Republican Rep. Paul Gosar gleefully hailed the accumulation of political controversies surrounding the Obama Administration as the key to winning control of Congress in 2014, at a speech before a supportive crowd at a Payson Tea Party meeting.
Gosar, who represents Rim Country, termed “scandalgate” a series of investigations afflicting the Obama Administration. One involves the Internal Revenue Service’s action to flag Tea Party and “patriot” groups’ applications for tax-exempt status. A second involves Justice Department seizure of journalists’ phone records. The third involves conflicting Administration accounts of the fatal attack on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Finally, Gosar touched on the now years-old controversy about 2,000 guns that went missing in a Justice Department gun smuggling sting operation.
“This is the unraveling of Obamacare,” said Gosar at one point concerning the revelation that the IRS had flagged tax-exempt status requests by Tea Party and “patriot” groups, delaying an action by months or years and requiring the groups to fill out pages of paperwork. Gosar said the controversy proves the IRS can’t be trusted to administer the new health insurance write-offs, mandates and penalties in the Affordable Health Care Act. The IRS official in charge of the tax exemptions office when Tea Party groups were flagged has since moved over to head up the IRS’s health care division.
“This is fun,” added Gosar of the slew of Congressional hearings into the controversies. “All these people want to talk to me and all I want to do is talk to the Tea Party… This is going to all unravel. Stay the course. The facts will set you free.”
Later in the meeting, one audience member said, “Now we’ve got some scandals. How do we squelch the media? How do we keep these things going?”
“You’re absolutely right,” said Gosar, making reference to his longstanding effort to keep in the news the “Fast and Furious” investigation about the guns federal agents in Arizona sold while investigating gun smuggling operations. The agents lost track of 2,000 weapons — some sold to drug cartels. Two of the missing weapons showed up at the scene where a federal agent was murdered. “We just need the facts. They’re going to come out. We can use the media — but we need persistence. We all want blood. But you have to set this up. It’s strategy.”
Gosar devoted most of his 90-minute, May 30 speech to the assorted investigations.
Gosar said the U.S. State Department and the U.S. military failed to protect Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans killed in an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. “They were put in harm’s way by their government. We had to wait nine months and we still don’t know what happened. That’s what happens when you have an Attorney General who is out of wack. Someone is going to pay a price here. (Secretary of State Hillary) Clinton knew all about it… and the media is giving the President a pass.”
He said he wanted to get military leaders like Admiral Mike McMullen in front of his committee to explain why they didn’t have adequate military protection in the consulate and didn’t send a major force as soon as the compound came under attack. “I want them to shake when I say ‘how does it feel when you watch people die and do nothing?’”
The initial controversy about the attack on the diplomatic mission centered on White House and State Department approved statements by UN Ambassador Susan Rice suggesting the attack on the consulate was staged by street protesters. Later, the administration said the investigation showed that well-armed extremists, including groups affiliated with Al Qaeda, pressed the attack. Subsequent investigations revealed that Rice’s statement was based on briefing points hammered out in exchanges between the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department, after the C.I.A. objected that references to the possible involvement of the extremists groups in the first days after the attack would compromise investigations. The emails show that the C.I.A. initially concluded that the attacks grew out of civilian demonstrations, but also eliminated references to the possible additional involvement of extremists.
Subsequent investigations indicated that the U.S. military also rebuffed state department concerns about security for the ambassador in Benghazi. Records show numerous reports of plots against Americans from terrorist groups operating in Libya, which remained in chaos after rebels overthrew dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
A State Department investigation concluded that the failure to provide adequate security and respond quickly to the attack stemmed from “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels.” However, congressional committees headed by Republicans have continued to press the investigation and to attempt to link former Secretary of State Clinton to the decisions made.
IRS and the Tea Party
“This is tragic what we’re seeing,” said Rep. Gosar. “This is going to unravel. But it’s going to take time, because in the House we are a blocking minority. But so far this is just the tip of the iceberg. Just get ready. It’s going to come.”
The IRS controversy grew out of the decision of IRS officials charged with reviewing applications for tax-exempt status to flag the application of any group that had “Tea Party, patriot or 9/11” in their names.
That decision in turn, grew out of the doubling of applications for tax exempt status by groups with at least some involvement with elections in the wake of the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, which threw out limits on political spending and reporting by independent groups and corporations. Almost immediately after that ruling, the amount of independent expenditures in political campaigns doubled to about $100 million. The bulk of the newly formed, third-party groups supported Republican candidates. The tax code bars tax exempt status for strictly political groups, but allows exemptions for groups “operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements” and engage in lobbying or political activity incidentally.
IRS officials in Cincinnati and elsewhere flagged applications from certain groups, mostly associated with conservative causes. Groups don’t actually have to get the IRS certification to claim tax-exempt status, but having the certification avoids problems in case of an audit later. Flagging the Tea Party groups resulted in delays of 18 months or more. In a two-year period, the IRS put on hold several hundred flagged applications, while approving only four. No applications were denied.
IRS officials themselves revealed the existence of policy and criticized it. The White House immediately condemned it. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has launched a probe of possible criminal violations. IRS officials have apologized to the groups whose applications were inappropriately flagged.