What were once vices are now Dem priority

Kimberly Strassel’s weekly Wall Street Journal column “IRS targeting and 2014″ is something of a bombshell. As Mark Tapscott explains, Strassel reports that keeping the IRS “muzzle in place” for 2014 was Obama’s top priority during negotiations with House Republicans on the just-passed omnibus spending bill. The vehicle for keeping the muzzle in place is the recently proposed IRS rule that proscribes all kinds of educational activities that 501(c)(4) non-profits have routinely conducted.

In other words, the Obama administration seeks to achieve legally by regulation in 2014 what it achieved illegally by agents acting under orders in the 2012 election cycle. What were once vices are now to become the law.

They are certainly a Democratic priority. With the proposed IRS regulation on the table in the recent omnibus budget negotiations, Democrats sacrificed other items on their wish list to preserve the IRS regulation:

It’s IRS targeting all over again, only this time by administration design and with the raw political goal—as House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) notes—of putting “tea party groups out of business.”

Congressional sources tell me that House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) had two priorities in the omnibus negotiations. One was getting in protection for groups that morally oppose ObamaCare’s contraception-coverage requirement. The other was language that would put a hold on the IRS rule.

The White House and Senate Democrats had their own wish list, including an increase in funding for the International Monetary Fund, the president’s prekindergarten program and more ObamaCare dollars.

Yet my sources say that throughout the negotiations Democrats went all in on keeping the IRS rule, even though it meant losing their own priorities. In the final hours before the omnibus was introduced Monday night, the administration made a last push for IMF money. Asked to negotiate that demand in the context of new IRS language, it refused.

Strassel implicitly concedes that IRS targeting in the 2012 election cycle was not “by administration design.” It seems to me that her column equally supports the inference that the IRS targeting was by administration design the first time around. This time around they mean to regularize it.

Strassel observes that the 90-day comment period on the proposed IRS regulation ends on February 27, positioning the administration to shut down conservative groups early in this election cycle. Strassel leaves hanging the question why Republicans didn’t join issue with the Democrats on this point. One wants to shout: Get a clue, guys!

Our friend Cleta Mitchell makes a cameo appearance in Strassel’s column:

Treasury is also going to great lengths to keep secret the process behind its rule. Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represents targeted tea party groups, in early December filed a Freedom of Information Act request with Treasury and the IRS, demanding documents or correspondence with the White House or outside groups in the formulation of this rule. By law, the government has 30 days to respond. Treasury sent a letter to Ms. Mitchell this week saying it wouldn’t have her documents until April—after the rule’s comment period closes. It added that if she didn’t like it, she can “file suit.” The IRS has yet to respond.

Read Strassel’s column here.

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