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Posts tagged ‘Treasury Department’

Obama Imposes Sanctions on 11 Russians, Ukrainians Over Crimea Move.


Image: Obama Imposes Sanctions on 11 Russians, Ukrainians Over Crimea Move

By Newsmax Wires

In the most comprehensive sanctions against Russia since the end of the Cold War, President Barack Obama on Monday froze the U.S. assets of seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine.Obama said he was moving to “increase the cost” to Russia, and he warned that more people could face financial punishment.

“If Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions,” Obama said. He added in a brief statement from the White House that he still believes there could be a diplomatic resolution to the crisis and that the sanctions can be calibrated based on whether Russia escalates or pulls back in its involvement.

The Treasury Department also is imposing sanctions on four Ukrainians — including former President Viktor Yanukovych and others who have supported Crimea’s separation — under existing authority under a previous Obama order. Senior administration officials also said they are developing evidence against individuals in the arms industry and those they described as “Russian government cronies” to target their assets.

The administration officials said Putin wasn’t sanctioned despite his support of the Crimean referendum because the United States doesn’t usually begin with heads of state. But the officials, speaking to reporters on a conference call on the condition they not be quoted by name, say those sanctioned are very close to Putin and that the sanctions are “designed to hit close to home.”

The U.S. announcement came shortly after the European Union announced travel bans and asset freezes on 21 people they have linked to the unrest in Crimea. Obama administration officials say there is some overlap between the United States and European list, which wasn’t immediately made public.

The sanctions were expected after residents in Crimea voted overwhelmingly Sunday in favor of the split. Crimea’s parliament on Monday declared the region an independent state.

The administration officials say there is some concrete evidence that some ballots for the referendum arrived premarked in many cities and “there are massive anomalies in the vote.” The officials did not say what that evidence was.

The United States, European Union, and others say the action violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law and took place in the strategic peninsula under duress of Russian military intervention. Putin maintained that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination, according to the Kremlin.

The administration officials said they will be looking at additional sanctions if Russia moves to annex Crimea or takes other action. Those targeted will have all U.S. assets frozen and no one in the United States can do business with them under Obama’s order.

“Today’s actions send a strong message to the Russian government that there are consequences for their actions that violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, including their actions supporting the illegal referendum for Crimean separation,” the White House said in a statement.

“Today’s actions also serve as notice to Russia that unless it abides by its international obligations and returns its military forces to their original bases and respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the United States is prepared to take additional steps to impose further political and economic costs,” the statement said.

Administration officials say those Obama targeted also are key political players in Russia also responsible for the country’s tightening of human rights and civil liberties in the country. Obama’s order targets were:

  • Vladislav Surkov, a Putin aide;
  • Sergey Glazyev, a Putin adviser;
  • Leonid Slutsky, a state Duma deputy;
  • Andrei Klishas, member of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation;
  • Valentina Matviyenko, head of the Federation Council;
  • Dmitry Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation;
  • Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy.

The four newly targeted by the Treasury Department are:

  • Yanukovych, who fled Ukraine for Russia and has supported the dispatch of Russian troops into Ukraine;
  • Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of Crimea separatist group Ukrainian Choice and a close friend of Putin;
  • Sergey Aksyonov, prime minister of Crimea’s regional government;
  • Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Crimean parliament.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

NOM’s Plante: Gay Tax Rule Will Be Challenged in Court.


The Treasury’s decision to allow gay couples to file join tax returns grossly oversteps the department’s authority, the National Organization of Marriage’s Chris Plante charged in an exclusive Newsmax interview.

But the decision came as no surprise as President Barack Obama’s administration continues on its path to legalizing gay marriage throughout the country.

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Now the only way to stop such a situation is by way of a constitutional amendment specifically setting out that marriage should only be between one man and one woman, said Plante, the NOM’s communications director.

Story continues below video.

“The fact is, the Treasury Department has grossly overstepped its authority,” Plante told Newsmax TV. “It’s up to Congress to create the laws. While they claim to be trying to create uniformity in federal law, as opposed to taxes, it was the exact same rationale that led them to the Defense of Marriage Act decision this summer, and they stand in conflict with each other.

“This is a gross misstep by the administration.”

Plante said the administration must expect lawsuits in the wake of the decision announced Thursday to allow same-sex couples to file jointly even in states that have constitutions that ban gay marriage.

“There will be a myriad of lawsuits,” he predicted.

