IRS employees evade federal taxes, continue working at IRS

Yet another report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found incredible abuses within the IRS — this time for allowing nearly 1,000 tax-evading employees to keep their jobs.

The TIGTA’s April report, which was just made public, reveals that 960 IRS employees (out of a total of 1,580) who intentionally dodged their federal tax obligations were spared firing by former IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller and his predecessors dating back to 2003.

Current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s short career heading the agency is not covered by the report, which ends its investigation of cases closed from fiscal year 2004 through fiscal year 2013.

The audit was conducted specifically to determine “whether the IRS had an effective process in place to address willful violations of tax law by employees,” according to TIGTA’s summary.

Of course, TIGTA found the IRS’s process to be ineffective.

Perhaps this should go without saying, but federal law requires the IRS to fire employees who’ve been determined to have “committed certain acts of misconduct, including willful violations of tax law, unless such penalty is mitigated by the IRS Commissioner,” according to the report. “… [T]he IRS must ensure that its employees comply with the tax law in order to maintain the public’s confidence.”

But, 61 percent of the time, the commissioner opted for remedial actions that amounted to job bailouts for the offenders.

From the audit:

TIGTA reviewed records for cases closed in Fiscal Years 2004 through 2013 (prior to the term of the current Commissioner). For this period, IRS records show that 1,580 employees were found to be willfully tax noncompliant. While the RRA 98 states the IRS shall terminate employees who willfully violate tax law, it also gives the IRS Commissioner the sole authority to mitigate cases to a lesser penalty. Over this 10-year period, 620 employees (39 percent) with willful tax noncompliance were terminated, resigned, or retired. For the other 960 employees (61 percent) with willful tax noncompliance, the proposed terminations were mitigated to lesser penalties such as suspensions, reprimands, or counseling.

Who better to finagle his way out of paying taxes than the guy with an insider’s knowledge of how the system works? And the audit suggests that’s exactly what happened in many cases. “These cases,” it reveals, “included willful overstatement of expenses, claiming the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit without buying a home, and repeated failure to timely file required Federal tax returns.”

Lest there be any doubt about where the buck stops in this decade-long trend, TIGTA goes out of its way to single out the commissioner.

“In cases that were mitigated, files included mitigating factors as well as evidence that violations of tax law were willful; however, the basis for the Commissioner’s decision to mitigate was not clearly identified in the case files,” the audit asserts.

Even though some of the cases involved repeat offenders and others with a history of aggravating misconduct, “the proposed terminations were mitigated by the IRS Commissioner.”

Kids may be learning something, but it isn’t U.S. history

A new report gauging how well eighth-graders in the U.S. have learned their history and civics lessons reveals extremely low levels of proficiency across a range of student demographics.

In the latest iteration of its National Report Card, a project of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a scant 18 percent of American eighth-graders demonstrated a basic proficiency with U.S. history in 2014. They fared little better in other citizenship-related academic subjects like civics and geography.

The current version of the NAEP report card considers the performance of more than 29,000 eighth-grade students nationwide on assessment tests covering U.S. history, geography and civics. The NAEP conducts its report card study every four years.

While some demographics performed better or worse than in 2014, students’ overall performance, compared with the 2010 report card, was flat:

Nationally, eighth graders’ average scores on the NAEP U.S. history, geography, and civics assessments showed no significant change in 2014, compared to 2010 — the last assessment year. However, several student groups have made gains. In 2014, eighteen percent of eighth-graders performed at or above the Proficient level in U.S. history, 27 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in geography, and 23 percent performed at or above the Proficient level in civics. Students performing at or above the Proficient level on NAEP assessments demonstrate solid academic performance and competency over challenging subject matter.

Even the best-performing subset of students, as a group, flunk miserably when it comes to knowing their U.S. history. Students of Asian descent did the best, but still managed only 33 percent proficiency in U.S. history. Black students brought up the rear, scoring 6 percent.

Unsurprisingly, students who attend private schools fared better than their public-school counterparts. Among private-school students, 31 percent demonstrated proficiency with U.S. history; 44 percent with geography and 38 percent with civics. Among public-school students, 17 percent demonstrated proficiency with U.S. history; 25 percent with geography and 22 percent with civics.

Check out the NAEP’s full interactive report card here.

Another poll shows John McCain in ‘trouble’ with 2016 voters

Sen. John McCain’s recent polling doldrums have been well documented. And as 2016 gets nearer, it’s hard to dismiss just how tough it may be for the five-term Arizona lawmaker to earn a sixth trip to Capitol Hill.

McCain has fared poorly in numerous polls, as well as in the eyes of Arizona Republicans, for the duration of his current term. He’s been censured; he’s polled badly; and — at least in one survey — voters have indicated they’d prefer literally anybody else over McCain in 2016.

It’s been easy to dismiss those bad showings because, for one thing, they’re polls. A poll can be fallible, fraught with bias, indicative of a moment instead of a trend and representative of only a small cutout of a much larger picture.

But McCain’s unpopularity in his home state is becoming a trend that’s getting harder to ignore as 2016 draws nearer. A new poll of Arizona voters finds McCain “in a whole lot of trouble for reelection next year,” according to Public Policy Polling, which on Tuesday released the results of its latest Arizona survey.

From the poll summary:

John McCain’s troubles with conservatives have him in a whole lot of trouble for reelection next year. Even among Republican primary voters just 41% approve of the job he’s doing to 50% who disapprove. Only 37% of primary voters say they generally support him for renomination, compared to 51% who say they would prefer someone “more conservative.”

It’s his struggles on the right that have McCain imperiled. He gets narrowly positive reviews from both “somewhat conservative” (51/37) and moderate (50/44) Republicans. But among those who identify themselves as ‘very conservative,’ just 21% approve of the job McCain is doing to 71% who disapprove.

Unlike an earlier poll that found other potential candidates leading McCain across the board, Tuesday’s results show McCain with a slight lead over oft-mentioned GOP primary challengers.

“The good news for McCain is that he does lead all the prospective primary challengers we tested against him in head to head match ups, although some of them would clearly start out as toss ups,” the summary states. “McCain leads David Schweikert 40/39, Matt Salmon 42/40, Kelli Ward 44/31, and Christine Jones 48/27.”

