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November 26, 2015 / 14 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Lois Lerner’

V15 – Look Who is Behind the New US Democratic-Style Campaign in Israel

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

There’s a new grassroots, door-to-door knocking, community organizing style campaign effort that just landed in Israel. It’s focused on hoping for change and changing for hope and taking-the-street-to-the-street style shake it up electioneering.

Flying in to run the show is none other than Jeremy Bird. The same Bird who was the deputy national campaign director and then national campaign director for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, respectively.

The new outfit is called V15 (as in Victory 2015), and it is a project of something called OneVoice, which is itself a program of the PeaceWorks Network, a non-profit, tax-exempt entity. Really. Funding this political campaign effort.

V15 sent out a press release in which it described itself as a “a non-partisan movement founded by young adults just as the 2015 Israeli elections were announced, V15 members have set aside party affiliation to disrupt the status quo.” But just about everybody else is calling it the “Anybody but Bibi” campaign.

So who is behind this V15, in addition to Obama’s former campaigns director? Well, as we learn from J.E Dyer, over at Liberty Unyielding, when OneVoice was formed in 2003, its inaugural board of advisers included Gary Gladstein. And who is Gladstein? He used to be the chief operations officer of Soros Fund Management. As in George Soros. Doesn’t it feel as if everything really, really awful has Soros’ fingerprints somehow, someway?

OneVoice explains in its 2014 Annual Report that it is dedicated to peaceful solutions in the Middle East. This is how it describes the actions it takes to bring about change:

promoting popular resistance, state-building, and the Arab Peace Initiative, while advocating for an end to the conflict and a two-state solution along the 1967 borders.

Hmm. Something is missing there. Nothing about ending terrorism or violence or incitement.

And it’s pretty much the same view of how to “resolve” the Middle East conflict that flows out of the White House and Foggy Bottom. In Secretary of State John Kerry’s requiem for Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, he cited as one of the king’s greatest contributions, that the “courageous Arab Peace Initiative that he sponsored remains a critical document for the goal we shared of two states, Israel and Palestine.” 

Making cameo appearances in the OneVoice 2014 Annual Report are both Tzippi Livni and J Street. Not quite so apolitical as it claims.

Here’s another problematic aspect of this whole V15/OneVoice/PeaceWorks Network Foundation campaign effort. What does the PeaceWorks Foundation have to say about its OneVoice project on its tax return? It describes this project as an organization which “aims to amplify the voice of the silent majority of moderates who wish for peace and prosperity. These efforts are known as the OneVoice movement.”

And on its tax form, where it is required to state the purpose of grants it makes to entities or organizations outside of the U.S., including the grants it makes to the “Middle East and Africa,” the purpose it states is “educate peace and condemn violence.”  Nothing about running a campaign field office. And how could it, given it is a 501(c)(3) entity. Where is Lois Lerner when you need her?

Finally, there is another source of information about the kinds of bedfellows the V15/OneVoice/PeaceWorks Network keeps. It is the listing it provides of its partners. Along with at least half a dozen “peace” organizations and even the UK Conservative Party, it has lots of questionable listings. Those include: Association of British Muslims, the Christian Muslim Forum, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the New Israel Fund, Yachad (the “British J Street”), Labour Friends of Palestine & the Middle East, the UK Labour Party and Labour Friends of Israel.

"partner" of V15's parent organization

“partner” of V15’s parent organization

Their partners also include the European Commission and the U.S. Department of State.

There will be much more to come on V15.

One Chance to Hold the IRS Accountable?

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Though the IRS and its commissioner have been on the hot seat in recent congressional hearings, there is little doubt that the agency and the Obama administration believe they can ride out the storm by stonewalling Republicans asking questions about the scandal and the missing emails that are now at the center of the controversy. But an otherwise obscure legal challenge to the tax-collecting bureaucracy may hold the key to bringing some measure of accountability to the nation’s tax collectors.

As we’ve noted numerous times here, there are still a lot of unanswered questions about how and why the IRS singled out conservative groups for scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. But concern about this blatantly illegal political bias has been only compounded by the revelation that the emails of the woman at the center of the affair—department chief Lois Lerner—were lost in a mysterious computer crash.

It now turns out that not only was the damaged computer hard drive recycled but that the agency also erased its own email servers. As has been pointed out repeatedly by IRS critics, taxpayers and corporations are required by law to preserve all of their communications for seven years in case they might be audited. But the IRS, a government body with nearly unlimited powers to wreck the lives of individuals that come under its scrutiny, doesn’t live by the same laws that they rigorously enforce against ordinary citizens.

