WASHINGTON — It was the nearly silent bombshell of the IRS scandal, but it may have been one of the most significant.
That is especially true considering the target is primarily known as one of the fiercest critics of President Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton, the latter considered the Democrat’s leading presidential contender in 2016.
When the IRS stripped the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, or PHC, of its tax-exempt status, it did not cause splashy headlines and a chorus of the nation’s leading conservatives did not howl in protest.
However, the IRS’ revocation of the center’s 501(c)(3) status may have been the most audacious power play yet by the left in its use of the department to wage war on conservatives.
The action indicates the IRS still feels free to pursue conservatives with impunity, even after all the adverse publicity it has received since former tax-exempt division chief Lois Lerner revealed last May that the department had improperly targeted conservative groups applying for 501(c)(3) status.
Additionally, the PHC is unique among the IRS’ recent known victims:
- The tea-party groups came to the IRS; the IRS went after the PHC. Unlike the delay tactics it used on tea-party groups when processing their tax-exempt applications, the IRS actively targeted the PHC as a group that already had 501(c)(3) status.
- The department applied the worst penalty at its disposal, by disallowing tax-exempt contributions to the organization.
- Unlike the tea-party groups, the PHC did not spring up after the 2008 election of President Obama, but has been around since the 1990s. It was approved in January 1998 as a 501(c)(3). Based in Manassas, Va., the center was founded by former FBI agent and best-selling author, Gary Aldrich, a ferocious critic of Obama and the Clintons.
- The IRS appeared to go out of its way to target and punish the center. It had to go back a decade to find a mere two instances of alleged transgressions committed by the PHC.
- And, as WND reported, the supposed violations of IRS rules are miniscule compared to the hyper-partisan articles published daily by the gargantuan, George Soros-financed and leftist 501(c)(3) website Media Matters.
Despite the brazenness of the IRS in giving its tax-exempt “death-penalty” to the PHC, the news was met with an almost deafening silence by conservatives. However, those conservatives who are speaking out are scathing in their criticism.
“Americans should be outraged at the banana republic intimidation tactics of this administration and Congress needs to take a hard look at the IRS’s abuses of power,” Scott Hogenson, communications director for Tea Party Patriots, the nation’s largest grassroots organization, told WND.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has forced the IRS to reveal a series of incriminating documents, told WND, “The IRS can’t be trusted to impartially apply its own regulations or the law.”
“Liberals at the local, state and federal level are increasingly abusing the powers of government agencies to smear and attack conservatives. The time has come for Congress to rein in these attacks on free speech,” Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, told WND.
Floyd G. Brown, president of the Western Center for Journalism, told WND, “The IRS actions concerning the Patrick Henry Center are an outrage. The IRS has no jurisdiction to censor or control the speech of individuals involved in nonprofit work. The IRS has become the favorite tool of the political apparatchiks who run the Democratic Party. They use the IRS and other agencies to bully opponents until they are too tired to continue to fight.”
“The IRS political targeting of Gary Aldrich’s Patrick Henry Center is stunning in its brazenness,” said WND Editor Joseph Farah, who exposed the broad pattern of IRS political targeting during the Clinton administration and whose own organization was the focus of an audit at the time.
“This action by the IRS is a clear signal the Obama administration is out of control and in no way deterred by congressional investigations into the use of the IRS as an attack dog against domestic political enemies. The silence from Aldrich’s fellow conservatives is deafening and invites even more blatant abuse of this kind by the Obama administration,” added Farah.
Aldrich has been a target of the left stretching back to Clinton administration, in which he served.
He spent 26 years in the FBI and was a private investigator in the Clinton White House, vetting the backgrounds and character of the president’s choices for top-level government positions. Shocked by what he experienced, Aldrich left the White House in 1996.
In 1998, Aldrich wrote the New York Times’ bestseller “Unlimited Access,” a devastating critique and insider’s look at an administration he saw as run amok. Aldrich said he repeatedly rejected Clinton nominees as corrupt and/or unqualified, only to have the president ignore his findings and put those people in positions of authority.
Aldrich also considered the behavior of Hillary to be especially corrupt, vulgar and even obscene, describing her decorating the White House Christmas tree with sex toys and drug paraphernalia.
“[I] could not let these threats to national security and attacks on basic American values continue … With firsthand knowledge of the hardship facing those who dare to speak the truth in the face of corrupt power, [I] determined to make a difference by helping others. Thus was conceived a non-profit foundation to assist [other] whistleblowers and to protect their First Amendment rights.”
And what a whistleblower he found.
The very first client of his Patrick Henry Center was Linda Tripp, the Pentagon employee who instigated the impeachment of President Clinton by recording her calls with Monica Lewinsky.
Conservatives, understandably, might see that as a reason for top Democrats to hold a grudge.
When Aldrich began working with tea-party groups in 2010, Politico described “Unlimited Access” as a “widely discredited exposé of the Clinton White House.”