“This ruling creates all sorts of confusion and it will result in lawsuits, it will result in states not sure what to do, and the fact of the matter is states do have the right to define marriage as they see fit. That is still in Section 2 of the Defense of Marriage Act.

“This is the Treasury Department going outside the bounds of its own authority, but we’re not surprised by this,” Plante said. “The president himself and the Department of Justice failed to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in the beginning in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, so they’ve already abdicated their role.

“It is part-and-parcel of a movement that we’re seeing across the country for administrators, or bureaucrats, or county clerks, even, to take the law into their own hands and try to redefine marriage,” Plante said.

He said the confusion calls out for a federal constitutional amendment. “We cannot have 50 definitions of marriage across the country. Marriage has predated the United States. It has been a presumed one-man and one-woman institution until just 2000, when this idea of redefining marriage entered Western civilization and Western thought.

“It is ludicrous that we’re at this point,” he added. “We need to define marriage as one man and one woman not because we are actually creating it but because that’s what it is and government has a purpose investing in marriage as one man and one woman because it creates the best place to raise children and the next generation.”

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But in the meantime before an amendment can be passed, Plante said indifividual states have to protect straight marriage. ” Indiana, for example, will have a valid amendment in November of 2014 to define marriage as one man and one woman. We heartily support that.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald and John Bachmann

‘Excessive’ IRS Travel Expenses Draw Scrutiny.


Some IRS executives have been getting “significant” travel expenses reimbursed for commuting to Washington, D.C., to work instead of relocating there, a new watchdog report shows.

The IRS spent more than $9 million in fiscal years 2011 and 2012 sending agents around the country, but that amount did not appear “excessive,” David Holmgren, a Treasury Department deputy inspector general, told reporters in a conference call Tuesday.

But, according to Politico, some expense reimbursements were much higher than what most agents receive for travel, Holmgren said.

For example, one top official, whose name was not released, was reimbursed $161,000 in 2011 for travel expenses, including airfare, hotels, rental cars, and taxis, along with a per-diem for food and other necessities.

“When you compare that to the average IRS executive [travel expenditure] — which is between $12,000 and $13,000 per year — you can see it’s quite a significant difference,” said Holmgren.

Still, Holmgren stressed, a review found no misconduct. But, he said, the IRS could spend money more efficiently by relocating employees rather than pay their travel expenses
Citing “this tight fiscal environment,” an IRS official said Tuesday the agency has “put in place new procedures to stop the practice of allowing executives to routinely leave their home office to travel to another city to conduct their principal work.”

According to Pamela J. LaRue, the agency’s chief financial officer, the IRS has more than 300 executives, many of whom are required to travel to meet the requirements of their jobs.

In a statement to accountingtoday.com
, LaRue described the executive positions as “highly specialized,” requiring a unique set of skills that includes an understanding of the tax laws, the agency’s programs, and technology infrastructure “critical to successfully running a tax system that collects $2.5 trillion a year.

“The employees best prepared to handle these demanding and complex jobs may not always live where the position is located and may not be in a position to relocate, necessitating some additional travel,” she added.

The report showed that 15 IRS executives accounted for $1.2 million spent on top-level travel expenses in fiscal year 2011. In 2012, the 15 spent another $1.1 million on travel, accounting for about a quarter of the agency’s reimbursed expenses.

Holmgren noted that the executives with the largest travel budgets hold “national headquarters-types of positions . . . but the majority, or all of them, in fact, were not here in the D.C. area,” he told reporters, according to Politico.

The watchdog report issued by Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration also noted that some of the executives traveled more days than they worked and lived on the road for more than half the year.

The cost and frequency of travel for these executives indicate that they may not live in the best location to economically accomplish their roles and responsibilities,” the report suggested.
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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

GOP Wants Quick Results From Werfel on IRS Scandal.


Image: GOP Wants Quick Results From Werfel on IRS Scandal

By Dan Weil

Republicans are warning new acting IRS Director Danny Werfel that he’ll have to do more than reshuffle positions and put people on administrative leave to prove that he is serious about making fundamental changes to the way the agency does business.

According to The Hill, Democrats and Republican alike have been impressed with Werfel’s grasp of the seriousness of the targeting of tea party and other conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. They say his aggressiveness in addressing the issue, and his commitment to putting safeguards in place to prevent similar occurrences, also has been reassuring.

But some Republicans say they want actual results sooner rather than later and are unwilling to tolerate delays from the Internal Revenue Service bureaucracy in responding to their requests for more information.

