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Republicans and Democrats Ignore IRS Abuse of Pro-Israel Group

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Two Republican chairs of congressional committees which have been investigating for the past several months what some have called IRS-Gate, penned an opinion piece which appeared in the Washington Post on Tuesday, August 6.

Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Dave Camp (R-Mich.) are the chairmen of, respectively, the House committees on Oversight and Ways and Means. In their opinion piece, “The IRS Scandals Inconsistencies,” the members of congress criticize the Internal Revenue Service for targeting politically conservative groups for discriminatory treatment.

The Republican congressmen also criticize their colleagues from the Democratic party and this Democratic administration for changing their story repeatedly about what happened, who was responsible, and who then tried to convince the American people that this was “not much of a scandal,” and then they attempted “to smear the inspector general” by “falsely equating routine scrutiny of progressive groups to tea party applications.”

But the Democrats aren’t the only ones who repeatedly refuse to ignore admissible evidence produced by the IRS itself, that the tax agency clearly, unequivocally and blatantly engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

The Republicans have also been ignoring or hiding a group that was wronged, perhaps because that group – unlike the Tea Party organizations – does not have a set of political defenders.   Unlike every other entity involved in this entire scandal and its investigation, this other group is truly apolitical.  The ardently pro-Israel organization Z STREET (of which this reporter is the president) was demonstrably discriminated against by the IRS, yet every member of congress has thus far ignored the group’s plight.

Z STREET brought a lawsuit against the IRS in August, 2010, claiming that the IRS had engaged in viewpoint discrimination, thereby violating the group’s First Amendment right to free speech.  The basis for the lawsuit were the statements made by the IRS agent in charge of Z STREET’s application to Z STREET’s tax lawyer that one, “the IRS had to give special scrutiny to organizations connected to Israel” and that two, some organizations’ applications had to be “sent to a special unit in Washington, D.C. to determine whether the activities of the organization contradicted the public policies of this Administration.”

While the Justice Department, which represents the IRS in litigation, concocted several defenses to Z STREET’s claims, they ultimately came up with a justification they deemed so bulletproof they offered a set of sworn statements by IRS officials why the IRS applied special scrutiny to Z STREET’s application.  The justification?  It is because Z STREET supports “Israel, which is a country with a higher risk of terrorism,” and therefore Z STREET might be funding terrorists.

The IRS stuck to its guns on this “Israel as a terrorist state” defense.  However, they could not have predicted that the ranking member of the Democrats for Cong. Camp’s own committee – Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich) of the House Ways and Means Committee – was going to blow its cover.

That happened on June 24, when Cong. Levin released a series of documents produced by the IRS which he thought proved the IRS had targeted groups that were politically liberal (the term on the chart was “progressives”), and therefore the admitted targeting of politically conservative groups could not have been politically motivated.

But, as the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George explained, and as becomes clear by merely reviewing the charts, the “progressives” were listed as an historical issue of concern, and the motivation for the interest was whether or not those organizations should have filed a 501(c)(4) application which is for politically active groups, rather than for a 501(c)(3) application which is for groups engaged in educating the public.

However, those same charts created and produced by the tax agency itself reveal that the IRS created a category called “Occupied Territory Advocacy,” which dealt with groups which discuss the “disputed territories in the Middle East.” This category did show up on the IRS BOLO (Be on the Look Out) tab of the charts, unlike the “progressives” category.

Whatever the heck the IRS is supposed to be doing when it examines applicants for tax exempt status, it should not be looking at the ideological positions the organization takes with respect to the Middle East conflict.  Especially when the organization is engaged solely in educating about the issues, and doesn’t use donors’ funds to give grants to anything, anywhere, for anything.

And, despite the sworn statements by IRS officials, the word “terrorism” is nowhere to be found on any of the charts created by the IRS to show what kinds of organizations received additional scrutiny of their applications for tax exemption.

But somehow that slam dunk example of blatant viewpoint discrimination, delivered with a ribbon and a bow from Cong. Levin, escaped the notice of everyone who claims to be “servants of the people.”

Nope, unless an organization has political juice, it appears neither the Democrats or the Republicans care when the constitutional rights of a group of Americans have been violated by a U.S. government agency.

A pox on both their houses.