That’s by no means great news for McCain, but it’s at least better than the results of a Citizens United survey last year that showed McCain trailing anyone and everyone.

GOP hits new FEMA policy making climate action a condition for states to receive federal grants

Republican lawmakers are criticizing a new policy at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that forces states to acknowledge climate change in order to receive some federal disaster funds.

The policy, set to take effect next March, requires state governors to address the role of climate change in their disaster-mitigation plans in order to qualify for federal disaster-preparedness grant money.

A group of Republican senators are questioning the change in a letter to FEMA Director Craig Fugate, arguing that the new policy will complicate the bureaucratic process of applying for mitigation assistance and force state leaders to adopt an ideological position in an ongoing and unsettled debate.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, publicized the letter Monday, questioning FEMA’s authority to implement such a wide-ranging policy change and asking Fugate to reconcile the agency’s current position with his past statements concerning the cyclical nature of hurricane-related disasters.

“We are concerned FEMA’s recent decision to require States to address climate change in their mitigation strategies injects unnecessary, ideological-based red tape into the disaster preparedness process,” the letter states. “Planning and preparing for disasters should be focused on strengthening and protecting local communities from inevitable weather events and not about falling in line with the president’s political agenda.”

The senators go on to ask Fugate to “provide the specific statutory authority the agency [FEMA] relied upon to require consideration of climate change as a requisite for receipt of preparedness funds.”

Interestingly, the senators also insinuate that the policy change — like so many policy tweaks in the Obama era — was done without consulting state leaders on the front lines of implementing disaster relief plans.

“Please provide a list of Governors and/or other state officials FEMA consulted to develop the new criteria,” they wrote.

Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) all co-signed the letter with Inhofe.

Is Bill Clinton in any position to help Hillary’s campaign?

The rollout of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has followed a sort of unintentional trajectory.

Releasing an announcement video and embarking on a stagey van tour did nothing to avert her critics’ attention from the daily scandals surrounding her conflicts of interest while serving as secretary of state. It didn’t help that the choreography of her populist van tour turned out to be pretty flat. Clinton’s Iowa trip drew plenty of fresh criticism for emphasizing just how isolated, how ensconced in privilege, she appears.

With things going badly, apologists with longtime Clinton family ties came to the rescue. Lanny Davis and James Carville showed up on talk shows, soft-peddling the idea that all the darts aimed at Hillary were coming from the present-day perpetrators of that same-old, bad-old right-wing conspiracy.

None of that has seemed to shift Hillary’s campaign momentum out of neutral. Though her camp had been avoiding it — thanks to a cost-benefit analysis that decided he brought too much early baggage to the table — team Hillary apparently decided at some point that Bill Clinton needed to become a more public evangelist.

Public opinion is comparatively benign when it comes to ex-presidents. And, whatever else he may be, Bill Clinton is amiable, camera-friendly, garrulous and generally better liked by casual TV watchers than is his wife.

In the past, a push from Bill Clinton might have helped more than it seems to be helping today. In the past, a disinterested observer might conclude that, whatever else he was, Bill Clinton was not tone deaf — a requisite quality in an aspiring politician.

In the past. But watch his demeanor and his carelessness with language in this MSNBC clip, which got passed around the Internet a lot Monday:

This doesn’t sound like a guy who is going to wear a yoke very well for the next 18 months. For whatever reason — post-presidential aloofness, extravagant wealth, the self-affirming effects of remaining too long in the company of sycophants, or (this is difficult to state in a delicate way) the incremental toll that age exacts on an otherwise sharp mind — Bill Clinton doesn’t sound like his former self.

Even as he’s justifying his wife’s campaign and his family’s business model, he sounds reckless, dismissive of substantive arguments, slightly unaware of the stakes, and — well, and kind of like Joe Biden.

There may be a better reason than the familiar baggage behind team Hillary’s reluctance to enlist Bill Clinton in the early going. For reasons that are hard to pin down, he just seems like a present-day field liability in his own right. And for someone who’s supposed to bring a dose of charisma to the campaign of a spouse who clearly lacks it, that could spell trouble for Hillary’s campaign — not that she needs any more.

IRS seizes rural convenience store owner’s career savings in another horrible abuse of civil forfeiture

Lyndon McLellan, a rural North Carolina convenience store owner, woke up one day to discover the IRS had seized every penny of the $107,000 in his bank account. It was all the money he had put away over the course of 13 years of assiduous, hard work.

“This is all I’ve ever done. I was raised in the store business; I’m here 12-13 hours a day, seven days a week,” he explains. “To make this kind of money selling soft drinks, cigarettes and hot dogs, somebody’s gotta work, okay? It wasn’t just handed to us. It was taken from us – but it wasn’t handed to us.”

McLellan hasn’t been accused of a crime. The IRS just seized his money. And even though the IRS announced it was changing its civil forfeiture policy in October of last year – a result of growing public outcry in opposition to the practice – it didn’t relent in McLellan’s case, which predated the announcement by a few months.

For years, McLellan had been making periodic cash deposits into his account. The federal government requires that bank customers fill out a currency transaction report to document any single deposit in excess of $10,000. But McLellan had been depositing his earnings in increments beneath that threshold – for more than a decade.

The IRS had, until its policy change last year, exercised its own discretion in invoking its power of civil asset forfeiture against these smaller depositors. The spirit of the forfeiture law, as it applies to McLellan’s case, assumes that he was sitting on a stack of currency but elected to deposit it in small increments to avoid the government’s reporting requirements.

But that’s clearly not what he was doing – he was depositing what he was earning, as he was earning it.

It took McLellan years to accumulate the small nest egg the IRS took away, and each deposit represented a small milestone. There was never a giant stash of cash. And both before and after its policy change, the IRS didn’t care. In the aftermath of a February congressional hearing on forfeiture practices, the IRS’ position revealed itself in pretty cruel fashion.

From The New York Times:

During a congressional hearing in February, Representative George Holding, a Republican from North Carolina, referred to Mr. McLellan’s case, saying no crime other than structuring had been alleged. “If that case exists, then it’s not following the policy,” John Koskinen, the commissioner of the I.R.S., said.

