- Meanwhile, The GOP's Favorability Ratings Have Tanked To Their Lowest Point Ever
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 10:04 PM:)
The number of Americans who view the Republican Party unfavorably has hit a record high, according to a new poll released by CNN on Monday, despite scandals that have plagued the White House over the past few weeks.
The poll found that 59 percent of respondents view the GOP unfavorably, a record that has only shown up one other time in the poll's results since tracking began in 1992.
The Republican Party's net favorability ratings are down 8 points in the past two months. The amount of respondents viewing the GOP favorably fell from 38 percent to 35 percent, while the number of people who view the party unfavorably climbed five points, up from 54 percent in March.
The only other time the party's favorability ratings have been this low came in the aftermath of the summer 2011 fight over raising the nation's debt ceiling.
The poll's findings — combined with President Barack Obama's continued popularity — suggest that Republicans remain susceptible to overreach on the issues of Benghazi and the IRS' targeting of conservative-sounding groups applying for tax exempt status.
The same poll found that 54 percent of respondents said the GOP was "reacting appropriately" to the IRS' targeting, compared with just 42 percent who said they were "overreacting." Majorities also believe, however, that what Obama has said about the scandal has been at least "mostly true," and that the IRS acted on its own in carrying out the targeting.
- Apple Accused Of Avoiding Paying Billions In Taxes By The Senate (AAPL)
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 9:31 PM:)
It looks like it's going to be a showdown in D.C. between Apple and Senators who think it's conducting shady business to avoid paying taxes.
Senators Carl Levin and John McCain put out a statement saying Apple has subsidiaries in Ireland that it funnels profits through, thus allowing it to avoid paying taxes.
Apple admits that it has a subsidiary in Ireland, but says it's completely legal. It also says it doesn't use tax gimmicks.
Sen. Levin disagrees with Apple, saying:
"Apple wasn’t satisfied with shifting its profits to a low-tax offshore tax haven ... Apple sought the Holy Grail of tax avoidance. It has created offshore entities holding tens of billions of dollars, while claiming to be tax resident nowhere. We intend to highlight that gimmick and other Apple offshore tax avoidance tactics so that American working families who pay their share of taxes understand how offshore tax loopholes raise their tax burden, add to the federal deficit and ought to be closed."
Here is the memorandum from Levin and McCain:
- Think Tank Shreds Elizabeth Warren's Student Loan Reform Plan As A 'Cheap Political Gimmick'
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 8:05 PM:)
Elizabeth Warren made headlines last week for saying that she believes students should pay the same rate for loans as big Wall Street banks, 0.75%.
The Obama administration extended the 3.4% interest rate on subsidized federal student loans last year, but that measure is set to expire in July, leaving room for reform.
The House Republicans, The President's Office, Democratic Senators Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) all have their own plans on the table.
Think tank The Brookings Institute laid down each plan one by one. The only one it doesn't take seriously at ALL is Warren's.
Sen. Warren’s proposal should be quickly dismissed as a cheap political gimmick. It proposes only a one-year change to the rate on one kind of federal student loan, confuses market interest rates on long-term loans (such as the 10-year Treasury rate) with the Federal Reserve’s Discount Window (used to make short-term loans to banks), and does not reflect the administrative costs and default risk that increase the costs of the federal student loan program.
Setting aside this one embarrassingly bad proposal, the remaining proposals raise a set of questions that need to be answered in order to select the ideal policy...
Ultimately, Brookings advocates for (shocking) a compromise. The Obama plan allows the rate to move with market conditions (as does the House Republicans'). The two plans differ in that Obama does not want the rate to vary over the life of the loan (House Republicans do).
Durbin and Reed's plan looks a lot like the House Republican plan, but puts a cap on interest rates and uses a different benchmark for the rate — the 91-day Treasury rate plus a percentage determined by the Education Secretary to cover administrative costs rather than 10-year Treasury Bonds.
But again — Warren's proposal is going nowhere.
- The Most Chilling Details From The Kafkaesque Search Warrant That Went After A Fox News Reporter
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 7:49 PM:)
Journalists are understandably alarmed by the revelation that President Barack Obama's Justice Department targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen during a leak investigation of a State Department employee.
The news, reported by the Washington Post late Sunday night, reveals that the Obama administration will apparently stop at nothing to track down whistle-blowers who leak classified information. In Rosen's case, that included implicating him as a "criminal co-conspirator" whose actions were punishable with up to 10 years in prison.
While it is not uncommon for the government to investigate leaks, it is unprecedented for a journalist to be accused of committing a crime for reporting on classified information.
The Justice Department's application for the search warrant for Rosen's Gmail account reveals the extent of the administration's Orwellian maneuvers. By granting the search warrant, the judge alarmingly agreed that Rosen was an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" in leaking the information.
Here are the most chilling parts of the search warrant:
The following sections indicate that DOJ tracked Rosen's phone calls:
And movements at the State Department:
What's also clear from the search warrant is that the DOJ had already established that State Department employee Stephen Jin-Woo Kim was the source of the leak:
The search warrant application indicates that DOJ was also looking for any other potential sources that Rosen might have had, noting the clandestine system that Rosen had set up for communicating with sources using code names and asterisks:
The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza points out this interesting footnote:
And the big finish:
- Is Obama's Government Too Big To Succeed?
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 7:48 PM:)
President Obama can claim to have killed Osama bin Laden. He can reasonably take credit for helping to avert a second Great Depression.