IRS fears Disclosure Above All Else, Offer Made in Court Confirms

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

On Friday, July 19, in federal district court in Washington, D.C., Department of Justice lawyers who have the misfortune of having to represent the Internal Revenue Service were forced to reveal exactly how desperate the IRS is to keep its deep, dark secrets buried.

The hearing was held to determine whether the IRS would succeed in convincing the court to dismiss Z STREET’s lawsuit for viewpoint discrimination, before any of the claims alleged by Z STREET can be examined.

It is critical for the IRS to succeed at this stage of litigation, because if it does, Z STREET will be barred from finding out whether the IRS acted in an unconstitutional manner in setting aside its application for tax exempt status.  If the IRS succeeds at this stage, no questions will be permitted into how it is that, according to documents produced by the IRS, the application for tax exempt status of an organization with a viewpoint about Israel which differs from this administration’s was pulled aside for extra scrutiny.

Over the course of more than an hour, and despite federal Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s  increasingly apparent frustration with the shifting legal positions of the IRS, the DoJ lawyer said two things that should make everyone who is following the IRS scandals raise their eyebrows right through their hairlines.

ONLY YES OR NO TO EXEMPTION, NOT HOW OR WHY

The IRS has repeatedly sought to characterize Z STREET’s claim as one brought under Section 7824 of the Internal Revenue Code, which requires applicants to wait 270 days after filing their tax exemption application before going to court and asking it to make a determination where the IRS had thus far failed to do so.  And each time the IRS set up what it insisted was Z STREET’s claim, it then pointed out that Z STREET did not wait long enough to bring such a claim, and therefore Z STREET’s suit had to be dismissed.

Z STREET filed its lawsuit against the IRS 239 days after filing for its tax exempt status.  Had Z STREET’s lawsuit  been brought in order to obtain a determination about its tax exemption status – an approval or a denial – the IRS would have been correct in seeking to have the pro-Israel organization’s lawsuit dismissed.  But the IRS is the only litigant who ever raised Section 7824 in the course of the litigation, not Z STREET, the party which filed suit.

Despite that track record, in court on Friday, the IRS offered to waive this statutory requirement – if only Z STREET would abandon its effort to find out what the IRS’s policy about such applications has actually been.

How nice.  Except Z STREET did not bring this lawsuit as a way to find out if its application for tax exempt status was accepted or denied.

As Alana Goodman of the Washington Free Beacon observed from her seat in the court room on July 19, the judge finally lost her temper in response to the repeated insistence by the IRS that Z STREET already had a remedy, the Section 7824 proceeding, to determine whether it was entitled to tax exempt status.  As Goodman wrote:  “”That’s not what they want,’ Judge Jackson snapped.”

This insistence by the IRS that Z STREET had a remedy for its legal claim: it could be assured that the court would provide it with a constitutionally valid process and given an up or down decision pursuant to a Section 7824 ruling, ultimately brought the judge to ask the Justice Department lawyer a critical question.  She asked whether, in the opinion of the IRS, there is any way for Z STREET to obtain the relief that it – not the IRS’s mischaracterization of its claim -  has repeatedly stated in every court filing it wants. In other words, can Z STREET find out whether the IRS violated its constitutional rights by treating its application differently on the basis of its viewpoint.

No, according to the IRS, it can’t.

In other words, the IRS says you can get the little ticket that comes out of the black box called “IRS Tax Exempt Determinations,” which will say either “approved” or “denied,” but you cannot, no way, no how, lift the lid off that black box and look inside.

But looking inside that black box is precisely what Z STREET wants.  It is the only way to determine whether the IRS violated the constitutional rights of Z STREET and of any other organization which complains, at any time, of a discriminatory process employed by the IRS in making its determinations.

Judge Brown asked Z STREET’s lawyer, Jerome M. Marcus, whether the organization could use the Freedom of Information Act to get at the information it is seeking in its lawsuit.

Marcus pointed out that route would not be productive. There are numerous FOIA exceptions which the IRS would certainly use as a shield to prevent the black box from being opened. FOIA is not an option.

Nope, it’s either a court which will allow citizens who believe their constitutional rights have been violated by the IRS to provide the mechanism to find out, or the IRS will be, as so many Americans already believe it to be, a rogue agency able to act with impunity, and able to invoke immunity from prying eyes.

