Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal came out with a great article on May 23rd that puts the IRS intimidation tactics of Conservative and religious groups into context. Those on the Right are not the only targets of this administration, more so anyone Not For Obama is considered Against Obama. In the past that general categorization has included the likes of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards.
The White House insists President Obama is “outraged” by the “inappropriate” targeting and harassment of conservative groups. If true, it’s a remarkable turnaround for a man who helped pioneer those tactics.
On Aug. 21, 2008, the conservative American Issues Project ran an ad highlighting ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad—a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.
What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, “its officers and directors,” and its “anonymous donors.” Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a “knowing and willful violation” of election law, and wanted “action to enforce against criminal violations.”
The article, which is definitely worth reading, then describes some of the tactics of Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign, which included a wave of intimidating letters sent to donors of both Hillary Clinton & John Edwards during the 2008 campaigns. The same tactics were also used in 2012 against the Romney campaign.
None of this proves that Mr. Obama was involved in the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits. But it does help explain how we got an environment in which the IRS thought this was acceptable.
The rise of conservative organizations (to match liberal groups that had long played in politics), and their effectiveness in the 2004 election (derided broadly by liberals as “swift boating”), led to a new and organized campaign in 2008 to chill conservative donors and groups via the threat of government investigation and prosecution. The tone in any organization—a charity, a corporation, the U.S. government—is set at the top.
This history also casts light on White House claims that it was clueless about the IRS’s targeting. As Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman wrote this week: “With two winning presidential campaigns built on successful grassroots fundraising, with a former White House counsel (in 2010-11) who is one of the Democrats’ leading experts on campaign law (Bob Bauer), with former top campaign officials having been ensconced as staffers in the White House . . . it’s hard to imagine that the Obama inner circle was oblivious to the issue of what the IRS was doing in Cincinnati.” More like inconceivable.
And this history exposes the left’s hollow claim that the IRS mess rests on Citizens United. The left was targeting conservative groups and donors well before the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on independent political expenditures by corporations.
With this kind of intimidation history in dealing with his enemies in BOTH parties, do you really believe that the first Mr. Obama knew about the IRS intimidating of Conservative & religious groups was on the evening news?