But Obama has yet to master his management of the federal government, as shown this month by the disturbing revelations about the IRS targeting Tea Party groups, the Justice Department hunting for leakers by seizing Associated Press phone records, and the talking points written by the administration that may have been edited to hide information about the Benghazi terrorist attack.
In some ways, he is making the case that any stewardship of the $3.45 trillion institution—the epitome of too big to fail—can be perilous, if not impossible. This is a troubling development for a president whose polices are based on the idea that government can improve people’s lives.
Consider the administration’s agenda before these three controversies blew up, the ones it claims the country truly cares about.
It must finalize rules from the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul of Wall Street regulations in the hopes of preventing a repeat of the 2008 financial collapse.
It must wrap-up key elements of Obamacare, so that health insurance can be offered through government exchanges and penalties extracted through the IRS for those who decline coverage.
It must negotiate with distrusting House Republicans to lift the debt ceiling next autumn, or risk default.
Add to these initiatives a growing to-do list: Passing immigration reform. And figuring out executive actions to address climate change. Also, winding down the Afghan War. And sorting through the sequestration cuts. And fixing the widespread problem of sexual assaults in the military. And don’t forget moving political nominees—such as Penny Pritzker for Commerce secretary—through the Senate.
Not surprisingly, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough commanded staffers to devote no more than 10 percent of their time to the IRS, AP, and Benghazi controversies, according to The New York Times on Friday.
Obama’s managerial abilities are being called into question, with the Washington Post noting on Sunday that he is either too aggressive or too reticent when steering the ship of state. The White House claims its policy was to be ignorant of the inspector general’s audit showing that the IRS began in March, 2010 to single out for strict review Tea Party groups that applied for nonprofit status.
“You have a cardinal rule, which is you do nothing to interfere with an independent investigation, and you do nothing to offer the appearance of interfering in an independent investigation,” Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “So I do feel like we handled this in the appropriate way.”
Even if the administration respected the independence of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, it seems to have been hands-off before the audit started.
Still, if White House personnel were in the dark, other agency officials were not. A report by Reuters states, “The Treasury Department's internal watchdog, J. Russell George, told the House panel that Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, an Obama political appointee, learned nearly a year ago that a government watchdog was looking into inappropriate targeting by the IRS. Wolin, the No. 2 official at Treasury, is due to testify next week before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Treasury Department lawyers told the White House Counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler, about the inspector general's audit during the week of April 22, but the information was not relayed to Obama, who said he learned about it from media reports on May 10.
Congressional Republicans feared that newly established conservative groups were receiving special IRS scrutiny, as more and more “social welfare” organizations with an ideological agenda were being established after the 2010 Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United removed some of the restrictions on independent political expenditures.
Rep. Charles Boustany, (R-La.) among others, raised these concerns at a March, 2012 hearing, technically before the start of the inspector general’s audit. At that time, then IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman insisted, “there is absolutely no targeting.”
The administration had little incentive to pursue the matter further.
Preemptive efforts asking the IRS to cooperate fully with Congress might have given Republicans the scent of scandal during the middle of Obama’s re-election campaign. But once the inspector general’s audit started last June—the White House kept its distance to avoid any conflicts of interest, since any meddling could erode confidence in the government.
Now, with the release of the audit last week, the erosion in confidence appears inevitable, regardless of any cardinal rules being followed inside the West Wing.
The Justice Department has launched an investigation, the inspector general appears to be pursuing a follow-up, and House Republicans are hungry for more hearings to address unanswered questions.
“Officials at Treasury knew about this a year ago, officials at the IRS knew about this two years ago,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Congress has been trying to get answers for two years and we were stonewalled.”
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wisc.) explained that the inspector general’s audit—which is different from an investigation—never addressed basic issues such as the motives of IRS employees.
The IRS officials interviewed for the audit claimed then and later that they lacked the guidance and manpower to oversee the flood of more than 60,000 organizations applying for nonprofit status.
“They didn't look at emails, they didn't look at intent, they didn't look who was in the chain of information,” Ryan told “Fox News Sunday.” “So, none of that information has been acquired yet. That's what the IG is doing now. That's what our congressional overseers are doing now as well. So, all we have is a simple audit. We don't have a thorough investigation. That's not the report we got. That is what is now occurring.”
In making his rounds at the Sunday talk shows, Pfeiffer, the White House communications adviser, acknowledged that the administration must repair the damage caused by the IRS, before more Americans lose what little faith they have left in the government.
“This was a breach of the trust,” he said. “Regardless of the motivation, regardless of how it happened, it was a breach of the trust, so we have to fix it, we have to restore that trust.”
But even the managerial choice to have Pfeiffer appear on television as Obama’s point man could prove to be a mistake. As pointed out by CBS News’ “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer, Pfeiffer had no direct knowledge of how the IRS audit unfolded and the administration’s past interactions with the agency.
Schieffer wryly noted that the administration tried a similar tactic last year, when it sent United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice to the Sunday talk shows to discuss the attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans.
The attack was a terrorist assault, but Rice portrayed it during her interviews as the result of a spontaneous riot, a false claim made as talking points were edited from the initial intelligence on the ground.
Much like Pfeiffer with the IRS, Rice had no direct pipeline to information about Benghazi.
“That was just a PR plan to send out somebody who didn’t know anything about what happened,” Schieffer said. “Why are you here today? Why isn’t the White House chief of staff here to tell us what happened?”
Pfeiffer dodged the question.