So it comes down to this: Z STREET has alleged that the IRS employed a constitutionally tainted process to evaluate certain applicants for tax exempt status, while the IRS’s position is that there is no way for any complainant to inquire about that process.

IRS INSISTS A “GOOD ENOUGH” REMEDY IS ADEQUATE EVEN FOR UNCONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNTMENT ACTS

The second thing the IRS did, through its DOJ lawyers, was insist that Z STREET should not be and will not be able to get the relief they want. An organization – in this case, Z STREET, but it would apply to any organization – claiming the IRS violated its Constitutional rights should be satisfied with a “good enough” remedy – “not perfect,” but good enough.

That this is the IRS position came through in the gentle – mostly – probing from Judge Jackson, who understood that the IRS desperately wants to prevent Z STREET from looking inside its black box.

Judge Jackson understood that what Z STREET wants, and the reason it filed its lawsuit in August, 2010, is to find out whether, as it believes, the IRS discriminated against the pro-Israel organization because of its political position.  And the only way to find out whether that is the case is not to merely wait and see whether it is approved or denied the opportunity to be a tax exempt non-profit corporation.  The only way to make that determination is to open up the black box of the IRS Exempt Organizations Determinations unit and look inside, and see whether the process the IRS used was a constitutionally valid one or an invalid one.

Marcus explained: “if the IRS was sending applicants with blue eyes to wait behind Door Number One, through which they will pass without any delay, but the IRS was sending applicants with green eyes to wait behind Door Number Two, where what awaits them is a different, and more lengthy examination, then the minute Green Eyes are sent to wait behind Door Number Two is the moment a constitutional violation occurs.”

“And the moment that constitutional violation occurs and the Green Eyes become aware that they were sent someplace different, and were subject to a process more onerous than were the Blue Eyes, is the moment they have been discriminated against and, therefore, the time to raise that constitutional claim in court.”

The position of the IRS is one that means no one can ever find out if the IRS acted in an unconstitutional manner, all they can do is find out whether they can get, or be denied, tax exempt status.  That would put the IRS above the Constitution.  That cannot be right.

Judge Jackson will take the court filings and the arguments raised in court on July 19, under advisement.  There is no timetable for when she will rule.

Full Disclosure: This reporter is the president of Z STREET

IRS: We Targeted Supporters of Israel’s Disputed Territories

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Ever since the beginning of the scandal concerning the United States Internal Revenue Service and the claims that it had a policy of treating differently – as in worse – organizations seeking tax exemptions if those organizations held positions in conflict with this US administration, there have been doubters.

And, of course, the way the story has been spun fans the flames of doubt – yes, the IRS finally admitted, after years of denial, that it had targeted certain groups and subject some groups to extra scrutiny, but there was no political impetus for the inappropriate action, there was just poor oversight of overworked civil service employees who were just trying to streamline their jobs.  Heck, the claim went, that was wrong, but what we now recognize as inappropriate actions weren’t taken for political purposes. That was the claim.

The IRS is trying desperately to make glib admissions, have some heads roll, even parade some of those heads around to show how seriously the IRS takes its need to be punished.  But now, it’s time to move on.  The IRS is even providing a kind of amnesty for many of the politically conservative groups that complained – they are getting hand-delivered approval letters, and future applicants will be assured of an easier time going forward.

So, maybe it is time to move on?

Well, one little organization (the one this reporter founded and of which she is the president) refuses to go flying no matter how hard the IRS is shaking its leg to free itself.

Z STREET claimed when it filed its lawsuit for viewpoint discrimination against the IRS in August, 2010, that the IRS treated Z STREET differently subjecting it to additional scrutiny, because of its ideological views.

Two things happened on Monday, June 24, that proved, finally, that Z STREET – and others similarly situated – was correct.

First, the IRS released its 83 page document, “Charting a Path Forward at the IRS,” in response to the Treasury Department’s Inspector General who found that the IRS had engaged in inappropriate targeting of certain groups which had sought tax exempt status from the IRS.

The IRS Path Report begins:

The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention.

