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Posts tagged ‘John Koskinen’

McConnell Backs Bill to Curb Proposed IRS Rules on Free Speech.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that new IRS regulations on nonprofit organizations would “entrench and encourage the harassment of groups that dare to speak up and engage in the conversation.”

“Instead of putting safeguards in place to protect our civil liberties, the Obama administration is now dragging the IRS back in the opposite direction,” the Kentucky Republican said in remarks on the Senate floor. “No president of either party should use the power of the federal government to punish his ideological opponents.”

The Internal Revenue Service proposed new regulations the day after Thanksgiving that would prevent groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status — allowing them to keep their donors private — from running television ads, organizing get-out-the-vote efforts or voter registration drives, or handing out literature on any political issue.

The public comment period on the proposed rules ends Feb. 27.

“The path this administration is embarking on is a dangerous one with the slipperiest of slopes,” McConnell said. “Left-leaning civic groups should be just as alarmed about what these regulations could mean for them in the future as what the rules almost certainly will mean for conservative groups today.”

McConnell joined with Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Orrin Hatch of Utah to introduce legislation that would prevent the IRS from establishing rules that “would permit the suppression of First Amendment rights,” he said.

“It aims to return the agency to its mission and get it out of the speech-police business altogether — a goal that should be a bipartisan one.”

He also reiterated his call that new IRS Commissioner John Koskinen resist efforts by the White House to stifle free speech with the proposed new regulations.

Koskinen took over the embattled agency in December after a year of scandals that included the singling out of tea party and conservative groups for special screening in their applications for tax-exempt status and reports of lavish spending on IRS conferences over three years.

“This is something worth fighting for,” McConnell said. “It’s something I hope Commissioner Koskinen will work with us to achieve.

“But if he doesn’t,” the senator warned, “he should know that we are prepared to go to the mat to defend the First Amendment rights of our constituents and neighbors — and that we will continue to do so until those rights are safe once again.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Todd Beamon

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McConnell, Boehner to IRS: End ‘Intimidation and Harassment’ of Tea Party Groups.


Top Republicans in the House and the Senate insist the Obama administration is using new proposed IRS rules to continue its “harassment and intimidation” of conservative groups, and they are calling on the new IRS Commissioner to abandon the plans.

In a joint letter issued Wednesday to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also contend that, much like the agency’s targeting of tea party groups which stifled their influence in the last two election cycles, the latest round of rules are a new attempt to silence them in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

The rule, which hasn’t been finalized, could limit spending from outside groups officially classified as non-profit social welfare organizations.

The groups spent more than $310 million over the two-year 2012 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks campaign finance. Some $265 million of that — about 85 percent — was from organizations that align with Republicans, according to the watchdog group.

“It is our view that finalizing this proposed rule would make intimidation and harassment of the administration’s political opponents the official policy of the IRS and would allow the Obama Administration to use your agency as a partisan tool,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter signed by nine other colleagues.

The new IRS rules would prevent 501(c)(4) tax-exempt groups from running television ads, organizing get-out-the-vote efforts and voter registration drives, and handing out literature on political issues.

The GOP lawmakers contend the new rules amount to an assault by the administration on First Amendment rights.

“You are now left with a simple choice,” they wrote. “Reform the IRS and root out any hint of corruption or targeting of political opponents, starting by withdrawing this proposed rule, or allow the administration to use the agency as a means to infringe on the constitutionally protected right to free speech.”

In the letter the lawmakers also say that congressional investigators have uncovered evidence that the draft rules had been under consideration for at least two years, “suggesting a political motivation well outside the bounds of the agency’s mission.”

The IRS has asked for public comment on whether the same definition should apply to labor unions and business groups. Many Democrats say the IRS should adopt a strict definition that follows the word “exclusively” in the tax code.

Meanwhile, a House Ways and Means Committee investigation is underway this week into the IRS targeting scandal. Koskinen told reporters Wednesday after the hearing that the singling out of conservative organizations for heightened scrutiny would be “intolerable,” and vowed the IRS is not doing so now.

