the-trump-tax-return-story-has-disappeared/

IRS Targeting Controversy, Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: Another Court Ruling Confirms IRS Illegally Targeted Tea Party and Conservative Groups,” CEI.org, November 21, 2016.  Referenced at:  https://cei.org/blog/another-court-ruling-confirms-irs-illegally-targeted-tea-party-and-conservative-groups

Andy Kroll, “The IRS Tea Party Scandal Explained,” Mother Jones, November 21, 2013.  Referenced:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/irs-tea-party-scandal-congress-nonprofit-obama

Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin, “House Republicans Derail Impeachment Effort Against IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner,” The Washington Times, December 6, 2016.  Referenced at:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/6/john-koskinen-irs-commissioner-spared-impeachment-/

David Barstow, Russ Bruettner, Susanne Craig, and Megan Twohey, “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades,” The New York Times, November 2, 2016.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes.html

Adam Liptak, “Is It Illegal to Publish a President’s Tax Returns,” The New York Times, March 15, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/us/politics/trump-tax-returns-legal-precedent.html

Daniel John Sobieski, “Rogue IRS Felons Vindicate Trump,” American Thinker, March 16, 2917.  Referenced at:  http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/03/rogue_irs_felons_vindicate_trump.html

TAKE THIS MONUMENT DOWN!

Andrew Jackson statue #2

by Diane Rufino

While we’re heading down the dangerous slippery slope of government-sponsored censorship surrounding the display of the Confederate flag and certain Civil War generals and other historical figures, I have one question to ask….. Why don’t the good people of Louisiana demand that this offensive statue of Andrew Jackson (see below) be torn down. It reads: “The Union MUST and SHALL BE preserved.”

My daughter took a pic of it while she was in New Orleans recently and I noted what was inscribed on it.

This statue honors Jackson, who apparently was a hero of the Battle of New Orleans. During the Civil War, when Union soldiers occupied New Orleans, the phrase, “The Union must and shall be preserved” was inscribed into the monument’s base. At the time, the Union often used this phrase, referring to Jackson’s support of federal supremacy over state sovereignty.

I would demand the statue be taken down as an offensive reminder of the government’s violent attempt to destroy state’s rights, neuter state sovereignty, and shred the Declaration of Independence. The statue is a constant reminder of government coercion and indoctrination, all for the purpose of maintaining the all-powerful federal government.

Enough about racism. There are far bigger issues and principles at play. A “Perpetual Union” means a perpetual government. Our Founders never subscribed to that notion. There is a reason the government supports the position that the union was intended to be perpetual, and there is a reason presidents added justices to the federal courts who believe the same way — because then the government has longevity and nothing to fear from the sovereigns that were supposed to be able to hold its future in their hands.