Well, there you have it.  The IRS admitted that it made decisions based on policy positions, rather than on prohibited activity.  That is exactly what Z STREET claimed – that it had been discriminated against because it holds positions that “contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

The second revelation was one made by Bloomberg News.  That media agency obtained IRS documents revealing that, in addition to the terms Tea Party and 9/12, other terms were used in flagging organizations seeking tax exempt status for additional scrutiny.  While the headline of the article, and what was the object of most media attention, was that terms that suggested not just conservative groups, but also liberal or progressive groups were given the IRS evil eye – words such as “occupy” and “progressive” were allegedly triggers, as was the word “Israel.”

But far down in a long article the Bloomberg reporter explains that, “Disputed Territories” was considered problematic.  To wit:

‘Disputed Territories”

The November, 2010 [BOLO - Be On the Look Out] list also has terms that could be related to Israel, looking for applications that ‘deal with disputed territories in the Middle East’ and ‘may be inflammatory.’

Well, golly!  What kind of a group calls a particular area of land “disputed territories,” which the vast majority of people, either for ideological or simply conformity refer to as the “West Bank?”  Yes, that would be strong Zionist groups such as Z STREET.

That the IRS chose to handle Z STREET’s application in a particular way on the basis of our organization’s position on this issue, and the fact that someone within the IRS even took the time to think such a position might ‘be inflammatory,’ is about as close as can be to a smoking gun revealing the IRS engaged in naked viewpoint discrimination.

That foul activity cannot be waved away.  Its stench is one that will only dissipate after there is a thorough investigation into how the  decision was made to use this particular criterion for evaluating an application.  Who approved that decision?  How many people knew about it?  How many organizations were subjected to it?

IRS and Mas Hachnasa to Increase Cooperation

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

According to the Mas Hachnasa (Israel Tax Authority) website, senior members of the IRS, met yesterday in Jerusalem with the Tax Authority director, Moshe Asher and other senior tax officials, to discuss strengthening cooperation between the authorities. The meeting placed an emphasis on the exchange of information between the two tax authorities and the authorities’ commitment to mutual assistance.

Make Room for Islamistgate: the Obama Administration’s New Scandal

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

Up to now the Obama Administration has faced three big scandals—the IRS, the bugging of AP and Fox, and Benghazi. And now here is scandal Number 4:

For the last four years the Obama Administration has conducted a major “outreach” program to Islamic groups in the United States and in the Middle East. Patrick Poole has been investigating this project and in a comprehensive article now presents the full scoop and scope of what’s been going on. His article, “Blind to Terror: The U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Policy” in the new, Summer, issue of MERIA Journal is a gamechanger

You may think that you know about this subject but it goes far beyond what you have heard about. The majority of groups and individuals promoted by the Obama Administration have been radical Islamists, particularly Muslim Brotherhood cadre, and more than occasionally people involved in terrorist activity.

Moderate Muslims have been neglected and isolated by this project which has helped the radicals, Islamists, and pro-terrorists gain hegemony in the Muslim community in America.

Again, you may think that you know this story but it is far more extensive than has ever before been revealed. Often, the White House and FBI have granted access and worked with those who were simultaneously being investigated on serious charges of terrorism.

The whole “outreach” program has been a farce and it would be charitable to describe it as incompetent on the part of the Obama Administration.  Patrick Poole pulls all of the material together for the first time and shows serious flaws that have endangered Americans in scores of cases.

Radicals have been given credentials as moderates, been provided with information that should have remained secret, been allowed to advise and influence U.S. policy. The kind of government mishandling of terrorist threats that characterize the Fort Hood case and the Boston bombing has been business as usual.

Here is a portion of Patrick Poole’s article:

“When President Obama hosted his annual Iftar dinner in August 2010 to commemorate the Muslim celebration of Ramadan, the list of invitees published by the White House was curiously missing the names of several attendees – all of whom were top leaders of organizations known to be purveyors of jihadist ideology and implicated by federal prosecutors in financing terrorism.[

“But it wasn’t like they had crashed the party. In fact, one of the individuals missing on the official White House list, Mohamed Majid, president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), was pictured in a news service photograph sitting at the front table just a few feet from the president as he spoke When Majid was hailed by Time Magazine in November 2005 as a “moderate Muslim cleric” that was helping the FBI fight terrorists, he quickly published an open letter to his congregation on the mosque’s website assuring his congregants that he was doing no such thing stating that his relationship with the FBI was a one-way street only to communicate Muslim community concerns – not to report on individuals suspected of terrorist activity.