But the prosecutor on the case, Steve West, was unmoved. Notified of the hearing by Mr. McLellan’s lawyer at the time, he responded with concern that the seizure warrant in the case, filed under seal but later given to Mr. McLellan, had been handed over to a congressional committee, according to an email exchange provided to The New York Times by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm that has taken over the case.

“Your client needs to resolve this or litigate it,” Mr. West wrote. “But publicity about it doesn’t help. It just ratchets up feelings in the agency.” He concluded with a settlement offer in which the government would keep half the money.

So, as it stands, the government is offering McLellan the sweet deal of getting back half of his $107,000 in order to make the forfeiture case – a case in which McLellan hasn’t been charged with a crime, but which forces him to bear the burden of proof if he wants all his money returned – go away.

The Institute for Justice, which produced the video above, is advocating on McLellan’s behalf in the ongoing effort to right this injustice and return all of his hard-earned money. You can read more about that effort here.

Obama administration forbids states from asking whether a voter is a citizen

The Obama administration’s insistence that all states must use the same federal voter registration form effectively forbids any state from verifying – or even asking about – the citizenship status of would-be voters.

Details of a pending Supreme Court case, Kobach, et al. v. The United States Election Assistance Commission, reveal that the Obama administration considers states to be in violation of the law if they ask any information of registrants beyond what’s included on the federal form.

An amicus brief submitted April 21 by the American Civil Rights Union argues that the federal form serves as a gateway for non-citizens to register to vote, especially since the federal government doesn’t want the states supplementing the form with additional questions about registrants’ legal status.

Kansas and Arizona, while using the federal form, attempted to adopt some changes that would give those states a better understanding of the kind of people they were registering. The feds didn’t like that.

From the amicus brief:

Kansas’s and Arizona’s requested modifications to their state-specific instructions that implemented qualifications found in state law establishing who may vote in their elections. Only those applicants who present the necessary documentary proof of citizenship along with the Federal Form are registered and qualified to vote. Proof of citizenship is thus, by definition, a “qualification” for voting. Those who cannot establish they are citizens are not qualified to vote.

The States, not Congress (and certainly not the Acting Executive Director of EAC), have the sole authority to establish voter qualifications, including the power to ensure that the franchise is exercised only by citizens. [An earlier lower court’s] decision effectively reads that traditional state power out of the Constitution and hands it to an employee at the EAC, a small, federal commission that was designed primarily to assist the States in producing voter registration forms. This Court should grant the Petition in order to restore power to the States to set qualifications of voters as intended by the Framers.

The “EAC” is the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, and its mission is exactly that described in the quote above. But it’s been a great tool for the Obama administration, which has sought new limits on states’ ability to qualify voters.

“Federal law says that states must accept and use a federal form for registering voters. But the federal form doesn’t require any proof that the person submitting the form is a citizen,” PJ Media’s Joseph Vanderhulst – himself an immigrant – wrote in an April 30 piece.

“The form just asks the registrant to check a box.

“…Noncitizens are offered the voter registration forms all over the country and are filling them out, and they are being added to the rolls regardless of which box they check.”

In other words, the Obama policy is exacerbating the very problem the states are attempting, through the verification process, to solve.

Harvard student newspaper finds almost all faculty political donations go to Democrats

A new report in The Harvard Crimson, Harvard University’s student-run daily newspaper, reveals the prestigious institution’s faculty is overwhelmingly one-sided when it comes to politics.

A full 84 percent of all political donations made by Harvard faculty have gone to Democratic candidates or Democratic PACs over the past four years, according to the report.

Within the university’s individual colleges and schools, that number rises as high as 98 percent. Harvard Law was the most pro-Democrat among the schools; the Business School, while still favoring Democrats overall, leaned more heavily Republican than any other.

From the report:

Eighty-four percent of campaign contributions made by a group of 614 Harvard faculty, instructors, and researchers between 2011 and the third quarter of 2014 went to federal Democratic campaigns and political action committees, according to a Crimson analysis of Federal Election Commission filings.

During the three years, the Harvard affiliates represented in analyzed public filings gave nearly $3 million to federal campaigns and candidates. Each of Harvard’s schools leaned to the left in the contributions made by their affiliates, many by wide margins. Ninety-six percent of donations in the data set from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which includes Harvard College, supported Democratic efforts. That figure was even higher—nearly 98 percent—at Harvard Law School. Harvard Business School was the most Republican, with 37 percent of its contributions supporting Republicans and 62 percent going to Democrats.

The Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) – arguably constituents of what ought to serve as the most intellectually diverse of all the university’s schools – turns out to be “one of Harvard’s most left-leaning faculties or schools, according to the data set,” the report notes.

The results of the Crimson’s analysis even surprised the FAS dean, Michael D. Smith.

From 2011 through October of 2014, the 183 FAS affiliates included in the Crimson analysis contributed $486,452 to federal campaigns and candidates, representing 17 percent of the University’s total.

Of the FAS total, $465,652, or 96 percent, went to Democratic efforts.

“I am amazed at how high that number is,” FAS Dean Michael D. Smith said.

While not coming close to offsetting the disparity between Democratic and Republican faculty donors, those on the Business School faculty who elected to donate to Republicans did so with generosity.

“The Business School was also the kindest to Republicans, with surveyed affiliates giving $334,850 to GOP candidates and campaigns,” the Crimson reports. “That figure was 83 percent of all University contributions to GOP campaigns, but it still was not a majority at the Business School, where surveyed faculty, researchers, and instructors sent 62 percent of their contributions to Democrats.”

 

A visit with Sabo, the artist behind some of the coolest pro-libertarian imagery out there

You may recognize the work of Sabo – the nom de guerre of the street artist who’s given the stolid, starchy conservative side of politics a refreshing blast of irreverence and irony. He’s the guy responsible for those posters that make Ted Cruz look like a tattooed badass and Hillary Clinton supporters look like flying monkeys.

Reason TV followed Sabo around Los Angeles for a discussion of what the conservative side of the political spectrum has been missing when it comes to pop culture, and how he’s hoping to precipitate a movement to change that.