Aldrich related to WND how “Hillary Clinton called it a “pack of lies,” political fabrication that could not be believed … and Bill Clinton said he had no idea who I was or what I was saying, but it couldn’t be true. Then (former White House aide) George Stephanopoulous was the lead character who came on ABC News and declared to the nation that I was a pathological liar.”
However, the facts that have emerged ever since the book was published point to just the opposite, and indicate the author has been vindicated.
The book sounded the alarm about national security risks, security risks in the White House and the sexual escapades of President Clinton. In 2004, Aldrich explained, “The book was designed to alert the public in 1996, before the election, that Bill Clinton was soft on national security and … he had weakened the nation to the degree that I felt we were in danger of an attack.”
Aldrich told WND in 2000 that after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in 1998, “I received a call from (NBC “Meet the Press” host Tim) Russert at my residence. Don’t know how he got my number. But he said, ‘Gary, congratulations. It looks like you’ve been fully vindicated. I don’t know anyone who could now claim your book wasn’t true.'”
Aldrich said another journalist who had publicly doubted his story, ABC’s Sam Donaldson, also told him he’d been vindicated.
As for former Clinton insider Stephanopoulos, who went on to host Donaldson’s old show, ABC’s “This Week,” Aldrich told WND, “The man’s a liar and he worked inside the Clinton White House and he knew what I wrote was true and yet he went on national TV and said I’m a ‘pathological liar.’ Who’s a pathological liar now?”
Aldrich told WND in 2000 that it was the sex scandal that the media fixated upon, but it was the risk the Clinton administration posed to national security that was the bigger threat:
“We didn’t clear anybody. They didn’t care about security. They just wanted to test the political loyalty of employees. There’s no provision in the law to allow for that. It’s nuts. It’s a misuse and an abuse. Early on in the staffing of the Clinton administration, they discovered that the FBI (background) investigations could be an impediment to the appointment of people they really wanted to have. And these people don’t want to be denied, frankly. Hillary Clinton in particular does not want to be told, ‘No,’ when she wants to bring somebody into the White House.”
By 2000, WND was reporting that slowly, with each new report of security lapses, Aldrich’s story of loose security and reckless conduct had been confirmed. At the White House, drug and gun smugglers were waved into fundraising coffees with the president and vice president. One Clinton donor with Beijing ties even managed to sneak a foreigner past the Secret Service using a bogus driver’s license.
Fearful fellow law-enforcement agents failed to back his story. But Aldrich did not call them out, even though he knew where the dirt was, having read their sensitive FBI “302” reports while vetting them for jobs.
By 2010, PHC merged with Liberty Central, an advocacy group run by Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese serves on the center’s board.
But the center has never been very big, declaring less than $350,000 in revenues for the year 2012.
The IRS apparently had to strain to build a case against the small, obscure outfit, reaching back a decade to find just a mere two alleged transgressions.
USA Today reported last Monday that the PHC was among several organizations that had lost their tax-exempt status in February, after the IRS letter released a letter on April 18, explaining its reasoning.
The IRS cited a pair of articles on the center’s website: one Aldrich wrote in 2004 that was critical of presidential candidate John Kerry and one in 2005 which was critical of Hillary Clinton.
(Farah said he suspects the IRS didn’t use any of Aldrich’s criticisms of Obama in making its case because “that would have been unseemly and too obvious.”)
In 2004, Aldrich wrote, “Let’s see what happens when he brings his medals to the first presidential debate. I’m willing to bet George W. Bush will have no trouble dealing with this coward.” In a 2005 piece called “Stop Hillary Now!” Aldrich encouraged “Clinton haters” to get out the word on Hillary’s “atrocious conduct.”
The IRS said the PHC served as an “action organization” in promoting those articles by issuing alerts, and had “shown a pattern of deliberate and consistent intervention in political campaigns” and made “repeated statements supporting or opposing various candidates by expressing its opinion of the respective candidate’s character and qualifications.”
Those who know Aldrich well strongly doubt that he would endanger the viability of his organization by crossing the line.
“I know Gary Aldrich personally, Judicial Watch has worked with him in the past, and, in my experience, he is a stickler for the rules,” Judicial Watch’s Fitton told WND.
“I’ve known Gary Aldrich for 20 years,” said Farah. “He knows the law. Few people are more cautious about observing every jot and tittle of the law in their political activism than Gary Aldrich. If Obama’s IRS can suspend his organization’s tax-exempt status in the midst of their own high-profile scandalous abuse of the IRS, the First Amendment is gravely threatened. In fact, it appears Obama is trying to suspend not just the tax-exempt status of his political enemies, but the First Amendment itself.”
Even if the PHC truly violated IRS rules, the two actions done nearly a decade ago are dwarfed by the vast number of hyper-partisan political articles published everyday by the extreme liberal website Media Matters, as documented by WND. Media Matters is also a 501(c)(3) but operates with little apparent interference from the IRS.