“It was just a few years ago the Attorney General of the United States was canceling Muslim outreach events for the sole reason that Majid would be present at the meeting, because the Department of Justice had just named ISNA as an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in American history.

“But Majid’s connection to terrorism goes back even farther than that, since the offices of the mosque he leads, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, were raided by U.S. Customs authorities in March 2002 in a wide-sweeping terror finance investigation. In an affidavit requesting a search warrant for the raids, Customs Agent David Kane testified that Majid’s mosque was being used to launder hundreds of thousands of dollars for the targeted terror finance network that shared offices with ADAMS. An appendix to the Customs Service affidavit also names eleven ADAMS Center officials as targets of their terror finance investigation.And yet Majid and the ADAMS Center are still considered legitimate outreach partners by the FBI.

“This was just the most recent episode in the disastrous attempts at outreach to the Muslim community since the 9/11 attacks. And with the release in 2011 of President Obama’s strategic plan to combat “violent extremism” to expand outreach to these same terror-tied groups, the present administration seems intent on compounding the disaster wrought by previous administrations.”

Political Financial Interference: The IRS Scrutiny of Charities in Judea and Samaria

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

If you are an American, there is nothing illegal about contributing money, as a donation to a charitable cause, to a project abroad.

But in the eyes of an American administration, funding educational, social welfare, recreational sports or other such projects in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is a pain, a political pain and not an illegal pain.

So what do they do?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Why the special scrutiny for pro-Israel groups? A New York Times article in July 2010 provided a clue: Tax-exempt groups were donating to West Bank settlers, and State Department officials wanted the settlers out. “As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank,” the Times wrote, “the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.”

Did the T-men take their political cues from such stories, or did Administration officials give them orders? Either explanation would be a violation of public trust.

This would also suggest a pattern: Washington officials sent a message for tougher scrutiny of certain 501(c) groups, and the IRS coincidentally adjusted its enforcement regime…There’s still much we don’t know about the scandal of politicized tax enforcement.

Will someone sue the government?

US Treasury Openly Fighting Settlements, Pro-Israel Groups (Video)

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Did the IRS also target tax-exempt groups that opposed Administration policy priorities? The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday mentioned the case of Z Street, a Pennsylvania pro-Israel group whose president is none other than The Jewish Press’ Lori Lowenthal Marcus.

Z Street (you get the idea behind the name, right? Z for Zionist versus J Street for Jews who hate Zionism) filed for 501(c)(3) status in December 2009, as an educational group. According to Lori, their tax attorney called the IRS in July 2010 to find out why it was taking so long to receive the status, and the IRS auditor on the case, Diane Gentry, said the application was taking so long because auditors were supposed to give special scrutiny to groups “connected with Israel.”

Folks, this is nightmare territory, except, it turns out, all your nightmares have been real. The U.S. may declare its friendship to “the Jewish State” night and day, but when it comes down to the reality of tax exemptions, you’ll get a better treatment if you’re associated with Hamas than with right-wing issues in Israel.

Lori told the WSJ that Gentry, the auditor, explained that many applications related to Israel had to be sent to “a special unit in D.C. to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

This is Venezuelan style democracy, folks. And the fact that the IRS auditor was citing it mater-of-fact like, suggests it was actual policy, and, as such, a blatant violation of every known democratic principle.

Z Street filed suit in August 2010 in federal court in Pennsylvania on the grounds of “viewpoint discrimination,” and its case has since been moved to Washington, D.C.

The WSJ cites a New York Times article published July 2010, that stated: “Tax-exempt groups were donating to West Bank settlers, and State Department officials wanted the settlers out.”

“As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank,” the NYT wrote, “the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.”

The hearing of the Z Street case is scheduled for July 2, in Washington DC. Bring your placards!

Below are two of Lori’s TV appearances, most recently with Newsmax’s Steve Malzberg, and a few days earlier with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren.




Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/us-treasury-openly-fighting-settlements-pro-israel-groups-video/2013/05/29/

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