Senate Presses White House For IRS Documents

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 20 2013 4:25 PM

Slatest PM: The "Don't Tip Your Doorman $50 If You're a Billionaire" Edition

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Billionaire David Koch, chairman of the board of the conservative Americans for Prosperity (AFP) advocacy group, attends a rally in Washington on November 5, 2011

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The White House's IRS Timeline Comes Into Focus: Washington Post: "Senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, learned last month about a review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general into whether the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, but they did not inform President Obama, the White House said Monday. The acknowledgement is the White House’s latest disclosure in a continual release of details concerning the extent to which White House officials knew of the IG’s findings that IRS officials engaged in the 'inappropriate' targeting of conservative non-profits for heightened scrutiny. Previously, the White House said counsel Kathryn Ruemmler did not learn about the final results of the investigation until the week of April 22nd, and had not disclosed that McDonough and other aides had also been told about the investigation. On Monday, Carney said the chief of staff and other aides learned of the probe the week of April 16, along with a member of Ruemmler’s staff. The White House has said President Obama did not learn of the IRS’s actions until he saw news reports on the matter earlier this month."

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The Senate Still Has Questions: New York Times: "If the Internal Revenue Service and the Obama administration thought the Senate Finance Committee and its Democratic leaders would offer something of a respite from the battering they have been taking from Congressional Republicans, they learned otherwise on Monday. Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat who is the chairman of the committee, and Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican, forwarded a six-page letter to Steven Miller, the acting I.R.S. commissioner, who announced his resignation last week. It contained 41 pointed questions about the I.R.S.’s efforts to single out for special scrutiny conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Those questions, which are to be answered by May 31, go well beyond the agency’s actions and address the questions Republicans have been asking for a week: Who in the Obama administration knew what? And when did they know it?"

Specifically: From the letter: "Provide copies of all documents between I.R.S. employee(s) and anyone else regarding the targeting of applications based on the existence of certain phrases and/or subjecting those targeted applications to full development and heightened scrutiny ... Was the decision to target any tax-exempt applications for review and subject them to full development or heightened scrutiny influenced or prompted in any way by political pressure directed at the I.R.S. from any members of the Congress or other elected officials? ... Provide documents relating to communications between any and all I.R.S. employees and any and all White House employees, including, but not limited to, the president, regarding the targeting." The panel also demanded the identiy "by name, grade and position title" of "every I.R.S. supervisor, I.R.S. manager or other I.R.S. employee who became aware that any individual in the White House or Treasury Department became aware of any improper targeting."

Rove's Crossroads Cries Foul: Los Angeles Times: "Crossroads GPS, the behemoth conservative advocacy group behind some of the most robust attacks against President Obama’s administration, said Monday that it believes it is among the organizations subjected to special scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service. ... [O]n Monday, a spokesman for Crossroads said the group’s experience with the IRS indicates that it was also caught in the dragnet. The organization, which was co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, applied to be recognized as a tax-exempt social welfare group in September 2010 and still has not been approved by the IRS. Its application, which is supposed to remain confidential unless the group’s status is approved, was released by the IRS to the investigative website ProPublica in December 2012 in response to a public records request. 'From everything we know -- the criteria used by the IRS to target conservative groups, the timing, the still outstanding application after nearly three years, the leaking of the application from the Cincinnati office, and other factors—Crossroads was one of the targeted groups,' Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio wrote in an email."

Happy Monday and welcome back to The Slatest PM, follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

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Koch and PBS: A snippet from Jane Mayer's long study of how David Koch reacted to a documentary that was to air on PBS that didn't flatter him: "Park Avenue includes a multifaceted portrait of the Koch brothers, telling the history of their family company and chronicling their many donations to universities and think tanks. It features comments from allies like Tim Phillips, the president of the Kochs’ main advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, and from activists in the Tea Party, including Representative Michele Bachmann, of Minnesota, who share the Kochs’ opposition to high taxes and regulation. ... A large part of the film, however, subjects the Kochs to tough scrutiny. ... At one point, a former doorman—his face shrouded in shadow, to preserve his anonymity—says that when he 'started at 740' his assumption was that 'come around to Christmastime I’m going to get a thousand from each resident. You know, because they are multibillionaires. But it’s not that way.' He continues, 'These guys are businessmen. They know what the going rate is—they’re not going to give you anything more than that. The cheapest person over all was David Koch. We would load up his trucks—two vans, usually—every weekend, for the Hamptons . . . multiple guys, in and out, in and out, heavy bags. We would never get a tip from Mr. Koch. We would never get a smile from Mr. Koch. Fifty-dollar check for Christmas, too—yeah, I mean, a check! At least you could give us cash.'" Weigel, meanwhile, has more on the real story of Koch's influence: The Best Flacking the Kochs Can Buy?

You Say "Conspirator," We Say "Reporter": Washington Post: "When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material. They used security badge access records to track the reporter’s comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter’s personal e-mails. The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press. At a time when President Obama’s administration is under renewed scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, the Kim case provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one such probe. ...

Fox News Reacts: "We are outraged to learn today that James Rosen was named a criminal co-conspirator for simply doing his job as a reporter," Michael Clemente, Fox News' executive vice president of news, said in a statement issued Monday afternoon. "In fact, it is downright chilling. We will unequivocally defend his right to operate as a member of what up until now has always been a free press." 

SCOTUS Watch: Associated Press: "The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear a new case on the intersection of religion and government in a dispute over prayers used to open public meetings. The justices said they will review an appeals court ruling that held that the upstate New York town of Greece, a Rochester suburb, violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the town should have made a greater effort to invite people from other faiths to open its monthly board meetings. The town says the high court already has upheld prayers at the start of legislative meetings and that private citizens offered invocations of their own choosing."

The Suburban Poor: CBS News: "Many of America's cities have grown and prospered over the last few decades, showing surprising declines in poverty and crime rates. America's iconic suburbs, however, have shown a dissimilar trend, so much so that there are now more poor people living there than in urban centers, according to a new analysis from the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution. The federal poverty level for a family of four is an annual income of $23,550. As the poor population has surged throughout the nation since the turn of the century, the number of poor people living in suburbs grew 67 percent between 2000 and 2011—a much bigger jump than in cities. The 'War on Poverty' that was begun by Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago faces a very different battlefield today, and public policy should shift to reflect that, the study finds."

Bachmann's Future: Politico: "With Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann facing a widening campaign finance probe, her Democratic challenger is out with a new poll showing him in a close race with the conservative firebrand. The survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling and obtained by Politco, shows Democrat Jim Graves leading Bachmann, a four-term congresswoman and former GOP presidential candidate, 47 percent to 45 percent. The results are within the poll’s 4.4 percentage point margin of error. Graves, a hotel company executive who came within just 5,000 votes — or 1.2 percentage points — of unseating Bachmann in 2012, recently announced that he would be seeking a rematch for the GOP-leaning 6th Congressional District seat."

Moral Shifts: Gallup: "Americans' views toward a number of moral issues have shifted significantly since 2001. Their acceptance of gay and lesbian relations has increased the most, up 19 percentage points in the past 12 years—to a record high of 59% today. Americans' tolerance toward having a baby outside of marriage is also now much greater, up 15 points since 2001, to the current 60%." Full numbers here.

A Look Ahead to Tomorrow: Wall Street Journal: "Apple Inc. Chief Executive Tim Cook is expected to be grilled Tuesday in Washington over the technology giant's global tax strategies at a time when it has piled up more than $100 billion of cash overseas. Mr. Cook will appear before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which has taken Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. to task over their tax policies at earlier hearings. Senator Carl Levin (D., Mich), who chairs the committee, has taken issue with the tax loopholes that he asserts allow companies to 'avoid paying taxes they rightfully owe.' The U.S. hearing marks a rare and high-profile visit to Washington, D.C., for Mr. Cook, who is expected to propose changes to the corporate tax code to lawmakers on Tuesday in addition to answering questions. It comes as lawmakers around the globe are applying closer scrutiny to the taxes paid by multinational companies amid pressure to drum up greater corporate tax receipts."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate

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