More from The Fiscal Times:
- Wall Street's May Rally Just Keeps on Tickin'
- Why the IRS Scandal Could Bring Down Obamacare
- The Pentagon’s Incredible $1.5 Trillion Mistake
- The Tea Party Is Seizing The IRS Scandal As A Chance To Reinvigorate The Movement
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 7:44 PM:)
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Is the tea party getting its groove back? Shouts of vindication from around the country suggest the movement's leaders certainly think so.
They say the IRS acknowledgment that it had targeted their groups for extra scrutiny — a claim that tea party activists had made for years — is helping pump new energy into the coalition. And they are trying to use that development, along with the ongoing controversy over the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks and the Justice Department's secret seizure of journalists' phone records, to recruit new activists incensed about government overreach.
"This is the defining moment to say 'I told you so,' " said Katrina Pierson, a Dallas-based tea party leader, who traveled to Washington last week as the three political headaches for President Barack Obama unfolded.
Luke Rogonjich, a tea party leader in Phoenix, called the trio of controversies a powerful confluence that bolsters the GOP's case against big government. "Suddenly, there are a lot of things pressing on the dam," said Rogonjich.
It's unclear whether a movement made up of disparate grassroots groups with no central body can take advantage of the moment and leverage it to grow stronger after a sub-par showing in last fall's election had called into question the movement's lasting impact. Republicans and Democrats alike say the tea party runs the risk of going too far in its criticism, which could once again open the door to Democratic efforts to paint it as an extreme arm of the GOP.
"Never underestimate the tea party's ability to overplay its hand," said Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee. "Just because there is universal agreement that the IRS went too far, that should not be misread as acceptance of the tea party's ideology of anger."
At the very least, furor over the IRS devoting special attention to tea party groups claiming tax-exempt status is giving the tea party more visibility than it has had in months, and it's providing a new rallying cry for tea party organizers starting to plot how to influence the 2014 congressional elections. The law allows tax-exempt organizations to lobby and dabble in politics as long as their primary purpose is social welfare.
The tax-agency scandal — it has led to the acting IRS commissioner's ouster, a criminal investigation and Capitol Hill hearings — seems to validate the tea party's long-held belief among supporters that government was trampling on them specifically, a claim dismissed by ousted commissioner Steven T. Miller. He has called the targeting "a mistake and not an act of partisanship."
Nevertheless, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., elected in 2010 with tea party backing, said the IRS scandal "confirms many of the feelings that led to the tea party movement in the first place."
"What's happened here is a reminder of, this is what happens when you expand government," he said in an interview with The Associated Press. "That and the disaster that is Obamacare is going to be a real catalyst in 2014 and beyond."
Tea party activists hope they also can drive support ahead of the elections by stoking widespread suspicions that the Obama administration and State Department are hiding key details about the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. The seizure of Associated Press phone records also plays into their argument that government is too intrusive.
Tea party activists have tried to take advantage of the issues that have put some of their central tenets — limited government and civil liberties — in the spotlight.
From around the country last week, they headed Washington to hold a news conference on the Capitol steps and meet with members of Congress. Those who stayed home jammed House and Senate phone lines with calls urging congressional action as the IRS saga unfolded. An email from Teaparty.org that was sent to activists proclaimed: "We've worked so hard these past few years and it's paying off! We're witnessing the unraveling of a presidency at an unprecedented rate."
Freedomworks, a national tea party group, spent the week circulating petitions for congressional hearings and encouraging leaders of local groups who believe they have been targeted by the IRS to include their story on a national database to build the case against the agency.
"Perhaps all this attention will break something loose," said Jim Chiodo, an activist from Holland, Mich.
It wasn't long ago that the tea party was the hot new political kid on the block, bursting onto the national scene during the contentious summer debate over health care in 2009. Over the next few years, the loosely affiliated conservatives and civil libertarians would leave their mark on the 2010 elections by helping Republican candidates win Senate races in Florida, Kentucky, Utah and Wisconsin and scores of House races.
Those victories resulted in House and Senate Republican caucuses getting pushed to the right in legislative battles, making life difficult for Obama and his Democrats in an era of divided government.
But the movement's success was muted in 2012 when Republicans nominated the establishment-backed Mitt Romney for president, though he did little to inspire the tea party. He lost, and so did many tea party-backed House and Senate candidates.
Now, tea party activists say they are emboldened and won't be afraid to recruit candidates to run in Republican primaries against incumbents who appear to go easy on the Obama administration, particularly in light of the IRS scandal.
"It's one of those issues we should just raise hell about," said Nashville Tea Party leader Ben Cunningham.
Some say they're now even more suspicious of government than before.
"I personally feel so vindicated," said Mark Falzon, a New Jersey tea party leader. But he added: "What's scaring me now is what's going on below the water line that we're not seeing."
Republicans say that the tea party will have an opportunity come 2014 to make its mark again, particularly with Obama not at the top of the ticket. Also, they say that with Obama's health care law going into effect and with the slew of latest controversies, they now have concrete issues to point to when arguing against government overreach.
"Suddenly, this is a very real demonstration of too much power ceded to government bureaucrats," said Matt Kibbe, president of Freedomworks. "This is no longer theoretical."
Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Boston and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.
Follow Thomas Beaumont on Twitter at http://twitter.com/Tom_Beaumont
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- ENDING SOON: Enter To Win A Kindle Fire From Business Insider
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 7:05 PM:)
Entry deadline is May 31.
As a newsletter subscriber, you'll get daily updates and alerts on topics that matter most to you. You must subscribe to at least one newsletter to be eligible, so if you haven't already, be sure to choose one or more before submitting your entry.
On or after May 31, 2013, we'll announce the lucky winner.
