May 17th, 2013
"We were just trying to be more efficient"~IRS Chief Steven Miller
Miller's [paraphrased] response to the question
(AP) - The ousted head of the Internal Revenue Service apologized to Congress on Friday for his agency's tougher treatment of tea party and other conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. He said they resulted from a misguided effort to handle a flood of applications, not political bias.
"I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided," Steven Miller, who has been acting IRS commissioner, told the House Ways and Means Committee as the panel held Congress' first hearing on the episode. "The affected organizations and the American public deserve better. Partisanship and even the perception of partisanship have no place at the Internal Revenue Service."
At a hearing that saw lawmakers from both parties harshly criticize his agency, Miller conceded that "foolish mistakes were made" by IRS officials trying to handle a flood of groups seeking tax-exempt status. He said the process that resulted in conservatives being targeted, "while intolerable, was a mistake and not an act of partisanship."
Though Miller and another top IRS official are stepping down, the chairman of the committee said that would not be enough.
"The reality is this is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers," said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.
At one point, anti-IRS sentiment was voiced by spectators, who included members of grass-roots conservative groups. They broke into cheers after Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., said, "This is absolutely an overreach, and this is an outrage for all Americans."
Camp also said the tougher examinations that conservative groups encountered seemed to be part of a "culture of cover-ups and intimidation in this administration." He offered no other examples.
Camp's remark about cover-ups drew a sharp retort from the committee's top Democrat, Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan. Levin said if the hearing became a preview of the 2014 political campaigns, "we'll be making a very, very serious mistake."
The administration has been forced on the defensive about last September's terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and the government's seizure of The Associated Press' telephone records as part of a leaks investigation.
Republicans are hoping to link the issues in an effort to raise questions about President Barack Obama's credibility and make it harder for him to press a second-term agenda.
Friday's hearing is the first of what are expected to be many on the subject by congressional panels. Underscoring the seriousness of the episode, Miller was sworn in as a witness, an unusual step for the Ways and Means panel and one that could put Miller in jeopardy if he is later shown to have misled lawmakers with his testimony.
When the hearing ended after nearly four hours, Camp said, "I promise the American people, this investigation has just begun."
Levin said that the IRS's mistreatment of conservative groups meant the agency "completely failed the American people." He said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that makes decisions about tax-exempt groups, should be "relieved of her duties."
Miller said the IRS struggled to efficiently handle growing numbers of applications for tax-exempt status.
The agency has said between 2008 and 2012, the number of groups applying for tax-exempt status as so-called social welfare groups more than doubled. Along with that was an increase in complaints that such groups were largely engaging in electoral politics, which is not supposed to be their primary activity.
"I do not believe partisanship motivated the people" at the IRS who engaged in the harsher screening for conservative groups, Miller said.
In recent months, Republicans on the Ways and Means panel had repeatedly asked the IRS about complaints from conservative groups that their applications were being treated unfairly.
On Friday, numerous Republicans wanted to know why Miller and others never told them the groups were being targeted, even after May 2012, when the IRS has said Miller was briefed on the practice. Miller was previously a deputy commissioner whose portfolio included the unit that made decisions about tax-exempt status.
"I did not mislead Congress or the American people," Miller told Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., one of several Republicans who challenged him about why he hadn't mentioned the targeting in the past.
Also testifying Friday was J. Russell George, the Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration.
In a report he issued this week, George said IRS officials reported they were not politically pressured to target conservative groups. Asked about that conclusion, George said Friday, "We have no evidence at this time to contradict that assertion," but in prepared testimony to the committee he said he is continuing to investigate that question.
George's report concluded that the IRS office in Cincinnati, which screened applications for the tax exemptions, improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for tougher treatment. The report says the practice began in March 2010 and lasted more than 18 months.
The report blamed "ineffective management" for letting IRS officials craft "inappropriate criteria" to review applications from tea party and other conservative groups, based on their names or political views. It found that the IRS took no action on many of the conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status for long periods of time, hindering their fundraising for the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Republicans have spent the past few days trying to link the IRS' improper scrutiny of conservatives to Obama. The president has said he didn't know about the targeting until last Friday, when Lerner acknowledged at a legal conference that conservative groups had been singled out.