It helps that Sabo’s work is intelligent, topical, and really, really biting. Oh – and that it looks absolutely killer. This isn’t a lame attempt by some conservative upstart who’s punching above his creative weight; nor is it an effort to parrot the perceived edginess of what the Left’s best creative types are doing.

It’s smart and original visual satire that progressive image-makers should (and probably do) envy.

“Art is neither ‘right’ or ‘left,’ and when I look at art today, I see just one voice being heard,” he explains in the clip.

“I believe the Republican Party, or conservatives, or whatever you want to call them – libertarians – have a great message. They just don’t have anyone to tell it. You almost have to take a step back and question why that is. And when you start doing that, you start seeing how all the cogs and wheels turn in such a way to, where, if you decide you want to be a creative, you’re almost pushed into the Left; towards the Left.”

Check out Reason’s article on Sabo for more, and, while you’re at it, visit his website.

Texas governor vows to monitor upcoming military exercise

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the state guard to observe the U.S. military’s planned training exercises in the Lone Star State, slated to unfold over an eight-week period this summer.

In a letter to Major General Gerald “Jake” Betty, Commander of the Texas State Guard, Abbott said Tuesday the move is intended, in part, to allay residents’ concerns over the government’s undeclared intentions in launching “Operation Jade Helm 15.”

Jade Helm is a massive, multi-pronged military training exercise announced to take place from July 15 through Sept. 15. It’ viewed with intense suspicion by those who believe the federal government has been consolidating far too much power vis-à-vis both the states and private citizens.

A public hearing in Bastrop County – one of 12 Texas counties reportedly designated in Jade Helm’s training jargon as “hostile territory” – residents pushed back hard at the idea. “They’re gathering intelligence. That’s what they’re doing,” said resident Bob Wells, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman. “And they’re moving logistics in place for martial law. That’s my feeling. Now I could be wrong. I hope I am wrong. I hope I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist.'”

Gov. Abbott’s letter spoke directly to such concerns:

During the training operation, it is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed. By monitoring the Operation on a continual basis, the State Guard will facilitate communications between my office and the commanders of the Operation to ensure that adequate measures are in place to protect Texans.

…Directing the State Guard to monitor the Operation will allow Texas to be informed of the details of military personnel movements and training exercise schedules, and it will give us the ability to quickly and effectively communicate with local communities, law enforcement, public safety personnel and citizens.

The action I take today comes with the recognition of Texas’ long history of supporting our military forces and our proud tradition of training, deploying and supporting our active-duty troops and returning veterans.

As you can see, the letter doesn’t go overboard with defiant rhetoric or foment additional suspicion over what the feds are up to. Rather, it demonstrates that Abbott is aware of the balance of sovereignty that exists between state and federal government, and that he wants people in Texas to know that he takes that relationship seriously.

Nevertheless, the progressive side of the national press wasted no time attempting to make Abbott appear kooky.

Another state considers getting out of the marriage licensing game

Just more than a month has passed since Oklahoma legislators voted to get out of the marriage licensing business. Now another conservative state is eying a similar measure.

Alabama State Sen. Greg Albritton, a Republican, announced SB 377 recently, bringing before the legislature a proposal that would end any licensing requirement for marriage and removing from probate judges the obligation of sanctioning a union.

By exclusion, same-sex marriage is not legal under Alabama law – even though the state has recently wrestled with conflicting interpretations, across various levels of government, of a court decision that overturned the existing law.

Albritton’s bill is not designed to address the legality of same-sex marriage; in fact, the law it proposes would be valid and applicable regardless of how that question ultimately is resolved. The state’s only openly gay legislator, Democrat Patricia Todd of Birmingham, has told the Associated Press that she is not opposed to the bill.

The law would require Alabama couples to seek whatever cultural sanction for marriage they deem appropriate, and to fill out a contract recording their union and bring it to the probate judge’s office in one of the state’s 67 counties. This step changes the probate judge’s role from one of sanctioning a marriage on the state’s behalf to simply recording that a marriage occurred.

Should same-sex marriage become the law of the land, that’s a distinction that could absolve the consciences of any probate judges whose religious beliefs might otherwise place them in tough moral spot.

Crucially, it also hands the ritual power of marriage back to the private sphere – where many libertarians argue it should have remained all along. The bill would leave to couples the burden of deciding what constitutes a “marriage” – all the state would require is that the couple record their union in probate, using the state-supplied contract form.

“The sanctity of marriage cannot be sanctified by government of men,” Albritton said Wednesday. “That is where we have gotten ourselves in trouble.”

The bill passed through the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday with unanimous approval, according to Yellowhammer News.

Traditional marriage supporters vow civil disobedience if Supreme Court recognizes same-sex marriage

Signers of a pledge of “solidarity” in support of traditional marriage are vowing to not abide by any Supreme Court ruling that imposes the recognition of same-sex marriage on Americans who harbor religious objections to such unions.

The Liberty Council’s Mathew Staver, one of the pledge’s organizers, told Fox News’ Todd Starnes this week that its supporters are unequivocal in their promise to defy a ruling favoring universal recognition of same-sex marriage. Staver said he and other signees are encouraging the type of resistance encouraged by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights era.

“Yes, I’m talking about civil disobedience,” Staver told Starnes. “I’m talking about resistance and I’m talking about peaceful resistance against unjust laws and unjust rulings.

“…I’m calling for people to not recognize the legitimacy of that ruling because it’s not grounded in the Rule of Law…They need to resist that ruling in every way possible. In a peaceful way – they need to resist it as much as Martin Luther King, Jr. resisted unjust laws in his time.”

The group’s statement of solidarity defends marriage by invoking appeals to natural law, divinity and human reason – all of which is to be expected from those who bear conscientious objections to changes in a law that, from their point of view, would subvert a divinely-established set of moral absolutes.

Yet, crucially, the group also emphasizes the practical ramifications of reshaping the law.

“Experience and history have shown us that if the government redefines marriage to grant a legal equivalency to same-sex couples, that same government will then enforce such an action with the police power of the State,” the statement asserts. “This will bring about an inevitable collision with religious freedom and conscience rights. The precedent established will leave no room for any limitation on what can constitute such a redefined notion of marriage or human sexuality. We cannot and will not allow this to occur on our watch. Religious freedom is the first freedom in the American experiment for good reason.”