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- Here's What Apple Will Say To Congress About Taxes Tomorrow (AAPL)
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 6:56 PM:)
Apple CEO is testifying before Congress tomorrow about its offshore cash, and its tax practices.
Ahead of the actual testimony, Apple released what it's going to say.
In short, Apple says it paid $6 billion in taxes to the U.S. Treasury and it uses no gimmicks.
It defends its foreign subsidiaries, saying that it's using them in a legal and ethical way. It says it doesn't have money on Caribbean Islands, or the Cayman Islands.
Apple also called for simplifying the tax code.
Here are the highlights:
Apple starts by saying it pays all of its required taxes in the U.S. and abroad.
- "Apple pays all its required taxes, both in this country and abroad."
- "Apple welcomes an objective examination of the US corporate tax system, which has notkept pace with the advent of the digital age and the rapidly changing global economy."
- "Apple is likely the largest corporateincome tax payer in the US, having paid nearly $6 billion in taxes to the US Treasury in FY2012. These payments account for $1 in every $40 in corporate income tax the USTreasury collected last year."
- "The Company expects to pay over $7 billion in taxes tothe US Treasury in its current fiscal year."
"Apple does not use tax gimmicks. Apple does not move its intellectual property into off shore tax havens and use it to sell products back into the US in order to avoid US tax; it does not use revolving loans from foreign subsidiaries to fund its domestic operations; it does not hold money on a Caribbean island; and it does not have a bank account in the Cayman Islands. Apple has substantial foreign cash because it sells the majority of its products outside the US. International operations accounted for 61% of Apple’s revenuelast year and two-thirds of its revenue last quarter. These foreign earnings are taxed inthe jurisdiction where they are earned (“foreign, post-tax income").
- Apple has a lot of cash overseas. It's not going to bring it back to the U.S. because it will be lose 35% of the cash to taxes. It's smarter to just borrow cash than to repatriate it.
- "Apple supports comprehensive reform of the US corporate tax system. The Company supports a dramatic simplification of the corporate tax system that is revenueneutral, eliminates all tax expenditures, lowers tax rates and implements a reasonable taxon foreign earnings that allows free movement of capital back to the US. Apple believessuch comprehensive reform would stimulate economic growth. Apple supports this planeven though it would likely result in Apple paying more US corporate tax."
And here's what Apple says changes to the tax code should be:
- Be revenue neutral
- Eliminate all corporate tax expenditures
- Lower corporate income tax rates
- Implement a reasonable tax on foreign earnings that allows free movement of capital back to the US.
- Here's Fox News' Scathing Statement On The Leak Investigation Into One Of Its Reporters
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 6:13 PM:)
Fox News Executive Vice President Michael Clemente has released a scathing statement on the leak investigation involving Fox News reporter James Rosen.
Here's the full statement, provided by a network spokesperson:
“We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter. In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press.”
A Washington Post report Sunday night brought renewed attention to the case involving Rosen and Stephen J. Kim, a former State Department official.
In an application for a search warrant on Rosen's email communications, FBI agent Reginald Reyes wrote that there was probable cause Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by soliciting classified information from Stephen J. Kim, a former State Department official. Reyes wrote that Rosen was an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" in leaking the information.
Reyes wrote that Rosen may have committed a "conspiracy to violate" section of a law against leaking classified info, which he wrote was "punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment."
- Here's The Search Warrant Where The FBI Called A Fox News Reporter A 'Co-Conspirator' In A Leak Investigation
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 4:42 PM:)
New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza points out the "most chilling" part of the search warrant on Fox News reporter James Rosen during a 2009 leak investigation.
In an application for a search warrant, FBI agent Reginald Reyes wrote that there was probable cause Rosen had violated the Espionage Act by soliciting classified information from Stephen J. Kim, a former State Department official. Reyes wrote that Rosen was an "aider and abettor and/or co-conspirator" in leaking the information.
According to the search warrant, which was posted by the Federation of American Scientists, Reyes wrote that Rosen may have committed a "conspiracy to violate" section of a law against leaking classified info, which he wrote was "punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment."
Reyes also wrote that the FBI had exhausted all other alternatives in the leak investigation when applying for a search warrant, short of asking Rosen to voluntarily provide his email communications.
"Because of the Reporter's own potential criminal liability in this matter, we believe that requesting the voluntary production of the materials from Reporter would be futile and would pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation and of the evidence we seek to obtain by the warrant," Reyes wrote.
The Washington Post brought renewed attention to the 2009 investigation with a report late Sunday night.
The report comes at a time when the Obama administration is facing renewed scrutiny over leak investigations, a week after the Associated Press said that the Department of Justice had obtained more than two months of some of its reporters' phone records.
Here is the full search warrant:
- 26 Of The Best Behind-The-Scenes Photos From Obama's Month Of April
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 3:39 PM:)
President Barack Obama had a big month of April, as the White House was largely captivated by some major news events — the Boston Marathon bombings and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas.
As always, White House photographer Pete Souza documented Obama's every step along the way. We've pulled 26 of Souza's best photos from his April set.
President Barack Obama reacts to a missed shot on the White House Basketball Court during the Easter Egg Roll.
President Barack Obama welcomes Robby Novak, known as “Kid President,” to the Oval Office.
President Barack Obama talks with Rachel Robinson, widow of Jackie Robinson, before the “42” movie screening in the White House.
