An inspector general’s report issued Tuesday blamed ineffective Internal Revenue Service management in the failure to stop employees from singling out conservative groups for added scrutiny. Congressional aides, meanwhile, sought to determine whether the Obama administration’s knowledge of the effort extended beyond the I.R.S. House and Senate aides said they were focusing on an Aug. 4, 2011, meeting in which the I.R.S.’s chief counsel appears to have conferred with agency officials to discuss the activities of a team in the Cincinnati field office that had been subjecting applications for tax-exempt status from Tea Party and other conservative groups to a greater degree of review than those from other organizations. Under I.R.S. rules, the agency’s chief counsel, William J. Wilkins, reports to the Treasury Department’s general counsel, and investigators want to determine if Mr. Wilkins took the issue out of the independent I.R.S. to other parts of the Obama administration.
The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status. One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected. Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.
What is known so far about the Internal Revenue Service’s examination of political nonprofit groups doesn’t answer one main question — whether the U.S. tax agency’s actions were malicious or just inept. IRS employees, trying to figure out how to sort through a surge in applications for nonprofit status, used shortcut phrases such as “Tea Party” and “patriot” to flag groups for scrutiny, according to an inspector general’s timeline. After IRS officials raised concerns in June 2011, there’s no evidence that the agency started over with a new system. That scrutiny was elevated to a scandal on May 10, when Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division, acknowledged in remarks to a conference of tax lawyers that applications using those phrases had been singled out for extra examination. The filtering done by IRS employees in Cincinnati now imperils the agency’s ability to enforce the laws on politically active nonprofit groups.
On Friday, May 10, a top official with the Internal Revenue Service dropped a bombshell. IRS staffers had singled out conservative organizations with “tea party” or “patriots” in their name that were seeking tax-exempt nonprofit status, subjecting them to extra scrutiny to see if they were abusing the tax law as it relates to political activity. They grilled these conservative groups about their members, their donors, their public statements, and who they employed. And there is no evidence yet that the IRS systemically treated non-conservative groups with the same level of attention. Speaking to a group of tax lawyers, the IRS official, Lois Lerner, who oversees the agency’s exempt organizations division, publicly apologized for the IRS’s actions. Ever since, Democratic and Republican politicians have been falling over themselves to condemn the IRS.
The Internal Revenue Service’s apology for subjecting certain Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny merits the widespread attention it is receiving if political bias motivated the audits. The President himself called the emerging scandal “outrageous,” and leaders from both political parties agree. So does Common Cause. More information will soon come to light, because the Treasury Department’s Inspector General is preparing to release a report on its own months-long investigation, which may drop as soon as this week. Meanwhile, IRS officials are steeling themselves for the hot seat, as they should. Chairman Camp announced late Monday that the Ways & Means Committee in the House will begin hearings into the matter as soon as Friday. Senators McCain and Levin announced in a joint statement that the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations will postpone its tentatively scheduled June hearing into lax IRS enforcement of partisan nonprofit groups so that it can expand its investigation into the issues raised by the IRS’s apology. Senator Baucus intends to hold hearings in the Finance Committee, too.
Arizona Senate leaders resurrected a handful of election bills Tuesday that had been stalled amid opposition from Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups worried about voter disenfranchisement. Senate President Andy Biggs unveiled the election omnibus bill that mirrors a handful of election bills proposed earlier in the legislative session. The bills had previously failed to gain traction in the GOP-led Legislature. The omnibus bill would allow county election officials to remove voters from the permanent early voting list if they didn’t vote by mail in the two most recent general elections. Voters could stay on the list if they returned a completed notice within 30 days confirming their intent to vote by mail in the future. Local elected officials proposed the change because too many voters were showing up at local precinct places to vote after receiving mail ballots, creating concerns about voter fraud.
County Clerk Wayne Williams, a staunch Republican, can’t hide his frustration. State Rep. Pete Lee, an equally determined Democrat, can’t hide his elation. Many of the state’s other county clerks, who are Republicans, actually feel the same as Lee. Everyone who cares about how Colorado’s elections are run seems to have an extreme opinion about House Bill 1303, which sailed through the Colorado General Assembly in its final days and was signed into law last Friday. Mail ballots will now go out to all registered voters — in other words, there’ll be no more “inactive” voters — and residents will be allowed to register and vote on election day, as in nine other states (including Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, which generally lean conservative).