For example, Louisiana Rep. Charles Boustany, chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, complained about IRS officials’ delay last week in producing answers to questions about the targeting. Werfel responded two weeks after the request was made, saying the Treasury Department inspector general likely would have to investigate further to satisfy the panel’s request.

“It’s hard to put a time on that,” Boustany acknowledged of additional investigations. “But we’re expecting action now. We don’t have a grace period. We’ve got to keep moving.”

Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, who serves on the House Appropriations subcommittee where Werfel testified June 3, said he wants quicker and more substantial action despite the fact that Werfel had been on the job for a few weeks.

“I appreciated his tone, although we have a long way to go to see if there’s any action,” Yoder told The Hill. “We’ll see whether the actions back up the words.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rep. Boustany to Newsmax: Root Out and Stop Waste at IRS.


Image: Rep. Boustany to Newsmax: Root Out and Stop Waste at IRS

By Greg Richter and Kathleen Walter

There is serious waste and abuse at the Internal Revenue Service, Rep. Charles Boustany tells Newsmax TV. “We’re going to root it out, and we’re going to put a stop to it.”

Boustany, R-La., is chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, which has jurisdiction over the IRS and is investigating the reports of how the agency treated the conservative groups.

The Treasury Department‘s inspector general also released a new report that shows the IRS spent $50 million on 220 conferences in three years. One conference alone, in which IRS officials enjoyed luxury hotel rooms, cost taxpayers $4 million.

Boustany said he asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew earlier this year whether further waste could be eliminated from the department and the IRS in particular, since it was asking for $1 billion more in resources.

“Of course, he said no,” Boustany said. “This is also in the same timeframe when we found this production studio that’s costing the taxpayer $4 million a year. We found a ‘Star Trek‘ video, the ‘Gilligan’s Island‘ video, and now this dance video.”

Turning to the investigation of the targeting of conservative groups, Boustany tells Newsmax that employees in the Cincinnati office, where the abuses were reported to have centered, have been interviewed and documents are being reviewed.

“We know there are deep, deep problems at the IRS with serious abuse,” he said, with “mismanagement across the board, and egregious intimidation tactics that were used with a number of these groups as well as private, personal donor tax information that’s been released in violation of federal law.”

Despite initial claims by the IRS that the targeting was performed by low-level staffers in Cincinnati, Boustany said he believes people in Washington were aware, including former Commissioner Douglas Shulman and former Acting Commissioner Steven Miller.

“Now, we were still trying to connect all those dots in making the leak into the White House or over at the Treasury,” Boustany said. “We have to do this very thorough investigation and we are committed to doing it.”

Rather than abolishing the IRS, Boustany suggests rewriting the tax code. “We need to simplify this tax code, make it fair for the taxpayer, make it easy to comply,” he said. “And we also need to make sure that the code is written in a way so that you cannot get these complex fraudulent schemes that occur within the tax code, making it difficult for the IRS to administer.”

Boustany called “troublesome” the actions by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when she solicited support for a pro-Obamacare group. Sebelius has called the actions legal, even though her agency regulates the organizations she solicited.

“This strikes me as a clear overreach in abuse on the part of the secretary to target organizations, entities that she potentially is regulating to get money,” he said. “It really comes close to something that looks like, potentially, extortion.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Official Testifies Treasury Not Involved in IRS Abuse.


Image: Official Testifies Treasury Not Involved in IRS Abuse

From left, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that decides whether to grant tax-exempt status to groups, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, are sworn in on Capitol Hill on May 22.
 

The Treasury Department‘s No. 2 official told Congress on Wednesday that his agency played no role in the Internal Revenue Service‘s targeting of conservative groups.

Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin made the statement in testimony he prepared to deliver to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. At the same hearing, the star witness – IRS official Lois Lerner – was ready to invoke her constitutional right to not answer questions.

In his prepared remarks, Wolin said it was “absolutely unacceptable and inexcusable” that the IRS subjected tea party and other conservative groups seeking non-profit status to extra scrutiny from 2010 to 2012.

He said J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general who focuses on taxes, told him last year that he was investigating IRS’s targeting of the groups.

“I told him that he should follow the facts wherever they lead. I told him that our job is to stay out of the way and let him do his work,” Wolin said.

“There is no indication that Treasury was involved in the inexcusable behavior at the IRS,” he added.

Lawmakers are trying to learn whether the IRS targeting was politically motivated. The inspector general and IRS officials have said there is no evidence of that.