Many of the groups were applying for tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations, which are allowed to participate in campaign activity if that is not their primary activity. The IRS judges whether that imprecise standard is met.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said the FBI was investigating whether the IRS may have violated applicants' civil rights.
Obama has rejected the idea of naming a special prosecutor to investigate the episode, saying the investigations by Congress and the Justice Department were sufficient.
Obama has named Daniel Werfel, a top White House budget officer, to replace Miller.
Also Thursday, Joseph Grant, one of Miller's top deputies, announced plans to retire June 3, according to an internal IRS memo. Grant is commissioner of the agency's tax exempt and government entities division, which includes the agents that targeted tea party groups for additional scrutiny.
Grant joined the IRS in 2005 and took over as acting commissioner of the tax exempt and government entities division in December 2010. He was just named the permanent commissioner May 8.
When asked whether Grant was pressured to leave, IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said Grant had more than 31 years of federal service and it was his personal decision to leave.
May 17th, 2013
So what do you get for a guy who has everything?
How about a highly trained and decorated US fighting man to hold your umbrella....
Yes, quite funny, however there is a much deeper aspect to this very telling photo.
This is, in fact, how much the President actually respects our fighting men in uniform.
Study the picture carefully....notice how the Marine has no umbrella?
Notice that Obama's arm is at his side and not being used, at all?
Any man truly of the people would never have let this happen, and yet, Obama feels that his protection from the elements is obviously more important than the Marine's protection. The Marine is simply one of his expendables, a piece within the "collective" who is not even worthy of being shown even a modicum of dignity.
Despite being far more highly trained than Obama ever was nor ever will be, Obama values himself more highly than this proud Soldier. Shoeshine, too, Mr. President?
This photo truthfully tells you everything else you ever needed to know about Barack Obama.
May 16th, 2013
A national labor board which has long been accused of making union-friendly decisions was dealt another blow Thursday, after a second federal appeals court found President Obama exceeded his power when he bypassed the Senate to appoint its members.
The ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia once again threatened to upend the National Labor Relations Board's decisions. And it has the potential to stall the board entirely, as well as challenge other federal agencies that have similar appointees.
For now, the Obama administration has tried to disregard the court decisions -- it has already appealed a similar ruling, from a Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to the Supreme Court.
In the 2-1 decision from the Philadelphia court, judges said Obama had no constitutional authority to install attorney Craig Becker to the labor board in 2010 while the Senate was adjourned for two weeks.
This is what's known as a recess appointment. But the court said that under the Constitution recess appointments can be made only between sessions of the Senate, not any time the Senate is away on a break.
"If the Senate refused to confirm a president's nominees, then the president could circumvent the Senate's constitutional role simply by waiting until senators go home for the evening," Judge D. Brooks Smith wrote in a 102-page decision.
The administration argues that such an interpretation would invalidate hundreds of recess appointments made by presidents over more than 100 years.
But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, emboldened by the decision, said Thursday that the ruling challenges Obama's "unprecedented power grab."
"It's time for the unlawfully appointed nominees to step down," he said.
Both rulings have threatened to throw the labor board, the Consumer Financial Protection Board and other federal agencies with recess appointees into chaos. If they stand, hundreds of decisions by these agencies could be thrown out.
Obama has made 32 recess appointments during his presidency, nearly all of which would be considered invalid under the interpretation of these courts. The rulings could also threaten the recess appointments of previous presidents. President George W. Bush made 141 such appointments in eight years.
The ruling, incidentally, came as a Senate panel considered a slate of five nominees for full terms on the labor board. Senate Republicans said Thursday they would oppose two of the nominees -- Sharon Block and Richard Griffin -- because they currently sit on the board as recess appointments.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, senior Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he would not consider Block and Griffin because they refused to step down from the board after the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that they were unconstitutionally appointed. Block and Griffin said they wanted to abide by their oath to serve their country and argued that appeals courts have reached different conclusions about recess powers.