The head of the Republican Party of Miami Dade County said on Monday that all local candidates under his wing will be given strict guidelines to avoid using ballot brokers in their campaigns. “The party will not employ people to collect absentee ballots,” said chairman Nelson Díaz. “We can’t allow people to take advantage of voters and fill out their absentee ballots.” Diaz’s announcement came as a response to stories published by El Nuevo Herald over the weekend about the contents of three notebooks that were apparently kept by Deisy Pentón de Cabrera, who was charged last summer with ballot fraud in Hialeah.
All councilmembers and the mayor are up for re-election in Takoma Park, and they’ll now have to answer to a new constituency. “It’s a small place and we’re trying to make it possible for more people to part of our city government,” says Councilman Tim Male. Councilman Male is one of six councilmembers who voted for the measure that passed, allowing 16 and 17 year olds, along with convicted felons who have served their time, to vote in city elections beginning this November.
Michigan: Flint black leaders say emergency manager law violates African Americans’ voting rights | MLive.com
Flint is one of the majority black cities where citizens’ voting rights are violated under the state’s emergency manager law, according to a lawsuit filed by the Detroit Branch of the NAACP against Gov. Rick Snyder and other top state officials. The president of the Flint Branch of the NAACP agrees with the claims. “We do feel like it’s a violation of the Voting Rights Act, we feel it’s a disenfranchisement of the voters,” said President Frances Gilcreast. The law allows the state to appoint emergency managers who have broad powers to override decisions of local elected officials.
A split is shaping up between the House and Senate over how — or whether — to proceed with the next phase in the state’s controversial voter photo ID law. The House refused to repeal the law, but wants to stop the next phase that would force election workers to photograph voters without an acceptable ID. A Senate committee, meanwhile, is recommending the state delay requiring election workers to take photos until 2015 to see how the law works in the 2014 election. The Senate panel would reduce the number of acceptable IDs voters could use at the polls. Opponents maintain eliminating a specific reference to student IDs could compromise the rights of student voters.
The Department of Justice is blocking a voter-approved plan to convert the board of the Beaumont Independent School District from a system of seven geographic districts to one with five districts and two at-large seats. The $47 million spent on this sports complex raised the first of many questions about the behavior of the Beaumont Independent School District Board. Yet local Latinos say that it’s the Justice Department that’s doing the disenfranchising by insisting on a system that excludes a growing minority group.
Voters in Montgomery County will be the first to use some of the latest high-tech voting machines. The black box sitting near the front office looks like a big trash can, but it’s a high tech voting tool and Montgomery County registar Randy Wertz, says Montgomery County is one of the first statewide to have it, “Well all you have to do after you plug it in is then you just turn it on. You push the little button back here.” The electronic guts of the Unisyn OVO optical scanner sit right on top. Montgomery County will test out this 6 thousand dollar machine during the Democratic primary next month.
“If elections changed anything they would have them banned”. So read a well-known piece of Sofia graffiti some years ago. Bulgaria’s parliamentary polls on 12 May 2013 seem to confirm the unknown author’s bitter cynicism. The chances are he or she was among the almost half of Bulgaria’s electorate that did not turn up at the voting booths. The low turnout is striking, given that as recently as February, economic hardship and widespread resentment of the political class propelled thousands onto the streets of Sofia, Varna and other big cities voicing demands for a complete overhaul of “the system”. Three months on, it is apathy that prevails, not the will to install fresh faces in parliament. More than one grouping claimed to represent the protesters, but none made it past the 4% threshold. As I wrote in March, Bulgaria isn’t getting its own Beppe Grillo or Alexis Tsipras (see “Bulgaria’s anger, the real source“, 14 March 2013)
Candidates in British Columbia’s election could knock on all the doors they wanted to on Tuesday as voters headed to the polls, but they better not have tweeted about it. Mainstreeting was no problem, so long as no evidence made its way onto Instagram. That is the reality created by the province’s 17-year-old election law, drafted long before the Internet — much less social media — had become such an integral part of the lives of candidates and voters. It also prompted Elections BC to warn candidates and parties who had broken the rules to delete their offending social media posts.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the government’s blocking of access to Facebook and certain opposition websites since 12 May. The targets include the site of the main opposition party, Convergence For Social Democracy (CPDS), which is fielding candidates for the 26 May parliamentary and municipal elections. At the same time, the website of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) continues to be fully accessible.
Iran Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Iranian Expatriates Affairs Hassan Qashqavi says Iranian expatriates can cast their ballots for the June 14 presidential election in 120 countries. Speaking at a meeting with the representatives of electoral executive and monitoring committees outside Iran in Tehran on Monday, he said nearly 300 polling stations have been set up abroad for Iranians to vote overseas.