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Barack Obama: The George Wallace of Free Speech

The Supreme Court decided Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, but prominent Democrats in the South refused to accept the court’s ruling. For a decade thereafter, Democrats like Ross Barnett, Lester Maddox and George Wallace did everything they could to perpetuate race discrimination in public education. In one notorious instance in 1963, Democratic Governor Wallace stood in a schoolhouse door to personally block African-American students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.

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Something similar is happening with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, a landmark of First Amendment jurisprudence. Democrats refuse to accept the decision; Barack Obama denounced it in a State of the Union speech, and his example has been followed by many other Democrats–nearly all of whom, it should be added, misrepresent that case’s holding as they criticize it. Bitterly hostile to free speech when exercised by their political opponents, Democrats have done whatever they can to undermine Citizens United, just as they did decades ago with Brown vs. Board of Education.

The I.R.S. scandal can best be seen in this light. The Democrats are using the levers of the executive branch, particularly the I.R.S., to deter Americans from exercising the First Amendment rights that were guaranteed them by the Supreme Court. For a full history of the Obama administration’s assault on civil rights, read this letter of February 4 from Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to John Koskinen, newly-appointed Commissioner of the I.R.S. The letter is rather lengthy, but it deserves close attention.

Issa and Jordan recap their committee’s investigation into the I.R.S. scandal as it has proceeded to date, and conclude with a series of requests for the production of I.R.S documents. The letter and document requests are directed to the I.R.S.’s proposed new regulations on 501(c)(4) organizations which I wrote about in a post titled “The Obama Administration Moves to Silence 501(c)(4) Organizations.” Here are some excerpts from Issa and Jordan’s letter; you really should read the whole thing:

As written, the Administration’s proposed rule will stifle the speech of social welfare organizations and will codify and systematize targeting of organizations whose views are in conflict with those of the Administration. …

As the Committee’s investigation has shown, beginning in 2010, the Administration “orchestrated a sustained public relations campaign seeking to delegitimize the lawful political activity of conservative tax-exempt organizations and to suppress these groups’ right to assemble and speak.” …

The Committee’s investigation into the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt conservative applicants demonstrates that the proposed rule is simply the final act of the Administration’s history of attempts to stifle political speech by conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.

Issa and Jordan detail Lois Lerner’s role in the scandal. It is noteworthy that Lerner worked for the Federal Election Commission before moving over to the IRS. In a 2010 speech, Lerner described the immense pressure that the I.R.S. was under to “fix” the “problem” of free speech by conservative groups:

What happened last year was the Supreme Court–the law kept getting chipped away, chipped away, in the federal election arena. 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. The IRS laws are not set up to fix the problem: (c)(4)s can do straight political activity. They can go out and pay for an ad that says “Vote for Joe Blow.” That’s something they can do as long as their primary activity is their (c)(4) activity, which is social welfare.

So everybody is screaming at us right now: “Fix it now before the election. Can’t you see how much these people are spending?”

So, just as Democrats of the 1950s and 60s tried to fix the problem of racial integration, the Obama administration tried to fix the problem of free speech. Issa and Jordan continued:

According to the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), “[i]n defining candidate-related political activity for purposes of section 501(c)(4), these proposed regulations draw key concepts from federal election campaign laws….” Without explanation, the IRS co-opts the FEC’s time frames for electioneering communication, a specific type of communication within federal election law, to apply to any communication referring to a candidate. The proposal relies more heavily on federal election law than tax statute or IRS precedential regulatory material, without explanation. Rather than focus on whether political speech advances “social welfare,” as required by the governing statute, the IRS is using FEC standards to improperly expand restrictions on political speech for nonprofit groups. Thus, it appears that the IRS, in advancing the proposed Rule, is simply attempting to make up for the FEC’s loss of regulatory authority due to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. …

The rule was developed by those complicit in the targeting of the President’s enemies and conceived with the intention of stifling political speech under false pretenses. The unexplainable reliance and deference to FEC definitions of political activity made applicable to social welfare organizations further calls into question the underlying motivations of the proposal. Given the facts revealed through the course of the Committee’s investigation, allowing the rule to go forward can only be properly explained as the codification of the Administration’s desire to stifle the activities of non-profits with which it disagrees.

Hard-hitting stuff, but certainly justified by the Obama administration’s lawlessness. Who knows? Maybe next time the Freedom Club meets, we will find Barack Obama standing in the doorway, trying to block us from assembling.

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