Where It Began

Kimberly Strassel posted an article in today’s Wall Street Journal that sheds a lot of light on what has happened at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the past two years. The article reminds us of some of the activities of the Obama campaign and those associated with it during the 2008 primary elections.

The article points out:

On Aug. 21, 2008, the conservative American Issues Project (AIP) ran an ad highlighting ties between candidate Obama and Bill Ayers, formerly of the Weather Underground. The Obama campaign and supporters were furious, and they pressured TV stations to pull the ad—a common-enough tactic in such ad spats.

What came next was not common. Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, “its officers and directors,” and its “anonymous donors.” Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a “knowing and willful violation” of election law, and wanted “action to enforce against criminal violations.”

After the charges, AIP gave the Justice Department a full explanation of its activities, stating that it was operating in a manner similar to the operations of groups like Naral Pro-Choice. AIP also disclosed its donor, Texas businessman Harold Simmons. Mr. Bauer then sent a second letter to the Justice Department asking that Mr. Simmons be prosecuted. On September 8, Mr. Bauer sent a third letter. On that date Mr. Bauer also complained to the Federal Elections Commission about AIP and Mr. Simmons. He than demanded that AIP turn over certain documents to his campaign–some of those documents they were entitled to and some they were not.

Mr. Bauer set an example soon followed by other left-sing groups:

The Bauer onslaught was a big part of a new liberal strategy to thwart the rise of conservative groups. In early August 2008, the New York Times trumpeted the creation of a left-wing group (a 501(c)4) called Accountable America. Founded by Obama supporter and liberal activist Tom Mattzie, the group—as the story explained—would start by sending “warning” letters to 10,000 GOP donors, “hoping to create a chilling effect that will dry up contributions.” The letters would alert “right-wing groups to a variety of potential dangers, including legal trouble, public exposure and watchdog groups digging through their lives.” As Mr. Mattzie told Mother Jones: “We’re going to put them at risk.”

In 2008, Mr. Bauer also went after supporters of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards:

American Leadership head (and Democrat) Jason Kinney would rail that Mr. Bauer had gone from “credible legal authority” to “political hatchet man”—but the damage was done. As Politico reported in August 2008, Mr. Bauer’s words had “the effect of scaring [Clinton and Edwards] donors and consultants,” even if they hadn’t yet “result[ed] in any prosecution.”

As general counsel to the Obama re-election campaign, Mr. Bauer used the same tactics on pro-Romney groups. The Obama campaign targeted private citizens who had donated to Romney groups. Democratic senators demanded that the IRS investigate these organizations.

So what have we learned? The targeting of any group opposed to Barack Obama was an everyday event during President Obama’s 2008 campaign. The targeting was not related to the Citizens United Supreme Court Decision–it was related to the way the Obama campaign did business. The same tactics were used in 2012 that were used in 2008–the only thing different were the political opponents.

We may never officially know whether President Obama was directly involved in the IRS’s targeting of conservatives and conservative groups. What we do know is that President Obama does not believe in a level playing field when running for election. During the past five years, America has gotten a not-so-free lesson on how Chicago politics works. I just hope we are paying attention.

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