This comes against a backdrop where a number of conservative groups have been attacking nonprofits and NGOs over their tax-exempt status. There have been hearings on Capitol Hill. Public Interest Watch was founded by a guy named Michael Hardiman who I interviewed, and he's a Washington-based lobbyist. He's a Republican".The records show he started to get a lot of money [in 2003], almost all of it from ExxonMobil.
Shortly before the 2004 election, the IRS audited a Pasadena, C.A. church called All Saints Episcopal and threatened to revoke its tax-exempt status because rector George Regas said from the dias, "Jesus [would say], "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine.'"
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said on MSNBC last Monday:
I wish there was more GOP interest when I raised the same issue during the Bush administration, where they audited a progressive church in my district in what look liked a very selective way,"I'm glad now that the GOP has found interest in this issue and it ought to be a bipartisan concern.
Meanwhile, conservative churches across the country such as the World Harvest Church in Ohio, were mobilizing Republican voters with little or no scrutiny, even going as far as flying Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, to three political events on its plane.
In 2006, pastor Mac Hammond of the Living World Christian Center in Minnesota said before welcoming her to the church: "You know we can't publicly endorse as a church and would not for any candidate, but I can tell you personally that I'm going to vote for Michele Bachmann." While the IRS did open an audit of that church, it went nowhere due to a "technicality."
Many of the aforementioned cases occurred before the Citizens United ruling and that tax codes were much more well-defined under the 501(c)(3) rules at the time. There was little ambiguity in terms of enforcement under the C-3 rules, yet organizations were pursued nonetheless.
David Sirota, a columnist and best-selling author, points out in an article on Salon.com that the targeting of political enemies during the Bush administration went much further than IRS paperwork and audits: "We learned that along with the IRS, Secret Service and FBI, the Bush administration may have also been using the Central Intelligence Agency against its political enemies."
While no organization on either side of the political spectrum should be unfairly scrutinized by the IRS, the outrage in congress and the media now, after the IRS was targeting liberal groups during the Bush administration, further suggests a double standard.
A few democratic lawmakers and news outlets took note of it publicly at the time, but it has in no way reached the level of intensity that it has last week. Many of the same lawmakers and media pundits that are screaming bloody murder about the IRS now were curiously silent when it was done ten years ago, which suggests that they are only outraged when government resources are aimed at their friends, but will look the other way when those resources are aimed at political enemies.
Has congress and the media reached a new heightened level of awareness, or do they just not care about the principles of equal protection under the law, impartial governance, and a nonpartisan approach of government agencies? A closer look at the AP phone-tapping scandal may reveal more.
DOJ Phone-tapping AP Reporters
The AP phone-tapping is also an example of a policy enacted under the Bush administration that has been continued under the Obama administration, yet was met with little or no outrage or opposition as it was being put into place -- another double standard at work.
The DOJ informed the AP that it had secretly obtained telephone records for more than 20 separate phone numbers assigned to AP journalists and offices, both cell and home lines, including the AP's main switchboard. While no explanation was given, it is likely that this was a result of the AP breaking stories last May about a foiled terror plot coming out of Yemen, involving plans to blow up an airliner bound for the United States.
Regardless of the rationale for the actions of the DOJ and US intelligence agencies, they are a clear violation of the freedom of the press rights guaranteed by the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Once again, however, these actions are not unprecedented and are part of a larger pattern. Similar phone-tapping and other surveillance by government agencies was largely ignored by politicians and the press before the Obama administration.
Over a decade ago, journalist Jesselyn Radack leaked e-mails to Newsweek regarding a cover-up by the DOJ of an ethics violation in its interrogation of "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh. The DOJ went after the journalist who published the e-mails, Michael Isikoff, obtaining phone records of the conversations without either of them knowing how.