Fox’s Starnes described the pledge’s highest-profile signers as “a who’s who of religious leaders” – Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Tom DeLay, Brent Bozell and  Franklin Graham, among others. You can view a list of other prominent signees at the group’s website.

Inspector General finds more missing Lerner emails

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has disclosed the discovery of a fresh batch of previously-unknown emails tied to former IRS administrator Lois Lerner’s email account.

TIGTA unearthed approximately 6,400 Lerner emails in its ongoing effort to recover Lerner’s allegedly missing computer data. The Inspector General has been collaborating with independent information technology experts to assist in retrieving the data, which Lerner alleged was permanently lost when her computer’s hard drive crashed. Lerner retired from the IRS after the scandal reached a media zenith in 2013.

No criminal charges have ever been filed against IRS officials for the roles they may have played in perpetuating the political discrimination scandal. The House voted to hold Lerner in contempt in May of last year, after she invoked the 5th Amendment and refused to continue testifying.

According to Fox News, roughly 650 of the emails date from 2010 and 2011; the remainder date from 2012.

According to a spokesman for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, congressional investigators do not yet know what the emails contain. But, he said, the new information will receive the same scrutiny that Lerner’s previously-revealed emails have so far received.

“These emails will be carefully examined as part of the committee’s bipartisan IRS investigation,” Hatch’s  spokesman told The Hill. “After TIGTA produces their report regarding the missing data later this year, the Committee hopes to follow suit and move forward with the release of its bipartisan report on this issue.”

 

The Clinton Foundation spent more on office supplies than on charity gifts in 2013

A new review of the Clinton Foundation’s recent expenditures challenges the foundation’s boast that most of the money it spends goes “directly to our life-changing work.”

The foundation took to social media last week to counter recent revelations about its omission of foreign donations from the IRS, as well as the general scandal surrounding the possibility that Hillary Clinton’s State Department policy may have been influenced by those same donations.

The foundation’s official Twitter account sent out an April 25 message boasting that “[m]ore than 88% of our expenditures go directly to our life-changing work,” and linked to an infographic purporting to break down its 2013 expenditures by category.

That graphic claimed 88.4 percent of the foundation’s outlay went for “Program” expenditures, 7 percent went for “Management and General,” and 4.5 percent went for “Fundraising” – with “Program” encompassing the catch-all category of charitable giving.

But The Federalist took a look at the information the Clinton Foundation provided on its 2013 IRS Form 990 and quickly concluded that the foundation’s claim was egregiously misleading.

From The Federalist:

There’s only one problem: that claim is demonstrably false. And it is false not according to some partisan spin on the numbers, but because the organization’s own tax filings contradict the claim.

In order for the 88 percent claim to be even remotely close to the truth, the words “directly” and “life-changing” have to mean something other than “directly” and “life-changing.” For example, the Clinton Foundation spent nearly $8.5 million – 10 percent of all 2013 expenditures – on travel. Do plane tickets and hotel accommodations directly change lives? Nearly $4.8 million–5.6 percent of all expenditures–was spent on office supplies. Are ink cartridges and staplers “life-changing” commodities?

Those two categories alone comprise over 15 percent of all Clinton Foundation expenses in 2013, and we haven’t even examined other spending categories like employee fringe benefits ($3.7 million), IT costs ($2.1 million), rent ($4 million) or conferences and conventions ($9.2 million). Yet, the tax-exempt organization claimed in its tweet that no more than 12 percent of its expenditures went to these overhead expenses.

The report went on to envision a scenario in which the Clinton Foundation could receive the benefit of the doubt for lumping in office chairs and IT expenses with “life-changing” work. The result? There’s still no way the foundation could be telling the truth.

“Even using the broadest definition of ‘program expenses’ possible, however, the 88 percent claim is still false,” the report asserts. “How do we know? Because the IRS 990 forms submitted by the Clinton Foundation include a specific and detailed accounting of these programmatic expenses. And even using extremely broad definitions–definitions that allow office supply, rent, travel, and IT costs to be counted as programmatic costs–the Clinton Foundation fails its own test.”

Using a permissive interpretation of what the Clinton Foundation might claim as “program” expenses, the report found it impossible to locate more than 80 percent of the nonprofit’s total financial information, as reported on Form 990,that might qualify.

Using a more restrictive – or, as The Federalist describes it, a “more realistic” – interpretation, the ratio fell to a mere 10 percent. “The amount [the foundation] spent on charitable grants – $8.8 million – was dwarfed by the $17.2 million it cumulatively spent on travel, rent, and office supplies,” the report indicates. “Between 2011 and 2013, the organization spent only 9.9 percent of the $252 million it collected on direct charitable grants.”

In a separate story, The Federalist also debunked the Clinton Foundation’s claim that its activity in Canada is shielded by Canadian privacy laws from any obligation to disclose its list of donors. Using the foundation’s own supporting documentation, reporter Mollie Hemingway corrected the Clinton Foundation’s inept and misleading defense of its own disclosure practices:

After this article was initially published, the Clinton Foundation sent The Federalist two links (here and here) allegedly supporting its contention that federal law in Canada prohibits public disclosure of the names of charitable organization donors. Unfortunately for the Clinton Foundation, neither link supports the organization’s rationale for deliberately withholding donor information from the public. In fact, one of the links actually includes information that directly contradicts the Clinton Foundation’s assertion.

According to a guide for non-profit compliance that is prominently linked on the page provided by the Clinton Foundation, fundraising activities of non-profits are specifically exempt from the privacy protections in Canada’s federal privacy law. Why? Because, as the article below states, public disclosure of non-profit donors does not constitute “commercial activity” and is therefore not at all prohibited[.]

New Canadian law forces government to abolish an old regulation each time it creates a new one

Here’s an idea that should spread: forcing the federal government to do away with an old regulation every time it enacts a new one.

In Canada, it’s now the law. The Red Tape Reduction Act cleared its final hurdle last week, paving the way for a future in which new regulations, at least at the federal level, will be offset by the eradication of old ones at a 1:1 ratio.

Well, that’s the spirit of the law, at any rate. In practice, the new law does leave some wiggle room by framing the benefits of new regulations in terms of the projected costs they will incur, vis-à-vis the old regulations they replace.

