by Tom Fitton –
As I’ve noted here previously, the Obama Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has initiated an unprecedented attack against organizations characterized as “Tea Party-like” or “conservative.”
Judicial Watch, of course, knows well the penchant for the Left to use the IRS to silence perceived political “enemies.” After all, JW was subjected to similar abuses during the Clinton administration. Now, as we also did quite effectively during the Clinton years, we’ve initiated an investigation to get the truth about the abuses, which are ongoing, at the IRS.
On October 9, 2013, Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS asking the District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the nation’s tax collecting agency to produce records of all communications relating to the review process for organizations seeking 501(c)(4) non-profit status since January 1, 2010.
(Almost all of the Tea Party groups were seeking recognition under Section 501 (c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code; which would allow them to educate Americans about public policy and spend resources related to political campaigns. I need not tell you why President Obama and his allies didn’t want these Tea Party groups operating in the run-up to the 2012 election!)
The lawsuit also asks the court to order the IRS to provide records of communications by former IRS official Lois Lerner concerning the controversial review and approval process.
JW was forced to seek redress in federal court when the IRS failed to comply with four FOIA requests dating back to May, 2013. Specifically, Judicial Watch seeks the following records from its three FOIA requests, all filed on May 20, 2013:
Any and all records concerning, regarding or related to the number of applications received from organization seeking tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
Any and all record concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and members of the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and any other government agency regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to communications between the IRS and any office of the Executive Branch regarding the review process for organizations applying for tax exempt status under 501(c)(4);
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the preparation of questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status;
Copies of any questionnaires sent to organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.
On May 22, 2013, Judicial Watch submitted another FOIA request seeking the following:
Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to Lois Lerner’s communications with other IRS employees regarding the review and approval process for 501(c)(4) applicant organizations;
Any and all communications concerning, regarding, or related to Lois Lerner’s communications with any government or private entity outside the IRS regarding the review and approval process for 501(c)(4) applicant organizations.
(Evidently, the IRS is as “efficient” at processing FOIA requests from conservative groups as it is non-profit applications.)
On May 14, 2013, the Treasury Inspector General released a report revealing that the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status.
The IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election.
And how long were the delays? Well, here’s just one example courtesy of the Washington Examiner. “TeaParty.net” submitted their application in March 2010 and received their approval on October 2, 2013! That’s three years plus! Most other Tea Party groups have either given up, shut down, or are still waiting to hear from the IRS.
A key figure in the still-developing IRS scandal is Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS division that handles applications for tax-exempt status. Lerner refused to testify at a May, 2013, hearing before Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) House Oversight Committee, demanding immunity concerning her role in the targeting scandal. (Well, “refused to testify” is not quite accurate. Lerner submitted a statement professing her innocence and then, in an abuse of the privilege, took the Fifth.)
Eventually, the agency acknowledged that while Lerner was in charge, IRS agents improperly targeted Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status from 2010-2012. Lerner retired from the IRS on September 23 after an internal investigation found she was guilty of “neglect of duties” and was going to call for her ouster, according to news reports.
We all know exactly why the Obama IRS undertook this campaign — to suppress the entire Tea Party movement just in time to help Obama win reelection. However, one of the most pressing questions remains unanswered: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
We know that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman and his political aide, Jonathan Davis, visited the White House hundreds of times during the Obama IRS witch hunt. This may help explain why the IRS is now stonewalling our FOIA requests and forced us to go to federal court. This major FOIA lawsuit is designed to cut through the Obama administration cover-up of its IRS scandal. More updates as events warrant.
JW Sues Mayor Bloomberg for Documents on his Anti-Gun Group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns*
There is no doubt that Vice President Joe Biden and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are on the same page when it comes to restricting Second Amendment rights, as the Vice President’s recent speech to the Clinton Global Initiative demonstrates. Per Politico:
Appearing at the Clinton Global Initiative conference to present the Leadership in Public Service award to Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Vice President Biden took what he said was “a point of personal privilege” to praise the work of his “old buddy” on gun control.
Acknowledging their failure to get federal legislation passed despite their cooperative efforts, Biden said he remains confident of success. Change will eventually come, Biden said, and “when it comes … it will be because Mike has sent it.”
“Your passion about reducing gun violence in this country is something that’s become contagious,” Biden said.
But here’s the key question: In Bloomberg’s “passion” for gun control, did he cross the line and improperly misuse taxpayer dollars to lobby for specific gun control initiatives through an anti-gun group? And what role has the Vice President, the Attorney General and the Obama administration played in this coordinated legal attack on the Second Amendment?
These questions are at the center of a Judicial Watch investigation with answers in short supply due to a Bloomberg cover-up.
On October 4, 2013, JW filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit with the Supreme Court of the New York requesting that the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg be ordered to produce all records of communications between the Office of the Mayor, the director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG), and Vice President Joe Biden.
The FOIL suit also requested that the mayor’s office be required to produce records of a January 9, 2013, meeting attended by MAIG representatives, Biden, and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Specifically, here are the records we seek pursuant to a January 15, 2013, request;
Any and all records of communication between Mayor Bloomberg and/or Chief Advisor to the Mayor for Policy and Strategic Planning John Feinblatt and Mr. Mark Glaze, Director of Mayors against Illegal Guns and a
Principal at The Raben Group, LLC between December 14, 2012 and January 22, 2013.
Any and all records of communications between Mayor Bloomberg and/or any official, employee, or representative of the Office of the Mayor and Vice President Joe Biden and/or any official, employee, or representative of the Office of the Vice President of the United States.
Any and all records regarding, concerning or related to the January 9, 2013 White House meeting attended by Chief Advisor to the mayor for Policy and Strategic planning John Feinblatt, Vice President Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, and others. This request includes, but is not limited to, any and all notes, talking points, briefing books, and internal memoranda produced in the preparation for, during, and/or subsequent to the meeting.
As I’ve detailed previously in this space, New York Mayor Bloomberg is a co-founder of MAIG, which advocates for gun control laws nationwide. Despite the refusal of the Bloomberg office to respond to the FOIL request, Judicial Watch investigators have managed to uncover some interesting information regarding this Bloomberg operation, including:
Since 2008, MAIG has spent a total of $1,280,000 on federal lobbyists. This excludes $580,000 in-house lobbying expenses for the organization in 2013 (the first year they reported any such expenditures). The total (in-house and out-sourced) lobbying expenses are $1,860,000 since 2008.
Since 2009, MAIG’s primary lobbying firm has been The Raben Group, founded and led by former Clinton Assistant Attorney General Robert Raben.
Through the United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund, MAIG has paid for regional coordinators to be employed in mayors’ offices throughout the country, including Minneapolis, Columbus, Lewiston, Reading, and Seattle.
In 2010, MAIG provided grants totaling more than $371,000, and at least $346,000 in 2011 to fund these positions. The positions, however, are not cost-neutral for the municipalities in which coordinators are installed.
The funding includes a matching requirement that the recipient of the award funds will be required to pay for all fringe benefits provided to the Regional Coordinator and any salary paid to the Region: a minimum of $717,000 over 2010 and 2011.
Now, with respect to how MAIG funds can be used by municipalities, agreements between MAIG and the grant recipients specifically stipulate that “no portion of the grant may be used to support lobbying activities.” But just take a look at the grant requirements as described in a Memorandum of Understanding between MAIG and the city of Orlando uncovered by Judicial Watch:
Working to pass state or county laws requiring background checks for all gun sales at gun shows and/or a state law requiring the reporting of lost or stolen guns;
Working to pass a state law allowing broader local government control of gun laws so that local governments can enact gun laws that they determine would help protect public safety;
Working to pass a new state law requiring regular gun dealer inspections to detect possible sales to illegal gun traffickers.
Wouldn’t you say that “working to pass” and “lobbying” are essentially the same activity? Or sufficiently similar enough as to warrant an investigation and an explanation? We do. And that’s why we’re fighting for the records.
The bottom line here is that we have good reason to suspect that New York taxpayers have been forced to foot the bill for Mayor Bloomberg’s anti-gun group. We have records showing that other municipalities also foot part of his anti-gun lobbying efforts. And it is well past time for the public to have a full accounting from Mayor Bloomberg about MAIG taxpayer-funded activities. Given the document cover-up, it looks like Mayor Bloomberg has something to hide.
We talked about MAIG and our new lawsuit earlier this week at a fascinating panel held at JW’s DC headquarters on the Second Amendment. We had top notch experts address the topic, “The Second Amendment Under Attack.” You can watch the video of the panel here. I encourage you to watch as you will learn about efforts by the Obama administration and its Bloomberg-funded allies to take away your Second Amendment rights at the federal and state levels.
JW and AEF File Friend of Court Brief in Support of Virginia’s Efforts to Clean Voter Rolls
If you are a regular reader of my weekly update, you know that from time to time JW has partnered with the Allied Educational Fund (AEF) on a number of very important constitutional issues. (AEF is a charitable and educational foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life through education.)