See the rest of the story at Business Insider
- The Department Of Justice Targeted A Fox News Reporter During A Leak Investigation
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 2:19 PM:)
The report comes at a time when the Obama administration is facing renewed scrutiny over leak investigations, a week after the Associated Press said that the Department of Justice had obtained more than two months of some of its reporters' phone records.
For many in the media world, this case seems even more troubling. It involves the prosecution of Stephen J. Kim, who revealed classified information to Rosen. According to the report, Kim told Rosen that the U.S. believed North Korea would react to new United Nations sanctions by employing more nuclear tests.
What makes this case different from the AP probe is that Rosen is a possible target. In addition to tracking his trips to and from the State Department as well as personal calls and emails, FBI agent Reginald Reyes suggested in court documents obtained by the Post that Rosen had broken the law. He was not charged.
From the Post's report:
Reyes wrote that there was evidence Rosen had broken the law, “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.” That fact distinguishes his case from the probe of the AP, in which the news organization is not the likely target.
Using italics for emphasis, Reyes explained how Rosen allegedly used a “covert communications plan” and quoted from an e-mail exchange between Rosen and Kim that seems to describe a secret system for passing along information. [...]
However, it remains an open question whether it’s ever illegal, given the First Amendment’s protection of press freedom, for a reporter to solicit information. No reporter, including Rosen, has been prosecuted for doing so.
Case against Fox's Rosen, in which O admin is criminalizing reporting, makes all of the other "scandals" look like giant nothing burgers.— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) May 20, 2013
Serious idea. Instead of calling it Obama's war on whistleblowers, let's just call it what it is: Obama's war on journalism.— Eli Lake (@EliLake) May 20, 2013
Kim, meanwhile, has pleaded not guilty and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Neither Rosen nor Fox News immediately responded to a request for comment on Monday.
- FORMER OBAMA AIDE: Maureen Dowd Has Written The Exact Same Column For The Past Eight Years
(Politics - May 20 2013 - 1:04 PM:)
Robert Gibbs, President Barack Obama's former press secretary, snarkily pushed back at the latest criticism from one of the administration's most prominent liberal critics — the New York Times' Maureen Dowd.
On Sunday, Dowd wrote a column that unfavorably cast his last week in the same light as the scandals during the Clinton presidency. She has been a frequent critic of Obama in his second term, and Obama made special mention of her in his White House Correspondents' Dinner speech last month.
Gibbs continued to push back on Monday, saying he stopped reading Dowd a long time ago.
"Oh, yes you do," replied host Mika Brzezinski.
"No, I don't," Gibbs said. "Largely because it's sort of largely the same column for the last eight years."
"Wow," host Joe Scarborough said.
Watch the clip below, via MSNBC:
- Bob Woodward: Obama Administration Acted 'Nixonian' In Regard To Benghazi
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 8:20 PM:)
“…On the whole Benghazi thing, you look at those talking points, and the initial draft by the CIA very explicitly said we know that activists who have ties to al-Qaeda were involved in the attack. And then you see what comes out a couple of days later and there is no reference to this. This is a business where you have to tell the truth, and that did not happen here.”
The legendary Watergate reporter was responding to a question from host David Gregory on the scandals hitting the Obama camp in general and how he thinks they’re handling them.
Woodward, while acknowledging that the scandals are “not Watergate,” said that “some people in the administration…have acted as if they want to be Nixonian, and that’s a very big problem. I think…”
What do you think?
Featured image credit: AP
(H/T: Gateway Pundit)
- How One Overworked IRS Worker Ignited The Tea-Party Targeting Scandal
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 7:14 PM:)
The IRS' office of Exempt Organizations sounds like a terrible place to work. Piling on to the critical report from a Treasury Inspector General, at least four sweeping media assessments this weekend show a department that is overwhelmed, underfunded, and poorly managed.
The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and ProPublica all researched the evolution of the small group of Cincinnati-based employees that unethically (and perhaps illegally) isolated the tax-exempt applications of Tea Party groups for additional scrutiny. What they found doesn't appear to be the image of big government run amok, as charged by Senator Mike Lee earlier this week; instead, it's an organization trying to do politically tricky work while it struggled to cut costs — and failing.
The scandal unfolded in four parts.
Part 1: Tax-exempt work is moved to Cincinnati to save money.
The ProPublica story provides the best explanation for why the group was located in Cincinnati at all.
The city had a history of being able to hire people at low federal grades, which in 1995 paid between $19,704 and $38,814 a year — almost the same as those federal grades paid in New York City or Chicago. (Adjusted for inflation, that's between $30,064 and $59,222 now.) …
So in 1995, the Exempt Organizations division started to centralize. Instead of field offices evaluating applications for nonprofits in each region, those applications would all be sent to one mailing address, a post-office box in Covington, Ky. Then a central office in Cincinnati would review all the applications.
Nor did the IRS splurge on a fancy office for the team. The Post describes a fourth-floor office with an "open, L-shaped layout of small, plain cubicles. (Office norms discourage the decoration of cubicle walls.)" The Times also reports that the group was the least popular assignment in an unpleasant place.
Inside the agency, the unit was considered particularly unglamorous. “Nobody wants to be a determination agent,” said Jack Reilly, a former lawyer in the Washington office that oversaw exempt organizations. “It’s a job that just about everybody would be anxious to get out of.”
Part 2: Tax-exempt applications increase, while resources to deal with applications keep shrinking.