But despite the suspicious nature of the missing emails and the fact that the agency cancelled the contract of the IT service provider at the same time that it lost vital information at the heart of this scandal, there seems little that critics can do about it other than to hound IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in hearings. Though his story is merely a sophisticated version of the old “dog ate my homework” excuse, Koskinen hasn’t lost his cool or cracked under the pressure. That’s due to what appears to be a thick hide and his confidence that congressional Democrats will always cover for the administration no matter how outrageous its behavior.

Since Lerner has pled the Fifth Amendment in her attempt to avoid answering questions and Attorney General Eric Holder will never launch a genuine investigation of this affair or appoint a special prosecutor, it doesn’t seem like the angry Republicans can do much but to huff and puff at Koskinen or any other hapless IRS official that attempts to tell the same lame story he’s been trying to sell Congress.

But, as I noted last month, there appears to be one hope, albeit a slim one, for some measure of accountability about the IRS’s unconstitutional behavior: a lawsuit by a small pro-Israel group* that was told by agency employees that its application for non-profit status was being scrutinized because of its opposition to the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

After years of stonewalling the case, the IRS was dealt a staggering legal setback last month when a federal judge ordered that the agency must answer the lawsuit. That response is due today. But the events of the last few weeks in which we have learned of the disappearance of Lerner’s emails makes it all the more interesting since as the defendant in the case, the IRS had the obligation to preserve all records relating to the alleged discrimination against Z Street.

Since Lerner was the official supervising those who were dealing with Z Street during this period, that makes the missing evidence even more crucial. Moreover, as the plaintiffs pursue their case they will have the ability to compel IRS officials to testify as to their practices and produce all records. If they don’t, that will only strengthen Z Street’s case.

Courts Open Window on the IRS’s Political Litmus Tests

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Interest in the Internal Revenue Service’s outrageous practice of subjecting politically conservative groups to discriminatory treatment has died down a bit since the revelations about this scandal first hit the news a year ago. But a court decision that was handed down earlier this week about a similar instance of potential government misconduct may shed more light on the way the Tea Party and other right-wing organizations were given the business by Lois Lerner and the rest of what appears to be a highly politicized bureaucracy at the heart of our tax collection system.

On Tuesday, Federal Judge Ketanje Brown Jackson issued the first substantive ruling in any suit that challenged the IRS’s pose of political neutrality under the Obama administration. The case concerns Z Street, a Philadelphia area-based pro-Israel organization that filed for tax-exempt status in December 2009 because of its role in educating the public about Israel and the Middle East conflict. The group’s founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote in the Jewish Press this week about what followed:

On July 19, 2010, when counsel for Z STREET spoke with the IRS agent to whom the organization’s application had been assigned, that agent said that a determination on Z STREET’s application may be further delayed because the IRS gave “special scrutiny” to organizations connected to Israel and especially to those whose views “contradict those of the administration’s.”

Z Street subsequently sued the government and rightly argued that its constitutional rights had been violated because of the “viewpoint discrimination” that the IRS agent had openly displayed. Now after years of delays, Judge Jackson has ruled that by asserting that Z Street had no right to sue, the government had tried to “transform a lawsuit that clearly challenges the constitutionality of the process … into a dispute over tax liability.” She similarly dismissed the government’s claims of sovereign immunity.

What has this got to do with the Tea Party and its complaints? Plenty.

As the Wall Street Journal editorial page noted yesterday:

This ruling will force the IRS to open its books on the procedures it used and decisions it made reviewing Z Street’s tax-exempt application, procedures it has tried to keep shrouded. As the case proceeds, Z Street’s attorneys can seek depositions from many who have been part of the larger attempt to sit on similar applications by other conservative groups.

In other words, this case may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back of the IRS’s politically prejudicial policies. If an IRS agent can reject or stall a pro-Israel group’s application on the grounds that “these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies,” then no group, no matter what its political orientation or cause is safe from being subjected to a political litmus test designed by any administration of either political party.

Z Street’s Marcus deserves praise for having the guts to persist in her challenge to the government for years even though the media had little interest in publicizing what appeared to be an outrageous example of how the IRS had become politicized under the Obama presidency. Last year Marcus learned she wasn’t alone when the news about the Tea Party broke. Now, as her legal process unfolds, Americans may get a better idea about how broken the system has become.

Using the IRS to punish political foes is blatantly illegal. If, as we suspect, the Z Street case reveals the sort of internal email traffic that will reveal how widespread this practice has become in the last five years, perhaps even a liberal mainstream press that still thinks the problems at the IRS are a “phony scandal” will start to pay attention.

IRS Political Discrimination Suit by Pro-Israel Group OKed by Court

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

After nearly four years of litigation, a U.S. federal district court judge instructed the Internal Revenue Service to cease “struggl[ing mightly]” to thwart a lawsuit filed by the pro-Israel organization Z STREET. That lawsuit alleges the IRS violated Z STREET’s First Amendment Constitutional rights. The judge ordered the IRS to file a substantive answer to Z STREET’s Complaint within 30 days.

Z STREET* sought tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization engaged in educating the public about Israel and the Middle East conflict. The organization filed its application in December of 2009.

On July 19, 2010, when counsel for Z STREET spoke with the IRS agent to whom the organization’s application had been assigned, that agent said that a determination on Z STREET’s application may be further delayed because the IRS gave “special scrutiny” to organizations connected to Israel and especially to those whose views “contradict those of the administration’s.”

That statement by the IRS agent, according to the Z STREET board, constituted a clear violation of the Constitution. The government may not treat an organization or person differently because of that person or organization’s political viewpoint. Such action by a government entity constitutes what is known as “viewpoint discrimination.”

Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS alleging that its Constitutional rights had been violated. That lawsuit, Z STREET v. Schulman, IRS Commissioner (now Koskinen) has finally obtained its first substantive ruling.

Several years after Z STREET challenged the IRS in court, several tea party and other conservative groups also claimed the IRS had discriminated against them on the basis of their political viewpoint. On May 10 of last year, the floodgates of criticism burst open when then Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division Lois Lerner admitted that the IRS had engaged in certain activity that disadvantaged conservative groups. Lerner referred to that activity at the time as “absolutely inappropriate.”

The ruling in the Z STREET case by Judge Ketanje Brown Jackson on Tuesday, May 27, is the first substantive ruling by a judge in any action brought challenging the political impartiality of the IRS under the current administration.

Judge Jackson summarily rejected the three grounds raised by the government in its effort to thwart Z STREET’s day in court. The first two she rejected because she refused to accept the IRS position that Z STREET was simply complaining about the fact that its application had not been granted.

Defendant struggles mightily to transform a lawsuit that clearly challenges the constitutionality of the process that the IRS allegedly employs when it determines the tax exempt status of certain organizations into a dispute over tax liability as a means of attempting to thwart this action’s advancement.

The judge rejected the third defense – one of sovereign immunity – raised by the IRS by pointing out that the government may not claim it is immune from claims that it is acting unconstitutionally. Indeed, that is the basis for the Bill of Rights.

The IRS must file a substantive response to Z STREET’s Complaint by June 26, 2014.

Since the time the lawsuit was filed, IRS documents were released by a U.S. congressman which essentially confirm Z STREET’s claims and suggest that the IRS agents filed documents with the court that were not truthful.

*The author of this article is the president of Z STREET.

IRS Punished Conservative Non-Profits, Perhaps Also Pro-Israel Groups

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

For more than a year the U.S. Congress has been investigating whether the Internal Revenue Service was inappropriately treating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, or burdening such groups with requests and demands which are impermissible, as many had claimed.

Friday, May 10, the IRS person in charge of the division dealing with non-profits, Lois Lerner, apologized for actions taken by the agency which were based on political affiliation.

“That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.

How did the IRS do this?  By singling out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, Lerner admitted.

The Ways and Means Committee has been seeking information on precisely this activity and “the IRS repeatedly denied they were targeting conservative grassroots organizations,” said committee chair Dave Camp (R-MI) in response to the revelation.  He announced  that the committee will soon hold hearings on this now-admitted practice by the IRS.

Camp stated in a press release issued just after the admission of wrongdoing by the IRS, “The IRS absolutely must be non-partisan in its enforcement of our tax laws. The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing. The Committee on Ways and Means will thoroughly investigate this matter and will soon hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this situation.  We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”


While they are at it, the committee might want to ask the IRS whether their list of targets extended beyond political party discrimination. There is evidence the IRS also targeted pro-Israel groups whose positions were potentially inconsistent with the administration’s.

For example, in 2010, the passionately pro-Israel organization Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was “connected to Israel,” its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny.  This admission was made in response to a query about the lengthy reveiw of Z STREET’s tax exempt status application.

In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

Z STREET’s lawsuit claims the IRS activity constitutes viewpoint discrimination and a violation of its constitutionally protected right of free speech.  The organization is seeking, among other things, complete disclosure to the public regarding the origin, development, approval, substance and application of the IRS policy to treat pro-Israel organizations differently than it does other organizations. (disclosure: this reporter was the founder and president of Z STREET when the litigation was filed.)

At least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel.  Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”

For years the IRS has denied it took any such inappropriate actions and has done its best to prevent Z STREET from pursuing its claim of viewpoint discrimination. The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism.  Z STREET is a purely educational organization that has never funded anything, either in Israel or anywhere else.

Coincidentally, after two and a half years of non-movement, the very first hearing in Z STREET v IRS was recently scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, July 2, in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia.

Representatives of several tea party groups rejected the apology offered by the IRS, and insist that steps be taken to prevent such blatant discrimination in the future.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/irs-punished-conservative-non-profits-perhaps-also-pro-israel-groups/2013/05/11/

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