Whether it’s protecting the institution of marriage in California, or fighting against racial preference policies in Michigan and Texas, or exposing a U.S. Census policy of improperly counting illegal aliens when apportioning seats in Congress, JW and AEF go to court when necessary to enforce the rule of law.
This time, we are fighting for election integrity in Virginia.
On Wednesday, JW and AEF announced the filing of an amicus curiae brief with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Alexandria Division in support of the Virginia Board of Election’s plan to remove as many as 57,000 voters deemed ineligible from the Virginia voter registration rolls in compliance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
Here’s the headline folks: Virginia Democrats are trying to make certain that individuals they surely know to be ineligible to vote are kept on the voter registration rolls! This remarkable effort demonstrates that liberals in Virginia will do anything to get their candidates elected – even if it means allowing votes from people who have no legal right to cast them.
According to the Judicial Watch-AEF amicus brief:
[The Democratic Party of Virginia], on the basis of almost no evidence, is asking this Court, sitting in equity, to issue an injunction that would retain and restore registrations that even the plaintiff believes to be invalid – thereby guaranteeing that Virginia’s voter rolls will become less accurate than they are at present. On its face, this relief is unreasonable and should be denied.
Stating that “the State Board of Elections has incorporated reasonably defined and prudent procedures for removing invalid registrations,” the Judicial Watch/AEF amici brief specifically focuses on three basic arguments:
1. Virginia Democrats presented almost no evidence to support a request for an injunction that would preserve tens of thousands of invalid registrations and actually restore the registrations of voters who no longer live in Virginia:
“While the [Virginia Democrats’] motion is long on innuendo, inference, and implication, it is remarkably short on evidence. Missing from the plaintiff’s complaint, from all of its supporting declarations and affidavits, and from its brief, is any reference to even a single instance where a voter was erroneously and permanently removed from Virginia’s voter rolls because of the IVRCP data or the procedures used by registrars.”
2. Virginia’s implementation of the multi-state crosscheck data to identify ineligible voters incorporates numerous safeguards to protect all truly eligible voters:
“[Virginia Democrats] argue that the registrars are acting without standards in deciding when to remove registrations. In making this argument, the plaintiff repeatedly quotes the directive to ‘use your best judgment’ contained in an email from the Board of Elections to the registrars … But … that paragraph starts by directing registrars to ‘closely review the data provided against the identified individual’s voter registration and voter history in VERIS,’ the State’s voter registration database, and it instructs the registrars to determine if ‘the individual may have registered in Virginia after their registration in another state’ … Finally, federal and state laws concerning provisional ballots ensure that even a voter whose registration was improperly cancelled can still cast a ballot on Election Day.”
3. Virginia has developed a model program that allows it to comply with federal laws requiring states to remove the registrations of voters who have moved to other states:
“Virginia’s participation in the [multi-state crosscheck effort] is an excellent example of reasonable, well-constructed and thoughtfully implemented program. The list generated by the multi-state comparison only indicates a duplicate if two records show a 100% match in first and last names, dates of birth, and the last four digits of a Social Security number. Yet, even where there is such a match, registrars have been counseled to review the database records for any indication that the match might be inaccurate, and to resolve any doubts by retaining a registration.”
On October 3, 2013, the Democratic Party of Virginia filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the State of Virginia in an effort to prevent it from removing ineligible voters from its voter rolls.
The Democratic Party alleges that the data used to conduct registration crosschecks with states participating in the Interstate Registration Crosscheck Program (IVRCP) is unreliable and that the procedures used by Virginia registrars to process the information generated are arbitrary. The Democratic Party lawsuit could force the state to restore voters deemed ineligible to its registration rolls while preventing any future use of the state’s IVRCP list to ensure that accurate voter registration rolls are maintained. With just weeks before elections, a hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for today, October 18.
What is at stake here is whether the integrity of next month’s Virginia election is going to be marred by dirty voting rolls. Clean elections shouldn’t take a back seat to partisan politics.
And make no mistake. This is not just about Virginia. JW’s Election Integrity Project is an ongoing 50-state campaign that has already prompted efforts in Florida, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and many other places across the country.
By the way, this amicus brief was filed by the head of JW’s election integrity campaign, Robert Popper, former Deputy Chief of the Voting Section at the Department of Justice and by J. Christian Adams, a former Trial Attorney in the Voting Section.
And regarding our partners in this effort, if you have a moment, feel free to visit the AEF website for more information on the Allied Educational Fund. The Foundation has engaged in a number of projects which include, but are not limited to, educational and health conferences domestically and abroad. We are pleased that AEF has so frequently partnered with Judicial Watch to fight government and judicial corruption and promote a return to ethics and morality in the nation’s public life.
Tom Fitton – President