Friday, May 31, 2013

Coordinated Targeting

I continue to watch for further information to come out about the various scandals swirling around this administration. Today I want to take a further look at the targeting of conservative groups, focusing on True the Vote, which I have participated in personally. [I’ve written about TTV here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.]

This will lead to a question about how the administration goes about business: Who is doing the targeting, and how do they go about coordinating?
There are two nonprofit organizations started by Catherine Engelbrecht, here in Houston, Texas, in 2010 that have grown nationwide since that small beginning. One is True the Vote, with the mission of helping people learn how to verify free and fair elections. Its purpose is nonpartisan and educational and should qualify as a 501(c)3 organization, which would allow donations to be tax deductible. The other is King Street Patriots, a nonpartisan but conservative group helping to share information and advocating on specific issues. KSP has been holding weekly meetings, with speakers, and annual conferences. It does not endorse candidates or parties, and welcomes all interested comers. KSP should qualify as a 501(c)4 organization—nonprofit for the organization’s tax purposes, but donations would not be deductible.

Filing for nonprofit statuses for these two organizations was done in July 2010 (almost three years ago). I have applied for nonprofit status before. We organized a homeschool support group in December 2005. We were able to apply online and qualify as a Texas nonprofit organization while the organizing meeting was still underway. It took a few months to put together the paperwork (a few pages) to apply for federal 501(c)3 status, with educational purposes. We received that status about two months after applying. There were no IRS visits, phonecalls, or examinations of our personal IRS filings. Our organization handled very little money—enough dues to cover basic insurance and facility rentals; there were no employees, and most activities were paid for by participants. So it was simple—also quick. (We also didn’t have a president then who makes it clear he believes parents do not have a natural right to school their own children.)
TTV and KSP are much bigger, and more complex. But their purposes are no more nefarious or suspicious than our homeschool group. I can understand a few additional clarifying questions, to make sure the group does what it claims to do. But those could have been simply answered by IRS people visiting the website, where videos of meetings are archived, or having someone drop in to observe. Meetings are open. Rolls aren’t taken, although there is always a sign-up sheet to get emails, if you want to get announcements.
These organizations have done everything required by the law—as well as everything required by the harassing IRS. And still they have not received their nonprofit certification.
It’s odd enough that the IRS has taken three years, has acknowledged knowing about the targeting for well over a year, and still hasn't ruled on the status—either way, granted or denied. So clearly the IRS problem isn’t cleared up yet.
But the real scary part is how many other federal agencies got involved. The full timeline of encounters is available. (This article is also a good summary. Also, watch the 13-minute interview on Huckabee, above.) Besides multiple encounters with the IRS, and the hundreds and hundreds of pages of answered questions still not qualifying as enough, there has been scrutiny from the FBI Domestic Terrorism Unit, twice, asking about attendance by a specific person. (Don’t know who this person was, but no information was available except that this person had attended, according to a sign-in sheet.) Plus there were four additional FBI general inquiries.
Then there were personal audits by the IRS of the Engelbrecht’s small business. Let me say that, in the dozens of times I have attended events at King Street Patriots, Catherine Engelbrecht has never even said the name of her family business or what it did. All she has said was that she stepped away from the family business to do this volunteer citizen work, and her husband stands behind her and continues without her. I have never been aware of his attendance at any event; if he’s been there, he has remained anonymous. I saw her children only once, at an all-day presentation by another organization, educating on the US Constitution.
Her family has stayed very separate from the nonprofit work. She has done nothing to connect her private life with the nonprofit organizations. The personal audit ended up giving them a small refund—that’s how squeaky clean they were, even under scrutiny.
Then came unscheduled visits and audits by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. The business has a class 7 license, which would allow them to manufacture gun parts, if they chose to—which they do not do. They were required to open their safes and provide serial numbers of any personally owned firearms. ATF made more than one visit.
OSHA dropped in unannounced, even though they’d never found the need to make contact in the first 20 years the family business was in operation. They wanted to see the family farm, count animals, examine fence lines, and a great many things unrelated to running a small manufacturing business. Violations were found: the seatbelt on a forklift was the wrong kind. They were using safety goggles as required, but not the right kind.
Result: fines of $25,000. They were able to talk those down to $17,000. They feared arguing further, because who knew how much further the persecution would go? It was not an insignificant amount for a small business of 30 employees.
The cost for the nonprofits has probably reached into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for accounting and attorneys. Note that this is all in response to questioning, with no accusations of crime or wrongdoing. They do not have that kind of money; they do not even have employees. I believe (not sure) that much of the legal help has been provided pro bono; Jay Sekulow of American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has been involved with this and another couple dozen similar cases.
Another agency, puzzling to me because the name makes it appear to be a state agency, not federal. In November of 2012 was an unscheduled audit by the Texas Commission on Environment Quality. In response to yet another unrevealed complaint?
Only the IRS and FBI made contacts related to the nonprofits and their activity—pretty intrusive, but at least related. But the family and family business got harassed by the IRS, OSHA, ATF, and TCEQ. Never happened before, but at the same time scrutiny follows the nonprofit applications. Coincidence?
On radio yesterday a caller reached Sean Hannity’s radio show (around 3:45 PM CDT, 5-30-2013), saying a similar harassment happened to him a few years ago. He and his wife own a small mom-and-pop business. They support traditional marriage and made a donation to the Prop 8 campaign; within a month they also made a donation to a church. Shortly later they were suddenly targeted by OSHA, the IRS, and another agency I didn’t catch. It cost them considerably in accounting and legal fees, fighting accusations like “you have too much money in your account,” when they kept only three months of working capital. Sean Hannity responded that there are a great many untold stories. Some of them he has collected in a studio audience for Friday’s show (TV show, on Fox News, I believe). These are people who have reason to believe they have been targeted purely for their political views.
There are three possible explanations:
  1. There is no targeting based on political beliefs; this is all just coincidence (which pretty much no one believes anymore; even the IRS has admitted to targeting).
  2. There has been targeting based on political beliefs, but it was limited to low level rogue employees in a specific IRS, acting on their own (pretty unlikely, considering all the evidence from various places and various agencies).
  3. There has been targeting, beyond the IRS nonprofit office, beyond even the IRS as a whole, coordinated among various agencies, including private citizens and their businesses aside from their nonprofit activities.

I think the evidence grows stronger that it’s the third explanation. So the question is, who coordinates, and how do they accomplish it? Over and over the White House declares it knew nothing. But all of the federal agencies involved come under the executive branch; the President is ultimately responsible for their behavior.
Technically, it’s possible the President remains hands off, but it’s hard to imagine he maintains his ignorance in any other way but with a wink-wink, “we never had this conversation,” “you know what to do without it being spelled out; that’s why you were hired—for your initiative” kind of machination. It’s also possible that there’s some specific coordination going on that is being covered up and lied about. The Chicago Way (which our president is much more qualified to teach than he ever was Constitutional law) includes both versions.

Questions are arising concerning an unusual number of White House visits by the former IRS Commissioner, now counting up to 157 (compared to one by his predecessor during the eight Bush years). He’s not supposed to be a policy maker. So what is there to talk about? And we’re supposed to believe neither he nor any White House person knew anything about the targeting? Just another odd coincidence?
I don’t want scapegoats. I want truth about what is actually happening, so we can learn from this history and never suffer repeating it.

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