Just Because It May Be Legal Doesn’t Mean It’s Moral

Fox News posted an article today about four Congressmen who are taking advantage of the coronavirus epidemic for personal gain. What they are doing gives us insight into how Congressmen can enter Congress as middle-class Americans and be millionaires four years later.

The article reports:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and three of her Senate colleagues reported selling off stocks worth millions of dollars in the days before the coronavirus outbreak crashed the market, according to reports.

The data is listed on a U.S. Senate website containing financial disclosures from Senate members.

Feinstein, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and her husband sold between $1.5 million and $6 million in stock in California biotech company Allogene Therapeutics, between Jan. 31 and Feb. 18, The New York Times reported.

Feinstein defended herself in a series of tweets on Friday, saying she has “no control” over her assets and the stocks in question were her husband’s transactions.

“During my Senate career I’ve held all assets in a blind trust of which I have no control. Reports that I sold any assets are incorrect, as are reports that I was at a January 24 briefing on coronavirus, which I was unable to attend,” she tweeted.

“Under Senate rules I report my husband’s financial transactions. I have no input into his decisions. My husband in January and February sold shares of a cancer therapy company. This company is unrelated to any work on the coronavirus and the sale was unrelated to the situation.”

When questioned by the newspaper, a spokesman for the Democrat from San Francisco also said Feinstein wasn’t directly involved in the sale.

“All of Senator Feinstein’s assets are in a blind trust,” the spokesman, Tom Mentzer, told the Times. “She has no involvement in her husband’s financial decisions.”

The article names the other Congressmen who took similar actions:

Reports identified the three other senators as Richard Burr of North Carolina, Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, all Republicans.

Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, used more than 30 transactions to dump between $628,000 and $1.72 million on Feb. 13, according to ProPublica.

The report said the transactions involved a significant percentage of the senator’s holdings and took place about a week before the impact of the virus outbreak sent stock prices plunging to the point where gains made during President Trump’s term in office were largely erased.

All of the Congressmen have the same story–I was not directly involved in the transactions, yet these transactions are suspiciously timed. I wonder if Congressmen should be banned from altering their stock portfolios in any way while they are serving in Congress. They might not like doing that, but it would be one way to end this sort of suspicious activity. Foregoing trading stocks while in office would be a small price to pay to insure the honesty of those who serve in Congress.

The Seamy Side Of The Internal Revenue Service

It seems rather obvious that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was a little unfair to to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, but there is more to the story. Hot Air posted an article yesterday about some other very questionable activities the IRS was engaging in during the past few years.

The article at Hot Air cites a McClatchy news story about IRS harrassment:

McClatchy includes the case of Catherine Engelbrecht, which CBS NewsSharyl Attkisson co-reported yesterday.  That case, of course, goes far beyond the IRS; Engelbrecht’s business got harassed by the FBI, ATF, and OSHA as well, which would mean coordination far above the Treasury Department.  They also include the case of an anti-abortion group that was told they couldn’t picket Planned Parenthood locations if they wanted to keep their exemption, and a Nebraska veteran who got hassled in an IRS audit over his donations to his church once he began donating to conservative causes.

John Eastman, a constitutional law professor and former Dean at Chapman University in California, posted an article at USA Today explaining an IRS abuse that took place during the debate on homosexual marriage in California in 2012.

Professor Eastman explains:

My organization was not the only conservative-linked political group or business that appears to have faced shady actions from IRS employees. ProPublica reported this week that the IRS handed over to them confidential documents of nine conservative organizations whose applications for non-profit status were still pending. Among them: Crossroads GPS, a key group backing Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign.

Our case was particularly egregious because the IRS leak of confidential information fed directly into an ongoing political battle. For months before March 2012, the pro-gay marriage HRC had been demanding that my group, NOM, publicly identify its major donors, something that NOM and many other non-profits refuse to do. The reason is simple. In the past, gay marriage advocates have used such information to launch campaigns of intimidation against traditional marriage supporters.

Just as gay marriage proponents were demanding the information, the IRS appears to have illegally given them exactly what they were looking for. The tax return released by the HRC contained the names and addresses of dozens of major donors to NOM. And there’s little doubt where the documents came from. The tax returns contained internal coding added by the IRS after the returns were originally submitted.

For the IRS to leak any organization’s tax return to its political opponents is an outrageous breach of ethics and, if proven, constitutes a felony. Every organization — liberal and conservative — should shudder at the idea of the IRS playing politics with its confidential tax return information. But the situation here is even more egregious because the head of the HRC was at the time serving as a national co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign.

On Tuesday the House Ways and Means Committee will hold hearings to allow the victims of IRS targeting to testify. During the next two weeks, the House Oversight Committee will be interviewing the ‘low level employees’ in Cincinnati who have been scapegoated for these crimes. It will be interesting to hear what they say about who was directing their activities. Keep in mind that targeting specific groups and releasing tax information is a crime. It may be an interesting week.Enhanced by Zemanta

What Has Happened To The Country I Love?

Breitbart.com is reporting today that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) passed the confidential applications for tax-exempt status of nine conservative groups to the progressive group ProPublica.

The article reports:

The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year… In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)

These people make Richard Nixon look like an amateur.

The article further reports:

On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee is scheduled to hold a formal hearing on the IRS conservative targeting scandal. IRS Commissioner Steve Miller and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George are slated to testify.

At what point does someone other than the lower level employees take responsibility for these actions?

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