“Minister Tony Clement, who has championed the bill, can be proud that Canada is now the first country in the world to require that for every new regulation introduced one of equivalent burden must be removed,” reported the Financial Post.

“C-21 (the Red Tape Reduction Act)…essentially caps the cost of rules coming directly from regulations. Government rules can also come from legislation and policy so the one-for-one rule is not a cap on the cost of all government rules. Still, it is a very good start.”

The law received “near-unanimous support,” according to the Post, “with some opposition critics arguing that it doesn’t go far enough.”

Maybe Canada can export some of that common sense down south, along with the Moosehead beer and Tim Horton’s coffee.

Baltimore chief begs parents to control their rioting teens

Anthony Batts, police chief for the City of Baltimore, ended his long day Monday by pleading with local parents of rioting teens to take charge of their kids.

Responding at a press conference to a question about one local mom who was captured on a (now-viral) video apparently berating her hooded son for taking part in the mayhem, Batts appeared to welcome the direct approach.

“Take control of your kids,” he said. “This is our city. Let’s make a difference.”

The chief emphasized his belief that the rioting began as a result of a social media campaign urging students at a local high school to take part in “The Purge” – a scheduled period of violence inspired by a 2013 movie of the same name.

The film posited the fantastical idea of a future society that permits a single 12-hour period of grassroots violence one night out of every year, with services from law enforcement and emergency personnel  suspended.

Reports Monday evening indicated the movie’s real-world emulators were indeed attempting to stifle response crews by cutting firefighters’ hoses and burning police vehicles.

There’s been a lot of internet discussion about where the rioters are coming from – whether a significant portion of the Baltimore chaos is being imported from out of town and fueled by social media.

But if this video tells the story it appears to tell, at least one Baltimore mom wants no part of home-grown destruction and looting – even if she has to smack her kid around to get the point across:

 

The Clinton Foundation is a ‘slush fund’ for the Clintons, says watchdog

The Clinton Foundation operates under an “atypical business model” and serves as a “slush fund for the Clintons,” according to a pair of nonprofit watchdog groups.

In the midst of a series of revelations that the Clinton Foundation failed to appropriately report controversial donations from foreign governments to both the White House and to the IRS, one group has watchlisted the Clinton family’s charity organization; another has dismissed the Clinton Foundation as a back avenue for the Clintons to enrich themselves.

“It seems like the Clinton Foundation operates as a slush fund for the Clintons,” Sunlight Foundation senior fellow Bill Allison told the New York Post recently for a piece on the Clinton Foundation’s tax scandal. The Sunlight Foundation, notes the Post, is a government watchdog with progressive roots.

Meanwhile, philanthropy watchdog group Charity Navigator won’t even rate the Clinton Foundation as a nonprofit entity because the foundation’s “atypical business model…doesn’t meet our criteria,” the Post reports:

In all, the group reported $84.6 million in “functional expenses” on its 2013 tax return and had more than $64 million left over — money the organization has said represents pledges rather than actual cash on hand.

Some of the tens of millions in administrative costs finance more than 2,000 employees, including aid workers and health professionals around the world.

But that’s still far below the 75 percent rate of spending that nonprofit experts say a good charity should spend on its mission.

… Charity Navigator put the foundation on its “watch list,” which warns potential donors about investing in problematic charities. The 23 charities on the list include the Rev. Al Sharpton’s troubled National Action Network, which is cited for failing to pay payroll taxes for several years.

Warning donors away from outfits like the National Action Network and the Clinton Foundation might count as a service to good-hearted wealthy folks looking for a place to invest their conscience. But no amount of watchlisting is going to dissuade foreign governments from taking Hillary Clinton up on her invitation to essentially bribe the State Department by giving to her family’s charity.

A Washington journalist looks in the mirror; loathes the reflection

This year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner was a typically obscene and obsequious affair, celebrated in ways that suggest there’s no line demarcating professional reporters from professional propagandists.

The fanfare surrounding the event has, in recent years, begun to approach that of a major awards show, with celebs vamping alongside reporters and politicians. Here’s some VOGUE-ing; here’s CNN’s rating of how funny the president was; here’s something similar from TIME; and here’s Jezebel paying a special homage to Obama for getting satisfyingly mad at his ideological adversaries.

Former POLITICO staffer and documentarian Patrick Gavin was allowed space at his former employer to publish an opinion piece, in advance of this year’s correspondents’ dinner, reflecting on all this.

In a remarkable bit of introspection, Gavin concluded the event has become a cynical metaphor for the deepening disconnect between Washington – including the press – and the nation under its governance.

“Something has to change,” wrote Gavin:

Everyone knows the White House Correspondents Association dinner is broken. What started off decades ago as a stately formal celebration of the best of presidential reporting has morphed into a four-day orgy of everything people outside the Beltway hate about life inside the Beltway — now it’s not just one night of clubby backslapping, carousing and drinking between the press and the powerful, it’s four full days of signature cocktails and inside jokes that just underscore how out of step the Washington elite is with the rest of the country. It’s not us (journalists) versus them (government officials); it’s us (Washington) versus them (the rest of America).

Something has to change.

I’ve watched the whole rise of the weekend over the last decade, as it sprawled increasingly out of control and increasingly out of touch — first as a blogger at FishbowlDC and a reporter at the Washington Examiner, then later as a reporter here at politico. Last year I left my job at politico to work on a documentary about White House Correspondents’ Week in Washington, D.C., the year’s most momentous week in arguably the world’s most powerful city. I thought I knew what I’d find, but even I was surprised — much of what I discovered wasn’t pretty. The week acts as a tacky and vainglorious self-celebration at a time when most Americans don’t think Washingtonians have much to be commended for.

Gavin’s piece published on the Thursday before this year’s April 25 dinner, so he had no way of anticipating just how starkly the event, held Saturday, would contrast with the Baltimore “protests” unfolding at the exact same time.

The juxtaposition, on social media, between the Washington revelers’ velveteen isolation and the violent chaos unfolding just a few miles up the road in Baltimore amplified the degree of separation between Washington, D.C.’s political class and everyone else. It helped that self-avowed news outlets like CNN urged viewers to get their fill of the Baltimore riots by following Twitter instead of watching CNN – where the network was “covering” the correspondents’ dinner.