“It won’t happen going forward,” Koskinen said, according to Fox News. “And to the extent that people suffered accordingly, I apologize for that.”

On Thursday, GOP super lawyer Cleta Mitchell told representatives that the systematic effort to delay the processing of grass-roots groups applications for nonprofit status continues to occur.

The proposed rule being discussed would define political activity broadly, including voter registration drives and voter guides. The proposal has drawn more than 22,000 comments so far, mostly opposing the change.

The proposed rule doesn’t say how much political involvement would be enough to disqualify groups from obtaining and keeping social welfare status, and that’s an issue the IRS would have to resolve before it implemented the change.

Koskinen also said he would cooperate with all six separate investigations into the scandal.
President Barack Obama said in an interview Sunday with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that the targeting was inappropriate but insisted there was no corruption in the agency

“There was some boneheaded decisions out of a local office,” Obama said, adding that there was “not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Since the proposed changes were announced in November, conservative groups have been vociferous in their opposition, saying it’s the administration’s latest attempt to silence them.

Mitchell, who represents tea party groups that were targeted by the agency for scrutiny, said last week that the new rules demonstrate that the IRS is a “rogue, lawless agency” and “the enforcement arm for the Democratic Party.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Melanie Batley

Exhausted Harry Reid Released from Hospital.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was released from the hospital after being diagnosed as exhausted and was cleared to return to work, a statement from his office said on Friday.

Reid, 74, had gone to the hospital as a precaution. “The doctors diagnosed him as exhausted, not anything more serious, and have cleared him to go back to work,” the statement said.

The Nevada Democrat missed several key Senate votes as lawmakers wrapped up their work before the holiday break.

Senate Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin earlier said that he had spoken with Reid.

“He sounds hale and hearty and anxious to get home and then back to work,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Friday afternoon.

“We look forward to that happening when he returns to this desk early in the new year,” Durbin said just before the chamber halted its work for 2013. Senators return for legislative business in early January.

Reid, who was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and became its leader in 2007, suffered a stroke in 2005 and was injured last year when his motorcade crashed in Las Vegas.

In Reid’s absence on Friday, the Senate voted to approve John Koskinen, President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Internal Revenue Service, and Alejandro Mayorkas, Obama’s pick for deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Obama’s nominee to head the U.S. Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen, also advanced on a key procedural vote. The Senate is expected to officially confirm Yellen, currently the Fed’s vice chair, on Jan. 6.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Senate Confirms Turnaround Specialist Koskinen to Head IRS.


Image: Senate Confirms Turnaround Specialist Koskinen to Head IRS

The Senate voted Friday to confirm a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist to head the Internal Revenue Service, an agency recovering from scandal as it gears up to play a big role in implementing the president’s health care law.

John Koskinen, 74, won a five-year term as IRS commissioner, which would last beyond President Barack Obama’s stay in office. The vote was 59-36.

Koskinen’s confirmation was one of several being voted on Friday as the Senate wrapped up its work for the year. The Senate also voted to confirm Alejandro Mayorkas to be deputy secretary of Homeland Security, and Brian J. Davis to be a U.S. District Court judge in Florida.

Also Friday, the Senate cleared the way for Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve. The procedural vote will allow the confirmation of Yellen as the first woman to lead the Fed on Jan. 6, after the Senate returns from its holiday vacation.

Friday’s votes ended a contentious year in the Senate in which majority Democrats changed the rules to make it easier to confirm the president’s nominees. Democratic leaders said they were frustrated because Republicans had blocked many qualified candidates from final confirmation votes. Republicans complained that Democrats were trampling the rights of the minority party, ending decades of precedent.

Obama tapped Koskinen for the IRS job following revelations that agents had targeted tea party and other conservative groups for extra, sometimes burdensome scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections. The Justice Department and three congressional committees have launched investigations.

The investigations, which are ongoing, have shown that IRS workers in a Cincinnati office started singling out conservative political groups in the spring of 2010 and continued to do so until 2012. IRS supervisors in Washington oversaw the targeting but there has been no evidence released so far that anyone outside the IRS knew about the targeting or directed it.

At his confirmation hearing, Koskinen said he will work to restore public trust in the agency.