As the hearing began, Oversight panel Chairman Darrell Issa, a California Republican, repeated a frequent complaint from lawmakers in the IRS episode – that IRS officials who knew earlier about the tartgeting didn’t tell Congress about it.

“Congress was misled. The American people were misled,” Issa said.

Lerner triggered the recent IRS uproar at a legal conference nearly two weeks ago, when she revealed that the agency’s targeting of conservative groups and apologized for the actions.

Lerner, 62, an attorney who joined the IRS in 2001, heads the unit that decides whether groups qualify for the status. She has come under fire from members of both parties, including Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, who said in an interview Tuesday that she should lose her job.

George, the Treasury inspector general, has said he told Wolin in mid-2012 that he was investigating the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups, a report that was released last week. That means Wolin was the highest-ranking Treasury official to have known about the probe during last year’s elections, making him a focus of interest for lawmakers.

“What did you know and when? Who did you tell?” Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, of Utah, a senior member of the Oversight Committee, said Tuesday of what he hopes to learn from Wolin.

Lerner’s attorney, William W. Taylor III, has requested that she be excused from Wednesday’s hearing, writing in the letter that forcing her to appear “would have no purpose other than to embarrass or burden her.” But the committee has subpoenaed her and panel members say they expect her to attend.

“She better be there. We’re planning on it,” Chaffetz said.

In writing that Lerner would use her Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate herself, Taylor noted that the Justice Department has started an investigation into the IRS controversy. He also referred to a letter she received last week from Issa saying she “provided false or misleading information on four separate occasions last year” to committee queries.

Staff of the Oversight Committee questioned Lerner and other IRS officials last year after receiving complaints from Ohio tea party groups that they were being mistreated by the IRS, said Meghan Snyder, spokesman for Rep. Jim Jordan, a Ohio Republican, a member of the committee.

In responses to the committee, Lerner didn’t mention that tea party groups had ever been targeted, according to documents. Her responses included 45-page letters in May 2012 to Issa and Jordan.

Lerner also met twice in early 2012 with staff from the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee to discuss the issue, according to a timeline constructed by committee staff. The timeline said she didn’t mention at either meeting that conservative groups had been targeted.

Lerner’s revelation and apology at the May 10 legal conference came in response to a question that IRS officials later acknowledged they had planted with an audience member. Lerner’s disclosure came days before George, the inspector general, released his report detailing the IRS’ actions.

George’s report found that in June 2011, Lerner discovered that her unit was searching for organizations with words like “tea party” or “patriots” in their applications and subjecting them to tougher questions. She ordered the initial tea party criteria to be scrapped, but it later evolved to include groups that promoted the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the report said. Lawmakers are curious about why the practice didn’t stop entirely.

A career civil servant who has run the division since late 2005, Lerner has not been disciplined for her role, IRS officials said. But with President Barack Obama demanding that IRS officials be held accountable for the problem, Acting Commissioner Steven Miller and another top agency official have announced their departures in recent days and many lawmakers believe more heads should roll.

George and Douglas Shulman, the former IRS commissioner who headed the agency while it was targeting conservative groups, are also scheduled to testify Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Shulman told the Senate Finance Committee that he learned in the spring of 2012 about his agency’s targeting of conservatives and George’s probe. He said he didn’t tell lawmakers or officials at Treasury – of which the IRS is part – because he only had sketchy information about the situation, was told it was being handled and believed it proper to let George’s office conduct its investigation.
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Obama Administration Knew of IRS Probe During 2012 Campaign.


WASHINGTON  — Senior Treasury officials were made aware in June 2012 that investigators were looking into complaints from tea party groups that they were being harassed by the Internal Revenue Service, a Treasury inspector general said, disclosing that Obama administration officials knew there was a probe during the heat of the presidential campaign.

J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, testifying alongside ousted IRS head Steven Miller on Friday, said he had told the department’s general counsel about his investigation on June 4, 2012, and Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin “shortly thereafter.”

But, George cautioned, those discussions were “not to inform them of the results of the audit. It was to inform them of the fact that we were conducting the audit.”

After the hearing, inspector general spokeswoman Karen Kraushaar said George “informed Department of Treasury officials that we were looking into the IRS’ handling of applications for tax-exempt status, partly due to allegations raised by conservative organizations.”

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Kraushaar said the disclosure was part of a routine briefing about the office’s activities.

The Treasury Department issued a statement Friday saying officials first became aware of the actual results of the investigation in March of this year, when they were provided a draft of George’s report, a standard practice.