By 2010, when the group began flagging applications that included the words "Tea Party," the group was only a tiny part of the massive IRS tasked with a big job. The Post:
Nationwide, about 900 of the IRS’s nearly 100,000 employees deal with tax-exempt organizations. Cincinnati’s determinations unit handled about 61,000 applications last year. In recent years, office culture in Cincinnati has been defined by constant reorganization to offset a voluminous workload: Regulations in the Pension Protection Act of 2006 triggered a wave of reapplications, and between 2009 and 2012, the annual number of 501(c)(4) aspirants nearly doubled, to 3,357. Many had a political tinge that complicated the determinations process.
The Times points out that the change in tax code that threatened the existence of hundreds of thousands of groups, spurred "tens of thousands" to reapply. This is a key point: These employees handled every applicant for tax exempt status, and applicants for 501(c)(3) status, which results in the ability to accept tax-exempt donations, comprised a larger, more sensitive pool.
At the same time that the office was being flooded, both a key training tool — a series of explanatory articles called Continuing Professional Education — and a spot-check of performance had already ended, in an effort to be more "efficient." ProPublica:
In 2003, the saturation reviews and post reviews ended, and the public list of criteria that would get an application referred to headquarters disappeared, Owens said. Instead, agents in Cincinnati could ask to have cases reviewed, if they wanted. But they didn't very often. … By the end of 2004, the Continuing Professional Education articles stopped.
The Treasury Inspector General's report detailed one consequence of the lack of training for staff: For a period of about a year, all processing of questionable applications stopped while the group waited for a determination of what levels of political advocacy were permitted for (c)(4) applicants. That's the sort of training that the CPE articles were meant to provide.
In the end, the easiest thing to do was approve them all. ProPublica notes that, of 24,196 501(c)(4) applications between 1998 and 2009, only 77 were denied. Until someone decided to start paying closer attention.
Part 3: An employee starts streamlining applications.
The Times notes that the process began in 2010 with a single person.
For months, the Tea Party cases sat on the desk of a lone specialist, who used “political sounding” criteria — words like “patriots,” “we the people” — as a way to search efficiently through the flood of applications for groups that might not qualify for exemptions, according to the I.R.S. inspector general. “Triage,” the agency’s acting chief described it.
The Los Angeles Times agrees, blaming "one specialist."
The crux of the investigation by Congress and the administration will be why that employee started to flag those applications — and why, as the inspector general notes, it soon became an office-wide practice. Was it an attempt to streamline the workflow? Or was it politically motivated behavior meant to target Tea Party groups? So far, it appears to be the former; the Los Angeles Times points out that "[n]o evidence yet suggests that the IRS agents in Cincinnati had a political agenda." The Times spoke with a former IRS supervisor, who said that "[t]he specialists, hunched over laptops on the office’s fourth floor, rarely discussed politics."
Part 4: Management in Washington is slow to catch and correct the mistake.
It wasn't until July 2011 that Lois Lerner, the group's Washington-based director, learned of the problem. As The Times and the inspector general's report indicate, management revised the criteria triggering closer inspection of applications. But:
… a mid-level official in Washington temporarily overseeing the Cincinnati office told a supervisor there that the guidance was “too lawyerly.” The guidelines were revised several times, as new specialists and lawyers joined the effort.
By January 2012, employees in Cincinnati, apparently without consulting senior officials, chose new keywords, including “educating on the Constitution” and “social economic reform/movement.” That month, the specialists in Cincinnati and elsewhere began sending out increasingly exhaustive, sometimes intrusive questionnaires.
By the time Lerner curtails the practice, it's too late. The questionnaires are for many groups the first time they've heard about their applications in months. It triggers blowback from conservative organizations which ultimately and indirectly prompts the inspector general's report. For months, upper-level managers obscure the problem — including in testimony before Congress — until Lerner spoke at a conference two weeks ago, shortly before the inspector general's report was released.
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- AP: Sources Aren't Talking To Us Out Of Fear The US Government Will Spy On Them
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 5:38 PM:)
The Obama administration's decision to seize phone records from the Associated Press was "unconstitutional" and sends a message that "if you talk to the press, we are going to go after you", the news agency's boss Gary Pruitt said Sunday.
AP revealed last week that the Justice Department had obtained two months' worth of phone records of calls made by reporters and editors without informing the organisation in advance. The move was an apparent effort by US officials to identify the source of a story about the CIA foiling an alleged terrorist plot by an al Qaida terrorist affiliate in Yemen.
News of the seizure has caused a political firestorm and comes amid a widening scandal into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of Tea Party groups over their tax exemptions and the White House's handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack last year.
Speaking on CBS's Face the Nation, Pruitt, AP's president and chief executive officer, said the government's seizure of the phone records was "unconstitutional" and was already clearly harming the press's ability to do its job.
"We don't question their right to conduct these sort of investigations. We just think they went about it the wrong way. So sweeping, so secretly, so abusively and harassingly and over-broad that it constitutes, that it is, an unconstitutional act," he said.
"We are already seeing some impact. Already officials that would normally talk to us and people we talk to in the normal course of newsgathering are already saying to us that they are a little reluctant to talk to us. They fear that they will be monitored by the government. We are already seeing that. It's not hypothetical," said Pruitt.
The government investigation was seemingly triggered by an AP exclusive about a joint US-Saudi spy operation that had foiled a plot involving an improved version of the "underwear" bomb that failed to detonate properly on a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009. AP agreed to delay publication after officials cited national security concerns.
Pruitt said he would normally expect dialogue with government officials ahead of any decision to ask for or demand records relating to the news organisation's activities. Those requests would usually be subject to negotiation and if an agreement could not be reached, they would be put before a judge, he said.