“People need to have a view that the IRS is a nonpolitical, nonpartisan agency and that they will all be treated fairly no matter what their affiliation or political view,” Koskinen said.

Koskinen’s nomination had bipartisan support, but some Republicans wanted his confirmation delayed until the investigations were completed. Democrats said the position was too important to go unfilled, especially as the IRS takes on the health law.

“Mr. Koskinen is the type of leader we need at the IRS,” said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee. “His experience as a turnaround artist in the public and private sector will be critical as he takes on this challenge.”

Koskinen has extensive experience in the public and private sectors. He came in to overhaul mortgage buyer Freddie Mac after its near-collapse in the financial crisis at the end of President George W. Bush’s administration. He also oversaw preparations for potential computer problems associated with the Year 2000 under President Bill Clinton.

With about 90,000 employees, the IRS processes more than 140 million individual income tax returns each year.

The IRS, which is part of the Treasury Department, will be in charge of enforcing the mandate that most individuals have health insurance, and collecting fines from people who don’t. The IRS will also distribute subsidies to help people buy insurance in new state-based marketplaces known as exchanges.

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Follow Stephen Ohlemacher on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stephenatap

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Senate Confirmation of Yellen Delayed.


Image: Senate Confirmation of Yellen Delayed

By Melanie Batley

A final vote in the Senate expected this week to confirm Janet Yellen as chairman of the Federal Reserve has been postponed until early January as part of a deal with Republicans to secure the confirmations of three other presidential nominees.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was an attempt to break a stalemate between the parties which reached fever pitch after Democrats changed the filibuster rules to ram through appointments that had been stalled for months, according to Bloomberg. Republicans have since been digging in their heels by dragging out debate on each appointment.

“I think the solution to this is not to throw daggers at each other but to sit down and talk this through,” Indiana GOP Sen. Dan Coats said on the Senate floor shortly after the agreement was announced, according to The Washington Post.

Senators will vote to end formal debate on Yellen’s nomination Friday, take a two-week holiday break, then return Jan. 6 for the final vote, Bloomberg reports.

In exchange, votes to confirm three other presidential nominees are set for Friday, including John Koskinen as commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Alejandro Mayorkas as deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and Brian Davis to be a federal judge in Florida.

Under the new filibuster rules, Yellen needs the support of a simple majority of the Senate’s 100 members to become the 15th chairman and first woman to head the central bank in its 100-year history. If confirmed, she will replace Ben Bernanke whose term expires on Jan. 31.

“We need her expertise at the helm of the Fed as our nation continues to recover from the great recession, completes Wall Street reform rule-makings and continues to enhance the stability of our financial sector,” Senate Banking Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, said in a floor speech, according to Bloomberg.

Yellen said at her Nov. 14 confirmation hearing that she will maintain current policies until “strong recovery” allows the bank to scale back monetary accommodation.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

IRS Targeted Tea Party After Granting Tax Status.


The Internal Revenue Service continued to target conservative political groups even after approving their applications for tax-exempt status, a key Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.

A May report by the IRS inspector general said the agency gave extra scrutiny to 298 groups when they applied for tax exempt status from the spring of 2010 to the spring of 2012. The vast majority of the groups — 248 — were conservative, while 29 were liberal and 21 were neither, according to an analysis by the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Of the 111 conservative groups that had their applications approved, 38 were flagged for additional monitoring, according to the staff review. Of the 20 liberal groups that had their applications approved, seven were flagged for additional monitoring.

The IRS acknowledged in May that agents had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups for additional, sometimes burdensome scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. But the revelation that groups were singled out for even more scrutiny after receiving tax-exempt status will broaden the committee’s investigation, said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who chairs the panel’s oversight subcommittee.

“That’s a whole new line of investigation that we now have embarked on,” Boustany said at a committee hearing Wednesday. “There could have been potential meddling in that examinations process.”

After the hearing, the IRS issued a statement saying that while some groups had been flagged for additional scrutiny in the future, that monitoring never took place because the program was put on hold this summer.