George’s disclosure came before the House Ways and Means Committee in the first of several congressional hearings on the matter. He was joined by Miller, who spoke publicly about the controversy for the first time.

Miller was contrite as he apologized for the actions of agents who singled out conservative political groups for additional, often burdensome scrutiny.

“First and foremost, as acting commissioner, I want to apologize on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service for the mistakes that we made and the poor service we provided,” he told the committee. “The affected organizations and the American public deserve better.”

But the hearing turned prickly when Miller insisted he did not deceive Congress, though he repeatedly failed to reveal the controversy last year when he was asked about it by lawmakers — even after he had been briefed.

“I did not mislead Congress or the American people,” Miller said.

The administration is on the defensive for a trio of issues that are threatening to derail the president’s second-term agenda. In addition to the IRS case, President Barack Obama and other officials are being pressed about last September’s terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, and the government’s seizure of Associated Press telephone records as part of a leaks investigation.

“Listening to the nightly news, this appears to be just the latest example of a culture of cover-ups and political intimidation in this administration,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “It seems like the truth is hidden from the American people just long enough to make it through an election.”

Committee Democrats were also critical of the IRS, but several took offense at Camp’s assertion that this matter is part of a wider problem within the administration. They noted that there has been no evidence so far that anyone outside the IRS was involved in targeting conservative groups.

“If this hearing becomes essentially a bootstrap to continue the campaign of 2012 and to prepare for 2014, we will be making a very, very serious mistake,” said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the panel.

Levin said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that makes decisions about tax-exempt groups, “should be relieved of her duties.” Lerner is the IRS official who made the scandal public May 10 in what Miller said was a planned event at a legal conference.

Obama forced Miller to resign this week though he will remain on the job a few days until a new acting director takes over. Obama named Daniel Werfel, a top White House budget officer, to replace Miller and met with Werfel on Friday.

Miller is a 25-year IRS employee who was a deputy commissioner when the tea party groups were being targeted. In that job, Miller was over the division that dealt with tax-exempt organizations.

He became acting head of the agency in November, when IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman‘s five-year term expired. Shulman had been appointed by President George W. Bush, a fact highlighted by several Democrats at Friday’s hearing.

Camp said Miller’s departure wouldn’t be enough.

“The reality is this is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too powerful, too intrusive and too abusive of honest, hardworking taxpayers,” Camp said.

Two other committees have hearings scheduled for next week, and the Justice Department has launched its own criminal investigation. Miller is also scheduled to testify on Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee. He will be joined by Shulman and George.

Underscoring the seriousness of his testimony Friday, Miller was sworn in as a witness, an unusual step for the Ways and Means panel.

He told committee members that before the episode became public, he had no contact with the Treasury Department, the White House or Obama’s re-election campaign about targeting conservative groups.

“Absolutely not,” Miller said.

He surprised committee members when he said “it is absolutely not illegal” for IRS agents to single out conservative groups for additional scrutiny.

“Please don’t get me wrong,” he added. “It should not happen.”

George, the inspector general, backed up Miller’s assertion when he said the yearlong investigation did not uncover illegal activity.

“It is not illegal, but it was inappropriate,” George said of targeting conservative groups.

George’s report concluded that an IRS office in Cincinnati, which screened applications for the tax exemptions, improperly singled out tea party and other conservative groups for tougher treatment. The report says the practice began in March 2010 and lasted in various forms until May 2012.

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Agents did not flag similar progressive or liberal labels, though some liberal groups did receive additional scrutiny because their applications were singled out for other reasons, the report said.

The IG‘s report blamed ineffective management in Washington for letting the inappropriate singling out occur for so long.

Miller said he was notified that conservative groups had been singled out for additional scrutiny on May 3, 2012. After he was briefed, members of Congress repeatedly asked the IRS about complaints from tea party groups that said they were being harassed by the IRS.

But Miller was not forthcoming back then about groups being targeted in at least two letters to members of Congress and in testimony before a Ways and Means subcommittee.

“Didn’t this committee have the right to know that groups were treated differently?” asked Rep. Dave Reichert R-Wash.

“I answered all the questions I was asked,” Miller replied.

“So your answer is a non-answer, once again,” Reichert retorted.

As the hearing drew to a close, Camp, the committee chairman, declared, “I promise the American people this investigation has just begun.”

Said Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa.: “I don’t know that I got any answers from you today. I am more concerned today than I was before.”

 

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

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