Democrats on the panel accused Republicans of obstructionism because the GOP and its allies in the business community have been unhappy with some of the union-friendly decisions issued by the board during Obama's administration. Unions warn that unless the nominees are confirmed soon, the board will be unable to function. It only has three members now, and the term of board chairman Mark Pearce expires in August.
A lengthy dissent came from Judge Joseph Greenaway Jr., who was appointed by Obama and joined the court in 2010. Greenaway said that under the majority's decision, the recess appointment power "is essentially neutered and the president's ability to make recess appointments would be eviscerated."
The case was brought by New Vista, a New Jersey nursing and rehabilitative care center that argued its nurses were supervisors who were not allowed to form a union. The labor board ruled in favor of the union and New Vista appealed. The company argued that the board did not have enough validly appointed members to reach a decision because Becker was not a valid appointee.
The labor board has five seats and needs at least three sitting members to conduct business. At the time of the New Vista ruling, it had the minimum of three, but one member was Becker, the recess appointee.
Becker is no longer on the NLRB, but the current board also has only three members, two of whom are Obama recess appointees. More than a hundred companies have appealed NLRB decisions this year arguing that the board does not have enough validly appointed members to conduct business.
More from Fox
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
May 16th, 2013
By Mark Tapscott Executive Editor
Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS executive in charge of the tax exempt division in 2010 when it began targeting conservative Tea Party, evangelical and pro-Israel groups for harrassment, got more than $100,000 in bonuses between 2009 and 2012.
More recently, Ingram was promoted to serve as director of the tax agency's Obamacare program office, a position that put her in charge of the vast expansion of the IRS' regulatory power and staffing in connection with federal health care, ABC reported earlier today.
Ingram received a $7,000 bonus in 2009, according to data obtained by The Washington Examiner from the IRS, then a $34,440 bonus in 2010, $35,400 in 2011 and $26,550 last year, for a total of $103,390. Her annual salary went from $172,500 to $177,000 during the same period.
The 2010, 2011 and 2012 bonuses were awarded during the period when IRS harrassment of the conservative groups was most intense. The newspaper obtained the data via a Freedom of Information Act request.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., described the Ingram awards as "stunning, just stunning."
Earlier Thursday, The Washington Examiner reported that the IRS paid out more than $92 million in bonuses during the four-year period of Ingram's awards to her and nearly 17,000 other agency employees. Those bonuses averaged more than $5,500 per employee.
Go here for a spreadsheet of the salary and bonus data for IRS employees getting bonuses between 2009 and 2012.
More from the Washington Examiner
Mark Tapscott is executive editor of The Washington Examiner
May 16th, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service official in charge of the tax-exempt organizations at the time when the unit targeted tea party groups now runs the IRS office responsible for the health care legislation.
Sarah Hall Ingram served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations between 2009 and 2012. But Ingram has since left that part of the IRS and is now the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office, the IRS confirmed to ABC News today.
Her successor, Joseph Grant, is taking the fall for misdeeds at the scandal-plagued unit between 2010 and 2012. During at least part of that time, Grant served as deputy commissioner of the tax-exempt unit.
Grant announced today that he would retire June 3, despite being appointed as commissioner of the tax-exempt office May 8, a week ago.
As the House voted to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act Thursday evening, House Speaker John Boehner expressed “serious concerns” that the IRS is empowered as the law’s chief enforcer.
“Fully repealing ObamaCare will help us build a stronger, healthier economy, and will clear the way for patient-centered reforms that lower health care costs and protect jobs,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said.
“Obamacare empowers the agency that just violated the public’s trust by secretly targeting conservative groups,” Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., added. “Even by Washington’s standards, that’s unacceptable.”
Sen. John Cornyn even introduced a bill, the “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” which would prohibit the Secretary of the Treasury, or any delegate, including the IRS, from enforcing the Affordable Care Act.
“Now more than ever, we need to prevent the IRS from having any role in Americans’ health care,” Cornyn, R-Texas, stated. “I do not support Obamacare, and after the events of last week, I cannot support giving the IRS any more responsibility or taxpayer dollars to implement a broken law.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also reacted to the revelation late Thursday, stating the news was “stunning, just stunning.”
More From ABC News
ABC News’ Abby D. Phillip contributed to this report.