Written by Tom Fitton
If you could peek inside the Obama administration’s “crisis management” handbook for scandals, it would read as follows:
But we don’t have to peek, do we? We’ve seen this strategy on display time and time again. Remember the Black Panther scandal, where the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) scuttled the agency’s own lawsuit against racist thugs who threatened white voters at a polling station in Philadelphia? No political appointees were involved in the decision, so said one top DOJ official in testimony. Wrong. Top political appointees (perhaps Holder himself) were involved and Judicial Watch obtained the evidence to prove it.
And now they’re at it again. Only this time, it’s the IRS. And according to emails just released by the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the “low level employees” did not take it lying down.
Per The Washington Post:
A top manager from the Internal Revenue Service’s Cincinnati office was “furious” last May over allegations from Lois Lerner that “front-line” employees were responsible for the agency’s inappropriate actions toward conservative groups, according to e-mails from a former top official with the division.
Lerner, who headed the exempt-organizations office in Washington, D.C., blamed rank-and-file workers for the agency’s behavior during a legal conference in which she apologized on behalf of the IRS. She said actions were misguided efforts by workers to deal with a flood of applications from tax-exemption applicants during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. We know now that Lerner’s comments were about as true as Obama’s lies about keeping your health insurance, doctors, and affordable health care.
“Based on the [news] articles, Cincinnati wasn’t publicly ‘thrown under the bus’ [but] instead was hit by a convoy of mack trucks,” stated former IRS Cincinnati office manager Cynthia Thomas in an email sent to Lerner last May, the very day Lerner admitted to agency abuse of conservative organizations.
“Was it also communicated at that conference in Washington that the low-level workers in Cincinnati asked the Washington office for assistance and the Washington office took no action to provide guidance to the low-level workers?” Thomas asked.
Thomas then complained that the morale of the “low level” employees under her management was “the lowest it had ever been.”
And why wouldn’t it be? As noted by the Daily Caller, the moment Lerner shifted the blame to Cincinnati, the press piled on, with the New York Times going so far as to characterize the Cincinnati office as “backwater.”
Now I want to be careful here, not to leave the impression that I would exonerate any “low level” employee for allowing this illicit suppression of the Tea Party and conservatives to happen. But, what I am saying is that this new email evidence clearly shows that officials at the highest levels of the Obama IRS knew about the agency’s flagrant targeting of conservative organizations.
Of course liberals in Congress are saying these emails are much ado about nothing. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), ranking member of the committee, said: “The fact is that Lois Lerner was rightfully held responsible for gross mismanagement of the IRS tax-exempt division.”
Sure, if “rightfully held responsible” means allowing Lerner to retire with full benefits, as she did in September. This is yet another scandal that goes to the top of the Obama White House, with zero repercussions for the “high level employee” responsible for it.
If you ask Lerner today, she might still stick to her story that low level employees acted alone in this abuse of power. But she can’t say that about the evidence Judicial Watch uncovered a few weeks ago.
As you recall, JW released email evidence showing that Lerner was personally involved in unethical – and perhaps criminal – activity involving the confidential records of conservative organizations.
JW recently unearthed emails that seem to suggest that Lerner handed over detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the Federal Election Commission in violation of federal law.
The bulk of the records obtained by Judicial Watch consist of extensive materials from the IRS’ files sent from Lerner to the FEC.
These include annual tax returns (Form 990) and request for exempt recognition forms (Form 1024), Articles of Organization and other corporate documents, and correspondence between the nonprofit organizations and the IRS. And there lots of emails and documentary records of at least one phone call between the IRS and the FEC.
Under Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, it is a felony for an IRS official to disclose either “return information” or “taxpayer return information,” even to another government agency.
It doesn’t matter if they fax it, email it, or talk about it on the phone, the IRS is absolutely prohibited from speaking out of school about anyone’s tax information.
The Obama administration never lets the truth stand in the way of an exculpatory narrative. So don’t expect the White House to hold any feet to the fire. That’s our job. (See our mega-FOIA lawsuit to get the IRS scandal documents.) And trust me when I say this administration is keeping us busier than ever. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.
Take another look at the Obama crisis management plan in the story above. And take note of strategy number 3: stonewall the release of information. As the nation’s leading expert in using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to force the release of government information, this is a strategy with which our investigators are intimately familiar.
And it is a strategy that has been central to the Obama administration’s Benghazi-gate cover-up.
As the attack was occurring on the Benghazi consulate, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, the evidence shows the Obama administration knew the attack was organized. And there was little doubt that it was organized by al Qaeda terrorists.
But these facts proved inconvenient to the president, who was in the middle of a re-election campaign, and so President Obama and his underlings peddled the false story that an obscure Internet video inspired an impromptu attack on the consulate. And when that failed to pass the laugh test, the administration went into stonewall mode.
Fortunately, Judicial Watch knows how to bust through stonewalls, and we recently got hold of some additional Benghazi records previously withheld by the Obama administration. We had to sue to get them, but we got them.
Specifically, we obtained 30 pages of records from the Department of State, including 13 previously withheld photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the September 11, 2012, terrorist attacks on U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
(We previously released the first seven photos of the devastation obtained in response to our FOIA lawsuit filed in February.)
And what do they show?
The new photos seem to depict portions of the so-called “Special Mission Compound” in Benghazi, including: a car on fire; what appears to be the exterior of a burned out building; ransacked rooms within the building with files and office supplies strewn across the floor; and Arabic graffiti with militant Islamist slogans.
We first learned about these documents from the Accountability Review Board (ARB) after the board released its final report on December 31, 2012.
According to ARB Chairman Ambassador Tom Pickering the Board “reviewed thousands of documents and watched hours of video” during the course of its investigation. The Obama administration also reportedly shared Benghazi video with certain members of Congress. Until the State Department released the first seven Benghazi photos to Judicial Watch, however, the State Department had withheld all videos and photos from the American people.
And what of the videos? A Justice Department attorney told us last week that the State Department is withholding all videos in full, citing privacy and law enforcement exemptions.
Folks, we know from experience that the more fiercely the government withholds records, the more serious the scandal. And the administration is doing everything within its power to conceal the truth from JW and from the American people, which tells me there is much to hide. Even the liberal Washington Post made fun of the fact that the Obama gang had withheld news articles from Judicial Watch. That’s right, the “most transparent administration in history” forced us to sue for public news articles that it had marked “SECRET”!
But the administration’s zealous secrecy notwithstanding, I want to congratulate our investigations and legal teams for obtaining these records, which provide another piece to the puzzle of what happened in Benghazi.
These new photos reveal a level of total devastation thoroughly belying Obama’s original cover story that the carnage was perpetrated by a bunch of random malcontents upset over an unpleasant video.
The fact that we’ve had to wait nearly a year and file a federal lawsuit for basic documentary material of the attack shows that this administration is still in cover-up mode. And now the Obama administration brings the Benghazi stonewall to a whole new level by withholding video of the attack using frivolous arguments such as “privacy.”
Once again, our intrepid work generated worldwide headlines and put in focus the Obama administration’s scandal Benghazi stonewall. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the leading House member for Benghazi accountability, reacted strongly to the JW revelations in the Washington Times:
“It’s inexcusable that members of Congress and the press who want to learn the truth about what happened in Benghazi have had to use FOIA requests to obtain answers. Absent the creation of a House select committee that will hold public hearings and have cross-jurisdictional subpoena authority, I don’t think the American people will ever learn the truth,” said Mr. Wolf, who has been calling for a Watergate-style committee to investigate Benghazi.
“To date, there have been too few answers and absolutely no accountability,” he said. “Just what exactly were the State Department and CIA doing in Benghazi that has led the government to go to such great lengths to obstruct requests for information?”
But we’re not giving up. We will fight to get the video, of course.
Judicial Watch has four pending FOIA lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the Benghazi attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request. Judicial Watch’s special report about the deadly assault is available online: “The Benghazi Attack of September 11, 2012: Analysis and Further Questions from a Diplomatic Security Service Regional Security Officer and Special Agent.”
As I mentioned, Judicial Watch is the leading organization when it comes to obtaining government records. And we do not keep our winning strategies to ourselves. Quite the contrary. We see it as an important part of our mission to make certain that like-minded conservatives and conservative organizations have the tools they need to know what the government is up to.
And for this reason, JW recently released its 2013 “Transparency 101: Freedom of Information Act and Opens Records Handbook,” which provides comprehensive information about how organizations and individuals can use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Privacy Act to gain access to government documents and scrutinize the behavior of public officials.
The 33-page transparency primer explains in the introduction, “Judicial Watch … seeks to put the knowledge of using federal [open records] laws into the hands of families, churches, communities, organizations and all individuals interested in learning more about the decisions, operations and activities of their government…”
The “Transparency 101” handbook, which contains detailed information about how to file requests for information from the government, warns: “The centralization of power at the federal level over the past century and the sheer vastness of the federal bureaucracy have made it easy for officials to keep important decisions from public scrutiny … This handbook seeks to empower Americans with the ability to: (1) identify records sought; (2) draft, submit, and administratively appeal requests; and (3) prepare to litigate [open records] requests regarding information that they seek either for public benefit or information pertaining directly to them that they have a right to access.”
JW has now worked through three presidential administrations to help educate Americans in the art of breaking through government stonewalls though the open records process. But this effort is more important now than ever.
As I’ve said many times, the Obama administration has erected a stone wall of secrecy despite the president’s promise to have “the most transparent administration in history.”
That’s why JW has filed more than 1200 FOIA requests with the federal government in the first five-plus years of the Obama administration. And Judicial Watch has filed over 120 lawsuits against the Obama administration to force it to obey FOIA, the federal government’s main transparency law.
Our government, at all levels, is off the rails and out of control. The open records laws are among the best tools available to Americans to hold government officials accountable to the rule of law. The Obama administration’s arrogant refusal to follow the Freedom of Information Act has led to a “transparency crisis” in Washington.