Farah noted the discrepancy, observing, “Meanwhile, left-wing partisan tax-exempt groups like Media Matters run rings around their conservative counterparts with impunity. America will never be the same kind of free-and-open society we have known when people with different points of view are treated so unequally by the government. We are one short step away from police-state totalitarianism.”
Hogenson added, “This is symptomatic of the on-going IRS targeting of people and organizations with whom President Obama disagrees. Once again, the IRS is targeting a conservative group while turning a blind eye to the questionable activities of left-wing organizations that share the same tax status as the Patrick Henry Center.”
Rep. Stockman told WND, “Not only did the Patrick Henry Center never engage in any activity that actually intervened in any campaign, what they are accused of is standard operating procedure for leftist groups. Nothing in the report rises to the level of an activity that disqualifies the Center from tax-exempt status. This appears to be yet another case of liberal officials using government agencies to defame and harass conservative activists. Their goal is simple. They want to intimidate and silence those who differ with their agenda.”
The Western Journalism Center’s Brown said, “For the IRS to revoke the tax exempt status of an independent foundation for comments the organization’s president, Gary Aldrich wrote in a column on the independent news website TownHall.com only increases the outrage.”
Fitton implied the punitive action did not come out of the blue, but is part of the same conflict going back to Aldrich’s time with the Clintons.
“In many ways, this is the culmination of the ‘long war’ against Gary that began with the whistleblowing on corruption in Washington, D.C., nearly 20 years ago.”
It also appears to be part of a larger pattern of targeting conservatives.
In addition to the targeting of tea-party groups, the IRS is apparently going after even the few conservatives in Hollywood, as the New York Times reported in January:
“A collection of perhaps 1,500 right-leaning players in the entertainment industry, Friends of Abe keeps a low profile and fiercely protects its membership list, to avoid what it presumes would result in a sort of 21st-century blacklist, albeit on the other side of the partisan spectrum.
“Now the Internal Revenue Service is reviewing the group’s activities in connection with its application for tax-exempt status. Last week, federal tax authorities presented the group with a 10-point request for detailed information about its meetings with politicians like Paul D. Ryan, Thaddeus McCotter and Herman Cain, among other matters, according to people briefed on the inquiry.”
Conservative filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza is even facing prosecution on campaign-finance charges that many believe are payback for his film “2016: Obama’s America.”
Gerald Molen, the producer of D’Souza’s two full-length feature film documentaries, characterized D’Souza’s criminal indictment as a Soviet-style “political prosecution.”
In turn, D’Souza told WND that Molen also was harassed by the Obama administration for his role producing D’Souza’s full-length feature film documentaries.
“Right after ‘2016’ came out, Molen got a call from the IRS,” D’Souza said.
Republican Sens. Charles E. Grassley, Jeff Sessions, Ted Cruz and Mike Lee are among the lawmakers who have signed a letter to the FBI demanding details of the D’Souza investigation, saying it smacks of “selective prosecution.”
Further evidence that the IRS targeting of Aldrich is not happening in a vacuum came to light after an investigation by WND that revealed the agency contracts with an avowedly “progressive” organization supported by George Soros to process data filed by smaller tax-exempt groups.
The IRS sends details contained in the annual filings for organizations with $50,000 in annual receipts or less to the Urban Institute, which is funded, at least in part, by contributions from far-left activist Soros.
A tax form page directs groups to file with the Urban Institute, although apparently other providers also can file the Form 990 documentation (postcard), which is required of every nonprofit, small and large.
“The organization that fails to file required e-Postcards … for three consecutive years will automatically lose its tax-exempt status,” the IRS warns.
The supposedly nonpartisan organization’s employees have a record of donating nearly 100 percent of their political contributions to Democrats, and officially, the Urban Institute advocates for totally socialized medicine, carbon taxes and amnesty for illegal aliens.
The institute’s president, Sarah Rosen Wartell, is the co-founder of the Center for American Progress, widely considered ground zero for the development of many of the Obama administration’s progressive policies.
As for Aldrich, when news of his targeting broke it didn’t cause the kind of sensational headlines as when America learned the IRS had been demanding tea-party groups report what prayers they had been saying and which books they had been reading.
But this latest development may indicate, somewhere along the way, a turning point had been reached, one in which the IRS went from defense to offense, and instead of just stalling applications, went on the attack.
That seemed to be what Lois Lerner and the Justice Department had in mind, when it was recently revealed how they plotted how to prosecute conservatives for merely exercising their rights to free speech.
Even more ominously, the order to have the IRS dig up information to prosecute conservatives was given to the Justice Department’s director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Public Integrity Section by “someone” higher up in the chain of command.
That means the orders either came from someone in a position of top authority at the Justice Department, or, someone at the White House.
As Floyd Brown told WND, “The authoritarianism of the federal government should frighten every American. The new slogan of big government has changed from ‘we won’t listen,’ and it has become ‘you can’t speak.'”
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCgarth