Strassel: IRS Scandal's Roots in Obama's 2008 Campaign; Attacked Clinton, Edwards, Too

Strassel: IRS Scandal's Roots in Obama's 2008 Campaign; Attacked Clinton, Edwards, Too

Kimberly Strassel has a must-read column at the Wall Street Journal today that explains the context in which the IRS scandal emerged–not just during the Obama administration’s attempt to quash the Tea Party, but in Obama’s efforts to shut down all opposition, both Republican and Democratic, in the 2008 campaign.

Strassel notes that Bob Bauer, the Obama campaign (and later White House) general counsel, wrote letters to the Department of Justice in August 2008 attacking a conservative 501(c)4 called the American Issues Project for running an ad that highlighted Obama’s connection to former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Bauer did not stop there; he also contacted the Federal Election Commission. That same month, a left-wing activist created a 501(c)4 called Accountable America that was designed to intimidate GOP donors.

Earlier that year, Strassel notes, during the Democratic Party primary, Bauer had used the same tactics against a left-wing 501(c)4 that supported Hillary Clinton, and another against one supporting John Edwards. As even Ben Smith, then of Politico and a noted defender of the Obama campaign, noted:

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time Bauer has called for criminal investigations and prosecutions into the donors to independent groups critical of Obama, including one supporting John Edwards and another supporting Hillary Rodham Clinton. His words did have the effect of scaring their donors and consultants, but haven’t yet appeared to result in any prosecution.

There are many other examples that one can add to Strassel’s analysis. One that I remember with particular bitterness is from September 2008, when the Democratic National Committee and several Obama-aligned organizations pressured the Jewish community to un-invite Sarah Palin from a rally against Iran at the UN.

What happened was that a group of Jewish non-profit organizations had organized the rally and invited both Gov. Palin and Sen. Hillary Clinton. Clinton initially agreed to attend, but the Obama campaign was terrified at the prospect of her sharing a stage with Palin and sending a signal that Democrat women left frustrated by Clinton’s loss might switch parties. So they pressured Clinton to withdraw–and then pressured the Jewish groups to deny Palin a platform, claiming that the rally was now “partisan.” Jewish members of the Democratic National Committee reportedly made threats to challenge the groups’ IRS non-profit status.

J Street, which had only recently started up as an organization devoted to promoting criticism of Israel and Obama’s Middle East policy, joined in the pressure campaign, circulating a petition addressed to Jewish leader and rally organizer Malcolm Hoenlein. When Palin was un-invited, J Street celebrated its role in that deplorable display of thuggish intimidation of free speech and assembly: “We Won!” it boasted. (So did Iran, that day.)

The Obama campaign’s tactics weren’t confined to non-profit groups. Indeed, its present practice of trying to intimidate journalists emerged at the same time. In late August 2008, the Obama campaign organized an effort to shut down a radio interview between Chicago journalist Milt Rosenberg and conservative author Stanley Kurtz, who had just done the definitive research exposing the ties between Ayers and Obama. (The campaign declined an invitation to appear on the show itself.) The producer of the show later wrote: “It’s interesting to see what lengths the Obama campaign is willing to reach to stifle dissenting voices.”

Those of us who protested the Obama campaign’s tactics at the time were ignored, as were most who noted what the Obama administration later did to the Tea Party and conservatives. Strassel adds that Bauer came back for the Obama re-election campaign in 2012 and used the same tactics against Romney donors. 

“None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits,” she writes. “But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.” 

The important point is that the Obama administration’s behavior in the Benghazi scandal (intimidating whistleblowers), the IRS scandal (targeting conservative nonprofits and donors), and the AP and Rosen scandals (hounding individual journalists and news agencies) is a feature of Obama’s character and leadership, not a bug. He may know well enough to keep himself at arm’s length, to retain the façade of “plausible deniability.” But the pattern of behavior is becoming undeniable, as is Obama’s ultimate responsibility.

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