JW is second to none in pursuing transparency from the Obama administration. Now, with our “Transparency 101” FOIA handbook, we hope to enlist other Americans in the herculean effort to find out what our government is up to.
Voter fraud certainly did not end when the ballots were counted in 2012; it remains a real threat to the proper functioning of our republic. And for that reason, JW remains committed to expanding our Election Integrity Project to better ensure clean and fair elections.
That’s why we recently hired experienced attorney Robert Popper to help run our election integrity initiatives. Robert brings with him a tremendous amount of experience in such matters, having served as Deputy Chief in the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice for the better part of eight years. Simply put, he is one of the top lawyers in the country on election integrity issues.
On November 19, 2013, Robert traveled to Pennsylvania to testify at a public hearing of the House State Government Committee in order to educate state legislators about a number of statewide measures designed to protect the integrity of the voting process, namely:
HB 1830, which raises the penalties for basic acts of intimidation and coercion from a misdemeanor to a third degree felony under Pennsylvania law. (The bill was inspired by the New Black Panther scandal, where members of the group guarded polling stations and intimidated white voters with billy clubs.)
HB 1172, which adds painted materials to the kinds of political materials that are banned inside a polling place. (The bill would have disallowed the floor-to-ceiling mural of President Obama that adorned one Philadelphia polling station.)
HB 1827 and HB 1835, which have the effect of increasing the available pool of poll watchers and minority inspectors to guard against voter fraud.
HB 1572 eliminates straight-party ballot voting, which is the practice of voting for candidates of the same party for multiple positions by pushing one button on the voting machine. The bill’s purpose is to prevent fraud and to assist voters in deliberating more carefully over their candidate of choice.
HB 1371, which renders it a third degree felony to knowingly make a false statement in an affidavit appended to a nomination petition in which several signatures appear to be in the same hand.
I highly suggest you click here and read Robert’s testimony in full, or here (House State Government Committee meeting – 11/19/2013) to see his deft handling of the issue on video (his testimony begins at 22:59). But here are a few highlights:
The topics you are considering today are among the most important that public officials are asked to address. Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset observed that “The health of democracies, of whatever type and range, depends on a wretched technical detail: electoral procedure. All the rest is secondary.”
While the particular details of the bills before you concern a variety of different practices, they all are practical reforms addressing many of the issues I observed in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. They also would help to achieve the crucial goal of reassuring the public that our electoral procedures are honest.
There are good reasons to believe that the public needs to be reassured on this point. In poll after poll, for some time now, large segments of the American populace have expressed their dismay with various aspects of our electoral system…. These polls reveal a startling lack of faith in our electoral system.
A fundamental threat to the perceived integrity of elections occurs where voters face violence or violent threats at the polls. Election-related violence is typically a mark of a fledgling democracy or of a society where true democracy has yet to take root. No citizen voting in the United States today should have to endure such intimidation.
Allegations of fraud are a regular feature of every federal election cycle, and fraud does sway elections. For those who care to look, there are websites that collect stories concerning electoral fraud of various kinds. But the justification for voter identification laws does not depend on establishing such fraud. It is enough that fraud should not be permitted, and that the opportunity to commit such fraud exists.
You may recall that we have been active for some time in Pennsylvania on election law issues, providing testimony and legal support to vigorous voter ID efforts there. As I say, as long as the Left wants to be able to steal elections, election integrity will remain a top priority for Judicial Watch and its members.
I realize I have covered Obamacare fraud quite a bit over the last few weeks, but this is a massive and ever-growing scandal that is causing massive damage across this nation and deserves all of the attention it receives. As I am running a bit long this week, I will close with a few of the most important headlines. Barack Obama lied to the American people about the horrific consequences of the ill-conceived, unconstitutional, socialist healthcare overhaul. And they managed to corruptly push the legislation through Congress and through a pliant United States Supreme Court.
Rest assured there will be more on this in coming weeks.
50-100 Million Cancellations? “A new and independent analysis of Obamacare warns of a ticking time bomb, predicting a second wave of 50 million to 100 million insurance policy cancellations next fall — right before the mid-term elections. The next round of cancellations and premium hikes is expected to hit employees, particularly of small businesses,” writes Fox News.
93% of Americans Oppose Obamacare: “A fascinating number in Wednesday’s CBS poll is that only 7% of the American public want Obamacare “kept in place.” A full 93% either believe that changes are needed to the law (48%) or want a full repeal (43%). This pits President Obama and Democrat lawmakers — who thus far have refused to make any meaningful changes — against 93% of the American people and 72% of Democrats,” writes Breitbart.com.
White House Anticipated Obamacare Disaster: “Top White House and health officials feared that HealthCare.gov would not work correctly and would set off a wave of bad publicity, according to emails shortly before the disastrous rollout of the Obamacare enrollment website,” writes Politico.
Our team is on it here at Judicial Watch and is investigating and considering additional litigation.
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Until next week… Tom Fitton, President
Judicial Watch, Inc., a conservative, non-partisan educational foundation, promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law. Through its educational endeavors, Judicial Watch advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation's public life and seeks to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people. Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach