Magazine article USA TODAY

Did the President Sic IRS on Tea Party to Undermine Supreme Court Decision?

Magazine article USA TODAY

Did the President Sic IRS on Tea Party to Undermine Supreme Court Decision?

Article excerpt

Pres. Barack Obama told Bill O'Reilly of Fox News that there is not even a "smidgen" of evidence to support the existence of an Internal Revenue Service scandal whereby the IRS unlawfully discriminated against Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status. It looks like Obama is deserving of another four Pinocchios from The Washington Post. E-mail correspondence from former IRS Tax Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner contradict the President's assertion and raise new questions concerning why the President would leap to a conclusion of innocence in the presence of so much evidence suggesting guilt.

Rep. Darrell Issa of California and other leading House Republicans on the Government Reform and Oversight Committee believe they now know the motive behind the targeting of Tea Party and conservative nonprofits by the IRS: an attempt to undermine the Supreme Court's 2010 verdict in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That five-to-four decision held restrictions on independent political expenditures by corporations, associations, and labor unions unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

The President and leading Democrats condemned the decision, viewing it as a major threat to election prospects for their party. Indeed, in his 2010 State of the Union Address, Pres. Obama went out of his way to send a salvo across the bow of the Supreme Court: "With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests--including foreign corporations--to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities--they should be decided by the American people."

Thereafter, the President repeatedly signaled that he wanted his Administration to undermine Citizens United. On Oct. 19, 2010, Lerner plainly revealed that she got the message, writing in an e-mail to her staff (that echoes the language used by Obama): "The Supreme Court dealt a huge blow, overturning a 100-year-old precedent that basically corporations couldn't give directly to political campaigns. And everyone is up in arms because they don't like it. The Federal Election Commission can't do anything about it. They want the IRS to fix the problem."

This thinking gave rise to the notion of causing Tea Party and conservative groups seeking tax exempt status to experience discriminatory treatment and excessive processing delays, thereby encumbering those groups' efforts to obtain sizable financial contributions directly preceding the 2010 midterm and 2012 presidential elections. …

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