"Nixonian." That's how the IRS's action in delaying a tax-status determination for a group of Hollywood conservatives, as well as the simultaneous targeting by the Obama Justice Department of the maker of a film critical of Obama – the No. 2 political documentary of all time – are being described by those being targeted.
However, they tell WND, if the ultimate goal is to intimidate, forget it – it won't work.
Those sentiments were expressed Friday in light of the developments of the previous 24 hours – word that the conservative Friends of Abe organization in Hollywood has been waiting for more than two years while the Internal Revenue Service has deliberated over its tax status, and the indictment on election donation charges of Dinesh D'Souza, maker of the incredibly popular "2016" that was critical of Obama.
The attacks targeted those rarities in media and Hollywood these days – critics of Obama.
"'2016: Obama's America' was the No. 2 political documentary of all time, and it obviously got the attention of our rulers. This action may have been designed to intimidate us, but it will have the opposite effect. Our movie 'America' will release on July 4 across the USA as previously planned," said Gerald Molen, producer of "2016."
D'Souza was not making any statements immediately because of the pending charges, but a woman executive at a major motion picture studio who is known online as Anita Gunn said such activities hearken back to the 1970s.
"I find it appalling that the IRS is unabashedly targeting such an innocuous group. It's Nixonian. Of course the media don't dare ridicule the president they all supported, but imagine if George W. Bush were targeting a progressive group in the middle of a red state? We all know it would be front page news," she said.
"I believe it was brave of [Friends of Abe] to come out of the shadows and expose this horribly unjust targeting of a group that happens to be conservative. But as the saying goes, sunlight is always the best disinfectant."
The firestorm was created by revelations that the Friends of Abe, a private conservative organization in Hollywood, was being targeted by the Internal Revenue Service, and the legal attack by prosecutors on Dinesh D'Souza, who made the "2016: Obama's America" documentary.
The IRS has long been sitting on an application from Friends of Abe for status as a tax-exempt organization. Only a few Hollywood personalities have publicly identified themselves with the conservative group, including actors Gary Sinise and Jon Voight.
Sources reported that the application has been "under review" for more than two years, and the IRS at one time demanded "enhanced" access to the group's security-protected online site, including member names.
Access, however, was refused.
In the D'Souza case, "federal authorities" alleged that the filmmaker donated more money to a campaign, probably that of U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long, than was allowed by having friends donate the money and reimbursing them.
The documentary, "2016," is one of the most successful documentaries ever produced, earning more than $30 million at the box office, leveling a long list of criticisms at the president. The move by authorities immediately prompted co-producer Molen, according to the Hollywood Reporter, to charge that the case was motivated by politics.
"In America, we have a long tradition of not doing what is commonly done in too many other countries – criminalizing dissent through the selective enforcement of the law," Molen said.
Hollywood screenwriter Tim Clemente said Hollywood by and large is a tolerant community, explaining, "I don't think there are very many people who are that narrow-minded, as to dictate who can and cannot hold to a particular belief."
But he said he was pleased that the targeting of the FOA organization was uncovered.
"As a retired FBI agent, I don't know whether to say I am glad the targeting of conservative groups was identified and outed, including the group identified in Hollywood, or whether I should be concerned that the New York Times decided to elicit sources inside the IRS, people whose jobs require them to be sworn to secrecy about their work because of the sensitivity of that work, yet they breached that confidentiality to speak to the Times."
Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity noted, "The bottom line is that every American with any political beliefs should be speaking up about this. Where are all the outspoken liberals in America at a time when their voice needs to be heard?"
Jeremy Boreing, executive director of FOA, said the organization is not looking for publicity.
'We're a watering hole for professionals'
"We aren't political. We don't campaign or fund-raise. We don't even pay speakers' fees! The truth is, we're just a watering hole for entertainment industry professionals who happen to have views that aren't in fashion in Hollywood," he said.
"We understand that the IRS has a responsibility to scrutinize organizations that seek tax-exempt status. We have never asked for special treatment. But the fact remains that we have been waiting for our determination – a simple yes or no – for going on three years now."
He said no matter what happens, the group will go on being the group it now is.
"We provide conservatives in Hollywood a place to meet up and learn more about how government works. That's it," he said.
Molen told WND, "When Dinesh D'Sousa can be prosecuted for making a movie, every American should ask themselves one question: 'What will I do to preserve the First Amendment?'"
He said the real offense was that D'Souza dared make a movie that offended Obama.
"In the America I treasured, a president would go out of his way to protect those who disagreed with the president's policy. That's what the First Amendment is all about," he said.
Going after media
It's not the first time Obama's administration has gone after members of the media who did not fully support him.
Fox News reported in 2013 that Obama intended to review his own administration's guidelines after the government secretly obtained two months of telephone records from the Associated Press, and telephone records from Fox News as well.
In that situation, authorities labeled one correspondent, James Rosen, a "co-conspirator" so as to seize details from his personal email account.
Just this week, again, Obama took to blaming some of the more conservative elements of the media for his own problems and diminished public approval.
He is hampered in pursuing his agenda because Americans' view of him is distorted by a "caricature" presented by critics such as talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh, he claimed.
"It looks like I continue to live rent free in the head of the president, Barack Obama," responded Limbaugh on his radio program Wednesday.
Limbaugh was reacting to revelations from the much-discussed, 18-page interview with Obama in the New Yorker magazine. In bonus excerpts released Thursday, Obama blamed Washington's legislative gridlock on his failure to convince Americans he is "not the caricature that you see on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh."
Obama accused Limbaugh and Fox News of trying to demonize him.
“The issue has been the inability of my message to penetrate the Republican base so that they feel persuaded that I’m not the caricature that you see on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, but I’m somebody who is interested in solving problems and is pretty practical, and that, actually, a lot of the things that we’ve put in place worked better than people might think,” Obama said.
Limbaugh told his audience: "So it's me again, and Fox News. We are the reason Obama can't advance his agenda, because Boehner is afraid to move too close to Obama, because I have made you – along with Fox News – has made you think Obama is something that he isn't."
The administration strategy was breathed into existence, some say, by top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Early in Obama's national political presence, she was credited with saying, "After we win this election, it's our turn. Payback time. Everyone not with us is against us, and they better be ready, because we don't forget. The ones who helped us will be rewarded; the ones who opposed us will get what they deserve. There is going to be hell to pay. Congress won't be a problem for us this time. No election to worry about after this is over, and we have two judges ready to go."
While the sourcing on that quote has remained a long trail to follow, directly attributable to the president himself is a comment he made at a campaign stop in Ohio. He mentioned his opponent's name, and the crowd booed.
"No, no, no, don't boo. Vote," Obama told the crowd. "Vote! Voting is the best revenge."
And in 2010, Obama notoriously advised Hispanic voters on the Spanish-language Univision network that the right strategy was to "punish our enemies and ... reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us."
The Friends of Abe group is not alone among conservatives to face the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service.
Hundreds of other groups during the 2012 election cycle were confronted by invasive questions such as the one concerning the content of their prayers. Most were denied a status designation which prevented them from participating in the election.
Dozens of those groups still are fighting in the court system, represented by the American Center for Law and Justice. Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow told WND on the issue that the fight for "the truth about the Obama administration's use of a government agency for political payback" continues.
"Our case against the IRS includes significant evidence that underscores what we believed all along – this unlawful targeting of conservative and tea party groups represents a politically-motivated attack by the Obama administration," said Sekulow. "This retaliatory action by the Obama administration – a secret and illegal targeting campaign – aimed at the organizations because of their political beliefs. It is also clear, as demonstrated in our lawsuit, that President Obama – along with congressional Democrats – created a climate of hostility toward tea party and conservative groups – making it impossible for our clients to exercise their First Amendment freedoms. It is our assertion that the hostile climate set the stage for the unprecedented illegal targeting by the IRS."
He continued, "As we stated in our complaint: 'The facts of this case reflect a course of conduct by a faction of the United States government that would make the founders weep and which should outrage every American. The defendants, acting in their official and/or individual capacities, have, based upon their constituencies or benefactors, obstructed other law abiding citizens from freely associating together and giving voice to their beliefs. This deprivation occurred solely and unconstitutionally based on the perceived beliefs of those citizens whose rights have been deprived.
"With the troubling revelations that the FBI already has concluded that there's no evidence to pursue criminal charges – a determination made without interviewing any of the targeted groups – coupled with the appointment of a top Obama political donor to head up the DOJ's criminal investigation of the IRS scheme, this so-called investigation by the Obama administration is nothing but a sham."
Sekulow is working on behalf of 41 groups from 22 states. Even today, 12 of those still are awaiting the IRS paperwork to operate, and five simply gave up because of the lengthy delays. Two applications actually were closed by the IRS after members refused to answer "unconstitutional" questions from the IRS.
The administration's hostility toward the relatively few members of the media critical of Obama's policies was expressed early on by then-White House communications director Anita Dunn, who publicly condemned Fox News as "a wing of the Republican Party."
Meanwhile, while media critics are attacked, here comes "Internews," a journalism nonprofit that Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, revealed has received $360 million in taxpayer money over the last 10 years. Smith characterized the organization as "liberal," and blasted the subsidies in a speech on the floor of the U.S. House.
"Mr. Speaker, since 2002, over $362 million in government grants have gone to fund a liberal news organization by the name of Internews," he said. "The Business and Media Institute describes Internews as a liberal journalism nonprofit and states that not only does it push a liberal agenda but it also has helped create at least three other liberal organizations.
"Why are taxpayers' dollars subsidizing a liberal news outlet? This is a misuse of the public's money," he said.