In this case, the Justice Department has claimed it made every reasonable effort to obtain the information through alternative means, as is required by law. "Because we value the freedom of the press, we are always careful and deliberative in seeking to strike the right balance between the public interest in the free flow of information and the public interest in the fair and effective administration of our criminal laws," it said in a statement.
Pruitt said he had not received any explanation as to why AP had not been consulted ahead of the seizure. "I really do not know what their motive is. I know what the message being sent is, it's that if you talk to the press, we are going to go after you," he said.
Pruitt said the Justice Department had acted "as judge jury and executioner, in secret".
If the government restricts the "news gathering apparatus" then "the people of the United States will only know what the government wants them to know. And that's not what the framers of constitution had in mind when they wrote the first amendment," Pruitt said.
The White House has denied knowledge of the Justice Department's move. It comes as officials face mounting criticism over an IRS investigation into Tea Party groups. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told NBC's Meet the Press Sunday that the IRS controversy demonstrated a "culture of intimidation" by the administration.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
- ABC Reporter 'Regrets' Incorrect Reporting In His Bombshell Benghazi Report
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 5:05 PM:)
Karl's reporting came under question when the White House released emails showing the evolution of the Benghazi talking points, which contradicted some of Karl's report. In particular, an email from National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes was significantly altered in Karl's report and appeared to imply that the State Department had specific concerns about the talking points.
Karl originally wrote that ABC News had "reviewed" the White House's emails, but later said that they were paraphrased from a source who viewed the original emails and shared detailed notes.
In a statement provided to Business Insider, Karl said that he should have been clearer about his sourcing, but he said that his story still stands.
Here's his full statement, which was first reported by CNN's Howard Kurtz:
“I regret that one email was quoted incorrectly and I regret that it’s become a distraction from the story, which still entirely stands. I should have been clearer about the attribution. We updated our story immediately when new information became available.”
Karl never quoted the email from Rhodes in any ABC broadcast. The only place it appeared was in his online report.
Karl reported this version of an email from Rhodes, the National Security Adviser:
"We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don't want to undermine the FBI investigation."
The actual email released by the White House differs significantly and places no emphasis on the State Department:
"We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation."
CBS' Major Garrett relayed in a report on Friday that Republicans had leaked Benghazi emails to reporters, some of which he said turned out to be "wrong."
- ASSAD: Peace Talks Will Fail And America Will 'Deal With' Regime Victory
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 4:06 PM:)
Syrian President Bashar-al Assad gave a hard line interview with Argentina’s Clarín newspaper, dismissing international peace efforts and blaming the West for supporting “terrorists” fighting his government.
“No state talks to terrorists," he said, according to a transcript in English provided to The New York Times. "When they put down their arms and join the dialogue, then we will have no objections. Believing that a political conference will stop terrorism on the ground is unreal.”
Interviewer Marcelo Cantelmi said Assad appeared “severe” and “rigid” while he struck a defiant and confident tone throughout their conversation in his Damascus palace.
That's not even a question for Assad, who said he would run for election as scheduled in 2014 and would accept election monitors from “friendly countries such as Russia or China.”
“We do not believe that many Western countries really want a solution in Syria,” Assad said.
Meanwhile the rebels are demanding weapons in exchange for sitting down at the negotiating table.
“We’re not going to sit at the table while Assad continues to kill, supported by Russia and Hezbollah,” a spokesman for the Syrian Opposition Coalition told the Washington Post. “What we are asking for is arming the Free Syrian Army or Supreme Military Council — before the talks.”
On Sunday Syrian troops and militants from the Shia Lebanese militant group Hezbollah moved to retake Qusair, a major town near Lebanon that would provide Assad with a route from Hezbollah's strongholds to his Alawite (i.e. Shia) homeland on the Mediterranean coast.
“The battlefield will decide who is strong when they enter negotiations,” he said during a meeting with supporters, according to Abdelrahim Mourad, a former Parliament member whose party is allied with Hezbollah. “America is pragmatic. If they found out they were defeated and the regime is the winner, the Americans will deal with the facts.”
“Israel is directly supporting the terrorist groups in two ways,” he said. “Firstly it gives them logistical support, and it also tells them what sites to attack and how to attack them.”
More than 1.5 million people, many of whom lived in rebel-held villages bombed by Syria's Air Force, have been forced to flee their homes in the 26-month-old conflict.
The Times notes that Assad disputed UN estimates that more than 80,000 people have died so far.
When asked if he had a "self-criticisms," Assad replied: “It’s illogical to carry out self-criticism before the events have been completed. If you go to watch a film you don’t criticize it until it ends.”
- Republicans Are Ripping The White House's Dan Pfeiffer For Saying The Legality Of IRS Targeting Is 'Irrelevant'
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 3:58 PM:)
Republicans are ripping White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer this morning for referring to the legality of the IRS' inappropriate targeting of conservative groups as "irrelevant."
But Pfeiffer said that to reinforce the White House's assertion that the IRS' behavior is inexcusable.
"I can’t speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant," Pfeiffer said on ABC's "This Week," in a comment that drew ire from Republicans. "The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again."
"This Week" host George Stephanopoulos was struck by the "irrelevant" statement, and asked Pfeiffer if he "really believed" that was the case. Pfeiffer attempted to clarify.
"What I mean is, whether it’s legal or illegal is not important to the fact that the conduct doesn’t matter," Pfeiffer said. "The Department of Justice has said they’re looking into the legality of this. The President is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn’t happen again, regardless of how that turns out."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested last week that someone should go to jail over the IRS' targeting, saying he believed laws were clearly violated. Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the matter.
