Boy, it sure makes a primary or election contest easier when your opponent pulls out, don’t you think? Barack Obama has been managing to do that since he won the Democratic nomination for state senator in Illinois in 1996, and it helps explain the IRS harassment of conservatives and Tea Party groups since 2010. Whereas once Obama targeted candidates to get them to pull out, from 2010 onward, he had the IRS and possibly other federal agencies target groups that represented a set of ideas, hoping to get those ideas to withdraw from the race. The pattern has been the same: get the opposition to leave.
In 1996, as he faced an incumbent state senator and two other challengers for the Democratic nomination for state senator in a heavily-Democratic district in Chicago, then-candidate Barack Obama directed his campaign staff to challenge the candidacy petitions of his opponents. By disqualifying signatures one by one, as one local columnist put it, Obama “made sure voters had but one choice.”
Then, in 2004, not only in the Democratic nomination for United States Senator from Illinois, but in the general election, Team Obama perfected the art of getting confidential documents on Obama’s opponents unsealed.
First, Obama’s primary opponent had to try and explain to the voters the contents of recently-unsealed divorce records, which included allegations of spousal violence. The former front-runner finished third, far behind the winner, Barack Obama. Then, in the 2004 general election, Republican nominee Jack Ryan ended his race for the Senate after child custody records were unsealed, revealing allegations of wild forays at sex clubs with his actress wife, Jeri Ryan.
Is it any wonder that once President Obama’s signature accomplishment, Obamacare, came under scathing criticism from Tea Party groups in 2010, that the IRS suddenly began to give extra scrutiny, and in many cases deny non-profit status to groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their name? The extra IRS scrutiny and audits were blamed on a few “rogue” IRS agents in Cincinnati, but the scandal is big enough to be blamed for the harassment of over 500 conservative groups. Reportedly, 63% of all Tea Party-related groups that applied for non-profit status since 2010 eventually withdrew their applications, obviously limiting donations to these groups, and their ability to promote conservative ideas. Government harassment works.
With the non-profit voter integrity group “True The Vote,” a delayed application for non-profit status was only the beginning. In the two years since the group applied for non-profit status, the founder and her family’s business became targets of other government agencies, including the FBI, the ATF, and OSHA.
And despite denials to the contrary, evidence suggests direction from the top of the executive branch. An anonymous IRS official employee from the Cincinnati office confirmed that orders of singling out organizations based on political belief is something that would only “come from the top.”
Old Chicago habits die hard, and during the 2012 campaign, the Obama campaign website posted the names of 15 prominent donors to Mitt Romney’s campaign, sending the message far and wide to investigate these people, possibly unsealing any confidential files, at the least dissuading other possible Romney supporters from donating to the campaign.
Apparently the IRS and the Labor Department took the bait and audited one of the listed Romney donors, Frank VanderSloot. Within weeks of being listed on the Obama website, IRS agents audited VanderSloot’s personal and business tax returns, and the Labor Department even investigated VanderSloot’s business. VanderSloot says he is not the only person on that list to be audited.
How extensive is this scandal? As far as we know today, the IRS took the lead in harassing conservatives and Tea Party groups, occasionally joined by the Department of Justice, OSHA, the ATF, and the Labor Department. If you were to add some news of spying on reporters – that was announced Monday — then it all becomes reminiscent of the following exchange from the 1976 movie All the President’s Men:
Bob Woodward: Segretti told me and Bernstein that…
Deep Throat: [interupting] Don’t concentrate on Segretti. You’ll miss the overall.
Bob Woodward: The letter that destroyed the Muskey candidacy… did that come from inside the White House?
Deep Throat: You’re missing the overall.
Bob Woodward: What overall?
Deep Throat: The people behind all of this were frightened of Muskey and that’s what got him destroyed. They wanted to run against McGovern. Look who they’re running against. They bugged offices, they followed people, falsified press leaks, passed fake letters… they canceled Democratic campaign rallies, they investigated Democratic private lives, they planted spies, they stole documents… and now don’t tell me that all of this was the work of one Donald Segretti.
Substitute the phrase “a few rogue IRS officers from Cincinnati” for Doanld Segretti, and a few other updates, and this exchange gives a glimpse at how big and how far this scandal may go. But one thing is for sure: all of these actions are part of an old Obama pattern since his days in Illinois of doing whatever it takes to get one’s opponents, be they candidates or groups, to withdraw from the competition of ideas.
This column was originally published in Front Page Magazine