Gavin, the ex-POLITICO curmudgeon fed up with the dinner’s frivolity and unintentional self-parody, made a few suggestions on how the event could be reformed. They include things like forcing the celebrities to bone up on their knowledge of politics and current events, and eliminating the red carpet portion altogether.

But his best suggestion was to audit the White House Correspondents’ Association.

“I asked Ken Berger, the CEO of the non-profit watchdog Charity Navigator, to review the Association’s finances for the first time,” he wrote. “He came back with a tough rebuke of how the Association does business. His criticisms include the fact that there are no independent audits done, nor is there an audit committee. There are no conflict of interest policies in place. Most disturbing is the fact that almost half of the Association’s annual outlays go to its executive director, a ratio that Berger called disturbing. In many years, the executive director gets paid more than gets doled out in scholarships.”

Scholarships, by the way, are ostensibly what the dinner’s all about…even though this picture of the 2015 recipients represents less than 1/1,000th the amount of whorish exposure the press celebs elected to bestow on themselves.

Study credits nature for recent variation in global temperatures

A new study that analyzes existing data instead of relying on the predictions of computer models finds that global warming has stalled. It also finds that much of the climate variability attributed to man-made causes is, in fact, a product of natural processes that aren’t initiated through human influence.

The Duke University study predicts that future vacillations in global temperatures will likely result from natural variations, repeating an observable cycle in the data the researchers analyzed.

“A new study based on 1,000 years of temperature records suggests global warming is not progressing as fast as it would under the most severe emissions scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” the study summary reports.

As pundits on both sides of the climate change debate rush to appropriate the findings to suit their agendas, the study itself does not dismiss the phenomenon of global warming.

Rather, it attributes the warming that’s so far been observed to “natural variability in surface temperatures — caused by interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, and other natural factors…”

The Duke researchers also don’t dismiss the theoretical contribution human activity might make, under the right circumstances, to exacerbate naturally inevitable increases in temperatures.

“At any given time, we could start warming at a faster rate if greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere increase without any offsetting changes in aerosol concentrations or natural variability,” researcher Wenhong Li stated.

But the study gives nature the lion’s share of the credit for recently observed increases in global temperatures, as well as the current “hiatus” in the present global warming “wiggle.”

“Statistically, it’s pretty unlikely that an 11-year hiatus in warming, like the one we saw at the start of this century, would occur if the underlying human-caused warming was progressing at a rate as fast as the most severe IPCC projections,” said researcher Patrick T. Brown.

As trucks and SUVs surge, Ford can’t sell enough hybrids and crossovers to keep plant at capacity

Ford Motor Co. isn’t having problems selling large vehicles. Gas is relatively cheap at the moment, making it an especially good time for customers to indulge their preferences. But Ford can’t sell enough fuel-efficient and hybrid cars to justify keeping the plant where they’re assembled at full capacity.

Customers, who’ve been reluctant to flock to small crossover vehicles even in times when fuel costs are higher, are avoiding the compact Ford Focus and its variants, as well as the company’s two C-Max minivan models (one’s a hybrid; the other is a hybrid with a plug-in feature).

The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford is planning to scale back its production capacity and lay off 700 workers at the company’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, beginning this June. As many as 200 of the laid-off workers will be shifted to other assembly plants in the area in short order; the remainder may take up to a year to reassign to other locations.

“The automaker told workers and notified the state of Michigan that it will lay off 700 workers, starting June 22. The decision affects 675 hourly workers and 25 salaried employees who make the Focus, Focus ST, Focus Electric, C-Max hybrid and C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid at the Wayne plant,” the Free Press reported.

“The first 200 workers will be laid off in June, another 200 at the end of July and the remainder at the end of September.”

The company acknowledges that its problems with the Wayne plant are model-specific.

“All our other plants are doing well,” company spokesman Kristina Adamski said. “We can’t build enough trucks or SUVs.”

But, she added, “[w]e need to make sure we are building the cars people are ordering.”

Hillary OK’d Russian uranium deal while its financiers kept Clinton Foundation in the money

The short version is that Hillary Clinton’s State Department signed off on a deal that handed Russia a perpetual chunk of America’s uranium resources and benefited foreign megadonors to the Clinton Foundation, all while the Clinton Foundation accepted multiple megadonations from those very same foreign megadonors.

The long version is exactly the same as the short version, with names, dates, timelines and dollar amounts rounding out the details.

About those dollar amounts — they’re huge. While Clinton officially remained separate from the Clinton Foundation for the window of time when she served as president Obama’s secretary of state, the foundation accepted $2.35 million from the uranium deal’s foreign brokers. Bill Clinton, meanwhile, accepted another $500,000 from a Russian bank linked to the deal as payment for a speaking engagement in Moscow.

The New York Times, giddy in the conviction that it has itself a real story, fleshed out with real facts, published a narrative of these exchanges in a stylized, page-turner-type article Thursday that borrows heavily from the reporting of author Peter Schweizer.

The NYT story is indeed long and detailed, but here’s the setup:

At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

And shortly after the Russians announced their intention to acquire a majority stake in Uranium One, Mr. Clinton received $500,000 for a Moscow speech from a Russian investment bank with links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.

At the time, both Rosatom and the United States government made promises intended to ease concerns about ceding control of the company’s assets to the Russians. Those promises have been repeatedly broken, records show.

Schweizer’s name has been in the news a lot this week, as several media outlets have teased their standing commitments to delve more deeply into revelations uncovered in his forthcoming book, “Clinton Cash.” Pro-Hillary detractors who’ve attempted to throw barbs at Schweizer’s alleged partisan motives were thrown a curve of their own Thursday, when several sources reported that he’s planning another book that focuses on Jeb Bush.

Republican presidential hopefuls have pounced on the stories so far put forward by Schweizer (even as the book awaits publication) and by media affiliates, like NYT, that have signed on for followup reporting.