Pfeiffer also took to Twitter to defend himself:
Before folks quoting me out of context get too far ahead of themselves, of course the law matters, IRS conduct is wrong even if legal— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) May 19, 2013
- Amazon's Tax Arrangements Are Nothing Short Of A Work Of Art
(Politics - May 19 2013 - 3:44 PM:)
There's something fishy about Google's motto, "Don't be evil." I'm not saying it's controversial but it makes you think, "Why bring that up? Why have you suddenly put the subject of being evil on the agenda?"
It's suspicious in the same way as Ukip constantly pointing out how racist they're not – which my colleague Charlie Brooker said on 10 O'Clock Live was, "rather like someone who's just moved in next door saying, 'Hi, I'm Geoff, your non-dogging neighbour.'"
But we mustn't assume that the maxim was an attempt by executives to draw a line under some diabolical brainstorm, in which the internet giant pulled itself back from the brink of green-lighting a scheme to grind our bones to make its bread.
It could just as easily have come out of a discussion of the possibility of doing good. "Always do good", "Try to do some good" or "Be good" might have been previous drafts of the motto before they concluded that goodness was as impractical as malevolence was distasteful and decided on "Don't be evil" as more realistic in a modern business environment. "Settling for one notch below altruism" is all the slogan really means.
Still, I suppose we should be grateful for small mercies. And there's no earthly reason why Google should do any good to anyone but itself – which is presumably why it pays so little tax. Although that's not how Matt Brittin, Google's head of sales in northern Europe, explained the situation to the House of Commons public accounts committee on Thursday.
"No one in the UK can execute transactions," he said. He wasn't bemoaning a lack of competence in British workers but proudly talking MPs through a tax dodge. Even though there are sales staff in Britain, "No money changes hands."
Nudge nudge, wink wink. Since the vast majority of Google's £3.2bn of UK sales are routed through Ireland, the company paid only £6m of corporation tax. I'm not saying that's necessarily evil, but it's certainly not good.
Amazon, in contrast, has never ruled out evil as part of its business plan, aspiring only to "Work hard. Have fun. Make history." It sounds like an Apprentice contestant's Twitter profile. Last week it emerged that, despite £4.2bn of UK sales, the company paid only £2.4m in corporation tax in 2012.
In the same year it received £2.5m in government grants. Which makes it a net benefits scrounger. And, in terms of sheer rapacious acquisitive nerve, I'd say that has made a little bit of history.
Is there any point in my being angry about this? Everyone else already is. It feels like the interesting thing would be to come out in favour of it. After all, as the company's spokesman proudly announced: "Amazon pays all applicable taxes in every jurisdiction that it operates within."
So maybe it's fine. Better than that, maybe it's crazy and interesting. It's a challenging artwork, but instead of oil paint or wood or clay or the excrement of the artist, it's constructed out of pure injustice.
A huge, malevolent sculpture of unfairness, ground-breaking and thought-provoking, reminding us of the iniquities of the natural world – a corporate metaphor for the worms that will one day eat all of our corpses.
Like any really important work of art, it's bound to upset a few people. Just as Banksy causes collateral damage to the neatness of walls, so Amazon's masterpiece is a defacement of the public purse.
But it's not just some hooligan's tag, like Google's artless Irish scam. This shows an impish wit and a dark insight. What elevates Amazon's activity is the fact that it applied for government grants.
The elegance of that corporate choice is like the ambiguity of the Mona Lisa's smile, the ruthlessness of Mike Tyson's punch and the adaptability of the malaria virus combined. There is no point in criticising anyone or anything that can do that. They can only be admired or destroyed.
The more you think about it, the more brilliant it is. At first glance, the deftness of securing government funding, which was intended to sustain and encourage marginal businesses, is rather pleasing.
The thought of the thousands of small enterprises that could have been nourished and helped to survive by the cash Amazon has swallowed in one tax-cancelling mouthful is challenging and absorbing. It's the monster that's made a myriad food parcels into its canapé.
But it gets even better. If, for a second, you make the mistake of thinking that giving Amazon handouts might nevertheless help the UK – by incentivising the company to create jobs in Britain even if, for tax purposes, it exists only in Luxembourg – then think again. Because Amazon is the great job-killer.
For every job it creates, more than one is destroyed on the high street. It's the great annihilator of work and yet it's receiving a job-creation government subsidy. It doesn't just absorb money that would be better spent creating employment elsewhere, it deploys it to decimate the chances of that employment.
I understand that the changes in work and business patterns being caused by the internet are inevitable and irreversible. To try to stop them would be railing against the tide. Still, it's amazing that Amazon, in an act of dazzling contempt, has persuaded the treasury actually to pump water into the rising sea.
I don't really think that these problems can be fixed. It's the role of politicians to say that something must be done – with a sense of purpose if in power, and outrage if in opposition.
But their jobs are too tenuous and short-lived, the international tax system too complex and the corporations too tenacious to stop this sort of thing happening.
Loopholes will crop up by accident and, where they don't, the intense and remorseless lobbying of the already astronomically wealthy will ensure that more are created.
We can work ourselves up in impotent fury or – and this is a calmer way to live – just sit back and enjoy the majesty of a terrible thing done well. A
mazon's tax and grant arrangements are the beautiful ivory candlestick revealed by the silhouettes of British taxpayers' incredulous faces. The politicians and public provide the backdrop of incompetence and rage in front of which huge companies can display their work of corporate perfection. As the mushroom cloud showed us decades ago, evil can be beautiful.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk