House GOP members determined to show that the actions of Barack Obama and his minions triggered the IRS targeting of politically conservative groups have released a 77-page report detailing the connections.
According to the report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called “Pressure from the Left Led the IRS and DOJ to Restrict Freedom of Speech,” the effort to target conservative groups was catalyzed by Obama’s January 2010 State of the Union Address, in which he “delivered a stunning rebuke” of the Supreme Court decision in favor of the group Citizens United.
Obama played fast and loose with the truth at the time, saying, “The Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse by foreign entities… And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.”
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, seated in the chamber at the time, famously muttered, “Not true,” prompting even the New York Times to examine Obama’s remarks and declare them inaccurate. Linda Greenhouse, the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence, and Joseph M. Goldstein, Senior Fellow at Yale Law School, wrote for the Times:
Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.” The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election.
The GOP report continues that Obama used his speeches as wielder of the “indisputably powerful” presidential bully pulpit to launch the effort to influence news outlets, thus encouraging the media to start the juggernaut rolling. The report also avers that Obama’s rhetoric also prompted IRS official Lois Learner to pursue Tea Party and other conservative groups that had attempted to secure tax-exempt status.
The report, supported by almost 100 news stories, remarks by Democratic legislators, and Lerner’s emails, states, “IRS employees read and acted upon the news reports. Put simply, as the president’s political rhetoric drove the national dialogue and shaped public opinion, the IRS received and responded to the political stimuli.” It also asserts that Obama continued to push his attack on conservative groups with a “rhetorical assault” in campaign-style speeches around the nation, and that less than a month after the SOTU, the IRS started pursuing the conservative groups’ tax-exempt status.
The report found 65 examples of Obama or congressional Democrats either sniping at the Supreme Court’s decision or arguing in favor of the Democrats’ failed Disclosure Act, which tried to change federal law and affect the Court’s decision by limiting campaign spending. Nancy Pelosi, who was the Speaker of the House in 2010, pontificated, “The decision undermines democracy and empowers the powerful. It opens the floodgates to a corporate takeover of our elections and invites unrestricted special interest dollars in our campaigns.”
By October 2010, the report states, the Justice Department had scheduled a meeting with the IRS to review how the Citizens United case would affect campaign-finance law. The very same month, Lerner spoke of the political pressure on the IRS to “fix the problem” that had been created by the Citizens United decision, saying that “everyone is up in arms” about the decision. She also intimated that the same people were pressuring the IRS to fix the problem before the 2012 presidential election.
The GOP is suspicious about the numerous e-mails from Lerner that have been declared missing; the IRS claims they vanished when Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011. The White House would not comment other than spokesman Josh Earnest calling the GOP’s suspicions “far-fetched.” He insisted that the Internal Revenue Service is making a good faith effort to find the emails.
But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, when asked whether he thought the White House would go so far as to delete the emails, said, “I do. I think you can’t put anything past this administration.”