“This means that none of them received special scrutiny,” the IRS said. “This precautionary step was done out of an abundance of caution and to ensure a fresh, independent evaluation to determine if these groups needed review at a future point in time. We are continuing to assess the situation going forward.”

The monitoring, known as a review of operations, would have fallen short of a full audit in most cases. Under the program, agents monitor groups to assess whether they are adhering to the activities described in their applications for tax-exempt status.

Acting IRS head Danny Werfel said all of the orders to more closely monitor tax-exempt groups have been rescinded while the IRS works to develop new guidelines.

“They are no longer on a path of potential examination at this time,” Werfel said at the hearing. “That whole process is on hold.”

The IRS has been under siege since May when agency officials acknowledged that agents working in a Cincinnati office had improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Shortly after the revelation, President Barack Obama forced the acting IRS commissioner to resign and appointed Werfel to run the agency temporarily.

In August, Obama nominated John Koskinen, a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist, to a five-year term as commissioner. Werfel continues to run the agency while Koskinen awaits Senate confirmation.

Three congressional committees and the Justice Department have launched investigations, and much of the leadership at the IRS has been replaced.

So far, congressional investigators have shown that IRS supervisors in Washington knew that applications by tea party groups were being delayed for months and even years. However, investigators have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the IRS ordered the targeting or knew it was happening.

The IRS has also released documents suggesting that progressive groups may have been targeted, too. House Republican investigators have been working to show that while some liberal groups were treated poorly, conservative groups were treated worse.

“Unfortunately, my friends on the other side of the aisle continue to frame this issue as a partisan one — as only affecting conservative groups,” said Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means subcommittee. “Time and time again the facts have shown that both Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning groups were singled out during the application process.”

As part of their investigation, Ways and Means Committee staff have interviewed 25 IRS officials and are reviewing about 300,000 internal IRS documents, Boustany said.

Also Wednesday, the Republican staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a 19-page update of its investigation. Much of the memo detailed how Democratic politicians, including Obama, were publicly vilifying conservative political groups at the same time that IRS agents were targeting them.

The memo included excerpts of interviews with IRS workers who said they were aware of the publicity surrounding some of the groups.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight committee, dismissed the memo.

“Unable to prove a link between the White House and the IRS conduct, Republicans now allege that President Obama and other Democrats sent subliminal messages through the media directing the IRS to target tea party organizations,” Cummings said in a statement. “This latest partisan staff memo demonstrates that Republicans are grasping at straws. It’s time for the committee to stop the political games and start working to restore the public’s confidence in the IRS.”

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© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Rep. Darrell Issa Subpoenas IRS Documents.


GOP Rep. Darrell Issa issued a subpoena on Friday to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew seeking documents related to a nearly three-month-old congressional probe of the IRS’ treatment of conservative political groups.

In a move to keep the pressure on the Obama administration, Issa, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said the IRS is delaying his investigation, leaving him no choice but to issue the subpoena.

“You are slow-rolling us,” Issa, of California, said to Internal Revenue Service acting chief Danny Werfel at a hearing on Friday. “You frustrated this committee.”

Werfel defended the IRS, saying it is legally bound to honor taxpayer protections before releasing documents. “Any indication that we are standing in the way of discovery is just not true,” Werfel said.

The IRS operates under the Treasury Department. In the months ahead, the Senate will need to consider confirming President Barack Obama’s new IRS commissioner nominee, John Koskinen, who was named on Thursday.

Several committees of Congress are looking into allegations that the IRS unfairly scrutinized conservative political groups’ applications for tax-exempt status from 2010 to 2012. A report by an IRS watchdog in May faulted the agency’s conduct on several levels.

Werfel, appointed by Obama to run the tax agency in the days after the scandal broke, said at the hearing the IRS has assigned 70 lawyers full-time to go through millions of documents.

After months of digging, congressional staffers have not produced evidence linking Obama and the White House to low-level IRS employees first involved in flagging the tax-exemption applications of conservative groups for closer review.

Republicans have recently focused on IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins. His office learned of the screening of tea party-related groups fairly early on, but no evidence has been uncovered linking Wilkins, an Obama appointee, to the activity.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

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