But Hillary’s GOP adversaries face the same challenge they routinely face when attempting to message Hillary’s tedious, wordy and bureaucratically arcane scandals and alleged crimes: Hillary’s wrongdoing, while egregious, is hopelessly bogged down by miles of paper trails and data that defy sound-bite encapsulation and elude a ready appreciation from the general, media-consuming public.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) may have achieved a measure of success with his relatively succinct restatement of this latest scandal, telling Breitbart Thursday why Americans should be alarmed, and why the allegations against Clinton suggest a motive that makes her highly unfit to seek elected office (at least in the United States). Paul accomplished this by calling on our current president to recognize that her alleged actions warrant an investigation.

“If I were President Obama, I would want to know what other potential deals was she in charge of where she received donations to the foundation during the same period of time,” he said. “Really it is a question — there is a sense of impropriety, or an appearance of impropriety here, where they’re accepting money from shareholders of a company that was then sold to the Russians at the same time. So I just don’t see any reason why the Clinton Foundation should be accepting any money from foreign countries or from foreigners.”

No duh.

There’s much more in the Times’ report, including a much more detailed rundown of the known donations the Clinton Foundation received before and after the uranium deal. Read the entire thing, but remember that the Clinton Foundation’s documentation — some of which has supplied the data underpinning Schweizer’s book and stories like the Times’ — is incomplete at best, and possibly criminal at worst.

“Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors,” Reuters reported Thursday.

“… The [Clinton family] charities’ errors generally take the form of under-reporting or over-reporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations entirely when reporting revenue, the charities confirmed to Reuters.”

Hmmm… wonder if similarly sloppy accounting practices were par for the course while Hillary had control of the State Department.

Oh, that’s right — they were — and then some.

Carly Fiorina to announce campaign for GOP presidential nomination

Former Hewlett Packard CEO and Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is expected to announce on May 4 that she will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Fiorina, among the GOP’s most outspoken critics of Hillary Clinton, will couch her candidacy as a study in contrasts with Clinton’s presidential ambitions, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“… Mrs. Fiorina, likely the lone woman in the 2016 Republican field, has a unique ability to attack Mrs. Clinton,” the Journal observed Wednesday. “Mrs. Fiorina has impressed activists at early-state candidate events by making the argument that by nominating a woman — namely her — the party would undercut the historic nature of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign.”

Fiorina certainly hasn’t been shy about attacking Clinton. At February’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), she told a friendly crowd that Clinton lacks a substantive track record and has, in fact, overplayed her reliance on identity politics to the detriment of the very women whom she so often claims to support.

“She tweets about women’s rights in this country and takes money from governments that deny women the most basic human rights,” accused Fiorina. “She tweets about equal pay for women but won’t answer basic questions about her own offices’ pay standards — and neither will our president. Hillary likes hashtags. But she doesn’t know what leadership means.”

Since her CPAC appearance, Fiorina hasn’t let up on Clinton, using every available media opportunity to highlight the Hillary campaign’s facile dependence on the “first woman in the White House” gimmick.

“If Hillary Clinton were to face a female nominee, there are a whole set of things that she won’t be able to talk about,” she said during a breakfast speech last week. “She won’t be able to talk about being the first woman president. She won’t be able to talk about a war on women without being challenged. She won’t be able to play the gender card.”

Fiorina lost a bid to unseat Sen. Barabara Boxer (D-Calif.) in 2010. Before that, her political career was that of a pro-business hobbyist with a penchant for playing a supporting role.

But her Senate seat loss may have been a boon for her presidential campaign, because it buffers her from the “professional politician” criticisms she’s now leveling at Clinton.

“I’m not a neophyte in government … but I’m not a professional politician,” she told last week’s breakfast audience. “… People who have been in politics all their lives are somewhat disconnected from the rest of us.”

IRS intentionally dialed back ‘customer service’ in ploy to seek greater funding

A congressional report released Wednesday accuses the IRS of intentionally hobbling its taxpayer assistance budget in order to invite the public to believe that the agency is underfunded and understaffed — and, therefore, unable to respond adequately to taxpayers’ inquiries.

The scathing report, delivered by the House Ways and Means Committee, blasts the agency for allocating funds for nonessential and often frivolous uses, even as IRS commissioner John Koskinen repeatedly told members of Congress the agency was crippled by Congress’ refusal to increase the IRS’s budget for fiscal year 2014.

Here’s a portion of the report:

During the 2015 tax-filing season, the IRS provided what its own Commissioner described as “abysmal” customer service, blaming skyrocketing wait times for telephone and in-person assistance on agency budget cuts. The IRS even called budget cuts “a tax cut for tax cheats.” But a close review of the agency’s spending shows the IRS deliberately cut $134 million in funding for customer service to pay for other activities. Spending decisions entirely under the IRS’s control led to 16 million fewer taxpayers receiving IRS assistance this filling season…

… The IRS’s spending choices and mismanagement of resources raise serious questions about the nature and extent of the agency’s self-described budget crisis and its commitment to serving the taxpayer.

… The IRS collects nearly $500 million in user fees each year that it can spend (and raise) without congressional approval, and the agency has broad flexibility to allocate that funding as it sees fit. Typically, a significant share of those user fees is dedicated to customer service activities. Yet, this year, the agency decided to make drastic cuts to taxpayer assistance. Instead of prioritizing customer service or boosting its enforcement budget, the IRS spent the bulk of its user-fee receipts on other priorities. As Commissioner John Koskinen announced to IRS employees in January 2015, the IRS is doing “less with less.” This, despite the fact that appropriations for assistance were constant from fiscal year 2014 to 2015.

… The IRS’s congressionally allocated budget for taxpayer assistance remained flat from fiscal year 2014 to 2015. Nevertheless, the level of service, especially for over-the-phone customer service, decreased drastically. In January 2015, the IRS commissioner estimated that taxpayer service would decline while delays in tax refunds would increase. While the IRS commissioner has blamed this solely on budget cuts, in reality the IRS deliberately diverted resources away from taxpayer services.

The report does more than rant, though, offering some unsolicited advice the IRS might put to good use — if its bosses truly want to get the most mileage out of the agency’s annual budget. Here’s a graphic the committee introduced to demonstrate how the agency could have adjusted its priorities last year in order to save money on a number of fronts:

HWMC_IRS

“These examples are not theoretical,” the report states. “The IRS has the power to use these resources to help taxpayers.”