by Tom Fitton –
President JudicialWatch –
Obama Administration Used Confidential Taxpayer Information to Push Obamacare
Your Judicial Watch uncovered yet another Obama IRS scandal – and one that includes the massive Health and Human Services (HHS) running Obamacare AND the Obama White House directly!
We received two productions of documents, 77 pages and 108 pages, from the IRS revealing that the Obama IRS coordinated with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Obama White House Behavioral Sciences “Team” in a $5 million program to pressure Americans to sign up for Obamacare.
The documents also contain inter-agency agreements between the IRS and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) devised to circumvent potential legal prohibitions on unauthorized disclosure or inspection of taxpayer information collected by the IRS.
The documents were produced in Judicial Watch Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (No. 1:17-cv-00615). They were produced under court order in our April 2017 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS and HHS, which we filed after the agencies failed to respond to November 2016 FOIA requests for:
• All records concerning IRS efforts to reach out to individuals who either claimed an exemption or paid a penalty for failing to purchase mandatory health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Such records include, but are not limited to, communications, policies, and procedures pursuant to such efforts;
• Samples of any letters, notices or other materials prepared and/or sent to taxpayers encouraging the purchase of mandatory health insurance; and
• Any records regarding cooperation between IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services or any other government entity, whether state or federal, regarding efforts to reach out to individuals who have not purchased mandatory health insurance. Such records, include, but are not limited to, communications, agreements, memoranda of understanding, and any other inter-agency communications. Of special interest are any such records regarding the sharing of protected taxpayer information.
In September 2016, IRS Director of Individual Taxation Janet McCubbin writes to several of her colleagues:
Attached are drafts of the letters that IRS will send to selected taxpayers who paid a penalty for failure to have coverage or who claimed an exemption form the coverage requirement for tax year 2015 … As you know, we are planning to send several different versions of the letter to see which types of messages work best.
These letters have been drafted with input from the White House Behavioral Sciences Team and CMS, and have been approved by CMS. And IRS staff provided a lot of assistance on the PDF.
The White House Behavioral Sciences Team was established in 2015 by an Obama Executive Order directing federal agencies to adopt research about how people make decisions into policy development.
The documents show that the agencies spent at least $5 million to develop the letters ($4,820,702.83 and $179,297.17).
The documents released by Judicial Watch include letters targeting people who legally refused to sign up for Obamacare and elected to pay the penalty or individuals who claimed an exemption. The letter written to people who claimed an exemption states:
Why am I getting this letter?
The law requires people to have a minimum level of health coverage, qualify for an exemption, or pay a penalty when they file their taxes. Our records show you claimed an exemption from the health coverage requirement when you filed your 2015 taxes. If you or someone in your family doesn’t have health insurance or an exemption next year, you’ll likely owe a penalty for 2017. We are writing to make sure you know how you can avoid this penalty by signing up for health insurance or getting an exemption.
A document labeled “a privacy/legal question” seems to indicate the Obama administration was concerned its target letter might violate the law (26 U.S. Code § 7431 and 26 U.S. Code § 6103) protecting the confidentiality of taxpayer return information:
Inspection or disclosure by employee of United States
If any officer or employee of the United States knowingly, or by reason of negligence, inspects or discloses any return or return information with respect to a taxpayer in violation of any provision of section 6103, such taxpayer may bring a civil action for damages against the United States in a district court of the United States.
Under the Obamacare laws, HHS is authorized only to send a simple notification of options:
Secretary of the Treasury, acting Through the Internal Revenue Service and in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall send a notification to each individual who files an individual income tax return and who is not enrolled in minimum essential coverage …
HHS may have overstepped its authority by threatening people with penalty fees.
How much will my penalty be next year if I don’t sign up?
The penalty for not having any health-coverage or an exemption in 2017 will be at least $695 per adult and $347 per child (up to $2,085 per family), and could be more, depending on your income.
Also, the “best-case” cost estimate for Obamacare is misleading because it neglects to mention the cost of deductibles and co-payments.
How much does health insurance at HealthCare.gov cost?
Most people who enroll in a plan through HealthCare.gov can find plans for $75 a month or less after financial help.
These documents are part of five promised document productions from the IRS. We will surely have more documents well into next year.
But we have enough evidence now of more Obama IRS abuses targeting innocent Americans – all in the name of Obamacare. No wonder it took a federal lawsuit and court order to get these documents—as they show the Obama White House and its agencies were happy to threaten and treat Americans like lab rats in order to bolster Obamacare.
It’s Government Gone Wild Time In Washington, DC
Would you be at all surprised to learn that the local government here in Washington, DC is trying to break the law and defy the U.S. Constitution with a budget scam?
Your Judicial Watch has been on top of it. This week a hearing was held in our lawsuit against the Mayor and Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia. We filed the lawsuit on behalf of Clarice Feldman, a longtime taxpayer and resident of the District of Columbia, to prevent the DC government from expending taxpayer money from a budget that was not appropriated by Congress and presented to the president for signing. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Clarice Feldman v. Muriel Bowser and Jeffrey S. DeWitt (No. 1:15-cv-01967)).
At issue is the DC government’s attempt to dismiss a November 6, 2015, lawsuit. The U.S. House of Representatives filed an amicus curiae brief in March 2016 urging the court to deny the DC government’s efforts. In its amicus in support of the Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss the House declared:
The Local Budget Act is a naked and unabashed effort to strip Congress of powers vested in it by Article I of the Constitution, and to circumvent the constitutionally prescribed legislative process that the District and its supporters previously and repeatedly have acknowledged is the one constitutionally appropriate way to proceed.
In other words, the Local Budget Act turns the Appropriations Clause upside down, and is inconsistent with Congress’s plenary authority over all District appropriations. The only constitutionally permissible manner by which the District may achieve budget autonomy with respect to locally derived funds is for Congress to convey that authority to the District by way of the normal legislative process – and Congress has not yet done that.
In Feldman’s Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, we take strong issue with the District of Columbia’s continued attempts to circumvent federal law, arguing:
Regardless of whether it is sound policy for the District of Columbia to have budget autonomy, [the defendants] cannot ignore the law. Yet, they do. Since October 1, 2015, Defendants have been illegally incurring obligations and expending local taxpayer funds pursuant to the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request Act of 2015 (“FY16 Budget Request”) that have not been appropriated by Congress and presented to the President for signing. As a District taxpayer since 1979, Plaintiff challenges Defendants’ lawlessness.
Federal law requires that DC’s annual budget be approved by a majority or two-thirds vote of the DC Council and have affirmative appropriation passed by both Houses of Congress and presented to the president for signing. In 2013, DC passed the Budget Autonomy Act of 2012, which “purportedly grants the District authority to incur obligations and expend local tax and fee revenue without an appropriation passed by both Houses of Congress and presented to the President for signing.” In other words, DC has sought to remove appropriation authority from Congress and grant it to itself.
This is quite simply a case of politicians gone wild. The DC government acts as if it can violate federal law and ignore the U.S. Constitution without repercussions. It is a federal crime to spend federal dollars without congressional authorization.
I’ll be sure to let you know about how the courts rule on this one…
Judicial Watch Sues Justice Department
for Mueller Russian Special Counsel Budget
Just yesterday we filed a major new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concerning the budget and administrative records of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice (No. 1:17-cv-02079)).
We sued because the Justice Department, in scandalous fashion, failed to respond to an
July 10, 2017 FOIA request for some basic info on Mueller’s budget and operations:
1. A copy of the budget prepared and submitted by Robert S. Mueller III or his staff in his capacity as appointed “Special Counsel to oversee the previously-confirmed FBI investigation of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters.” Temporal scope of this request is from 17 May 2017 to 10 July 2017.
2. A copy of all guidance memoranda and communications by which the Justice Management Division will review the Special Counsel’s Office’s “Statement of Expenditures” prior to or for the purpose of making each public. Temporal scope of this request is from 1 June 2017 to present.
3. A copy of each document scoping, regulating, or governing the Special Counsel’s Office appointed under the leadership of Mueller III. Temporal scope of this request is from 17 May 2017 to present.
This past summer, The Washington Post reported that Special counsel Mueller submitted a proposed budget to the Justice Department, “but officials declined to make the document public and committed only to releasing reports of the team’s expenditures every six months.”
Judicial Watch is pursuing numerous additional FOIA lawsuits related to the surveillance, unmasking, and illegal leaking targeting President Trump and his associates during the FBI’s investigation of potential Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election. You can review some of them here, here, here, here, here, and here.
The Mueller special counsel investigation is growing with seemingly little concern about costs to the taxpayer. I’ve been repeatedly remarking on Twitter, on television, and everywhere else that Mueller’s operation is bereft of oversight. (I was just on Lou Dobbs’ program yesterday talking about this very issue.)
Is the Justice Department hiding basic budget information about the Mueller special counsel operation because taxpayers and Congress would be outraged by the costs?
Mr. Mueller is not above the law and he shouldn’t be able to keep his budget secret.
Sadly, no one else in DC seems to be providing oversight of the Mueller juggernaut, so once again it is up to our citizens group Judicial Watch to go to court and demand accountability.
Once again, Judicial Watch does the heavy lifting on behalf of the American people.
Tom Fitton – President
|October 6, 2017