Scandals plague executive branch these daysPublished 9:26am Wednesday, May 22, 2013
For a town accustomed to distractions, the past week has been remarkable for the volume and intensity of scandals that have engulfed the Executive Branch. Many seasoned Washington observers cannot recall a time since Watergate when the White House has been so besieged with turmoil. Here is a recap.
Benghazi Terror Attacks:
While over eight months old, the renewed attention to the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, prompt-ed the White House last week to release 100 pages of emails not previously made public. The emails offer some detail about the back and forth in the Obama administration over how it publicly characterized the attacks which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens. The Obama administration’s response to the terror attacks, including internal discussions over whether officials tried to downplay their true nature for political reasons, are currently being scrutinized by several Congressional committees. The emails confirmed that administration officials scrub-bed their public talking points, removing references to possible terror connections in the attacks as well as concerns that the security environment in Benghazi was deteriorating. The dribble of information from the Obama administration about its handling of the Benghazi attacks is unacceptable and must be met with a serious response.
Last week it was revealed the IRS has been unfairly scrutinizing and delaying applications from more than 100 conservative groups – including at least two in Alabama – seeking non-profit tax exempt status. As early as 2010, the IRS started targeting groups using “tea party,” “patriot” and other conservative references for extra scrutiny. Some of these groups were unable to secure tax exempt status due to the endless IRS stone-walling, which even President Obama has admitted was improper.
Last week, the Acting IRS Commissioner and another IRS official were asked to resign. This is not enough. The Acting Commissioner was going to step down anyway in a couple of weeks, and it isn’t clear he or the other official had much to do with the abuse.
I have written Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew asking for a full accounting of what information was sought from conservative groups and what the IRS did with that information. I am also concerned that the former head of the IRS department overseeing the tax exempt status of groups is now in charge of implementing Obamacare.
I have cosponsored The Taxpayer Nondiscrimination and Protection Act to make it a crime for IRS employees to engage in discrimination against American taxpayers.
The legislation would impose a fine of up to $5,000 or imprisonment of up to five years, or both, for such misconduct.
The IRS’s abuse of the public trust is chilling and cannot be tolerated. As Speaker Boehner put it, “The question isn’t about who is going to resign over the IRS scandal; it’s who’s going to jail?”
Justice Department Seizure of Media Phone Records:
Finally, it was revealed that the Justice Department seized the work and personal phone records of more than 20 Associated Press reporters for two months last year.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has denied any knowledge of his department’s seizure of AP phone records, but has defended it in the interest of protecting national security.
Also last week, I joined other members of Congress in asking Attorney General Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the Justice Department violated the First Amendment during their seizure of the AP’s phone records. We also asked him who within the Justice Department approved the collection of the phone records and for a full explanation of his role in the matter.
Each of these three scandals is of great concern to law-abiding Americans who expect their government to honestly and impartially administer our laws. The Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi, the IRS abuse of power and the Justice Department’s cavalier approach to First Amendment rights of the press are signs of a White House that is overreaching its authority.
Congress has a constitutional authority and a solemn obligation to conduct oversight over the federal government. These serious events will be fully investigated.
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at http://bonner.house.gov