Can Both Paul Ryan And The Freedom Caucus Win?

Although the media is particularly focused on demonizing the Freedom Caucus for the demise of Mr. Boehner, I think there are real opportunities for both Paul Ryan and the Freedom Caucus to come out of this mess as winners. Here are Paul Ryan’s requests for #moreReasonableSpeakerConditions.

  1. The Republicans must “move from being an opposition party to a proposition party.”
  2. The Republicans must “update our House rules so that everyone can be a more effective representative [including] fixes that ensure we don’t experience constant leadership challenges and crises.”
  3. The Republicans must “unify now” behind one Speaker.
  4. Mr. Ryan can forego fundraising travel to spend more time with his family.

His requests are not only reasonable but they also encourage the Republican party to evolve into a party that is better equipped to govern and be re-elected. The current political model is not working for either the Democrats or the Republicans. Democrats cringe at defending Ms. Clinton’s unforced errors. Did Ambassador Stevens death in Benghazi an unintended consequence of Democrat party politics run amok or incompetence? For every mother and father who lost a son in Benghazi are we to be consoled with the question, “What difference does it make?” Were there any adults in the room when Ms. Clinton said she wanted to set up a private email server? When you look at the Administration scandals over the last seven years there does not appear to be much in the way of accomplishments or accountability. Even though big government has become synonymous with government corruption Democrats have ceased to make any pretense they want our democratic process to make good decisions. It is no wonder that some people call the Democratic party the evil party.

Republicans on the other hand are not much better. Many Republicans ran advocating bipartisan change through the democratic process. They thought that if they proposed simple bills with bipartisan support such as the Small Business Healthcare Relief Act (S. 1697 and H.R. 2911) and Kate’s Law( S. 1762 and H.R. 3011) then there would be votes. Instead of votes the bills are locked up in Congressional hell. Republicans cringe at the thought they have successfully evolved from the opposition party to the do-nothing party so they should not be surprised that groups like the Freedom Caucus are demanding political changes.  The Republican establishment response to the Tea Party candidates in 2010 was “scorched-earth tactics” and all that did was piss the candidates off.  So instead of reconciling with the newly elected representatives Mr. Boehner went a step further and tried to marginalize them. Who would of thought that marginalized, pissed off representatives would respond by asking for a new Speaker of the House? Sorry Mr. Boehner, you own this problem and the stupid party moniker! If the Republicans truly want to evolve into a “big tent political party” they are going to need some adults in the room to reconcile Tea Party and Freedom Caucus issues. The time for demonizing is over. Avik Roy makes the same argument in the article, If The Freedom Caucus And Paul Ryan Agree, Here’s What The New House Speaker Will Do.

On the merits, reasonable decentralizing reforms could actually make the House function more smoothly. Backbenchers who now lodge protest votes out of frustration could have a stake in a legislative process that works, because their own bills could get passed. In The Federalist, Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah) made this very case, that an “open-source” Congress might produce better legislation than the one we have now.

Both Mr. Ryan and the Freedom Caucus can win if they keep their eyes focused on making the House function more smoothly and bring some of the law making back to the House. The Freedom Caucus requests are simple and Mr. Ryan will look presidential if he handles their issues like an adult. If they are successful they may be surprised to find that the Republican Party has become attractive to Black and Hispanic candidates who want to make a difference for their communities. That is what I call a Win-Win-Win!

Can We Ever Trust The IRS Again?

I hold government bureaucrats to a much higher standard than the average citizen. Government bureaucrats have been given both power and the trust of people. So whether your primary concern is cronyism or government corruption or just plain incompetence, government bureaucrats are guilty until proven innocent. They must embody both virtue and integrity if our government is to function in a reasonable manner. Our founding fathers wrote extensively about virtue so I am puzzled why anyone would let Lois Lerner and the IRS dabble with politics. It was not in the best interest of the IRS or the country.

So let’s review what we know about the IRS targeting particular 503c4 applications for more scrutiny. The advantage of 503c4 corporations is that the donations they receive are tax deductible and anonymous as long as they were focused on social welfare issues like voter registration. This was pretty handy to the NAACP in the early years when they were trying to get more blacks registered to vote. If an organization steps over the political line, the remedy is that the IRS pulls their tax exempt status. If we look at the True The Vote website we can see that their mission is equipping citizens to take a stand for free and fair elections. Using the NAACP as the standard then the True The Vote effort looks very similar but for a different group of people. If the IRS is following standard practices they should approve the True The Vote 503c4 status and gently remind them that they will yank their tax exempt status if they cross over the line. That is what they should have done.

Instead the IRS chose a variety of tactics that brings in to question the integrity of the organization.

  1. They targeted certain group based on their use of certain words for extra scrutiny.
  2. They requested more information from the organizations than was required for the IRS to do their job.
  3. They delayed the approval status for a very long time.

Obviously this involves a lot more effort by IRS then the traditional route of granting 503c4 status and threatening to yank the tax exempt status later. The IRS had the means and opportunity to harass prospective 503c4 organizations but what was the motive?

In the Washington Times today we have begun to gain a little insight into the motive.

IRS emails released Wednesday show that just before the tea party targeting scandal was revealed last year, Lois G. Lerner and her colleagues at the tax agency were talking with the Justice Department about making examples out of nonprofit groups that they felt were violating campaign laws by playing political roles.

Okay, why was the IRS considering suing nonprofit groups when they could easily yank the tax exempt status? Who put them in charge of enforcing campaign laws? This sure looks like a motive and makes it look like they deliberately chose to violate the trust of the people so they could play hard ball politics from the security of the IRS office! Now we are confronted with the dilemma of how to rebuild trust in the IRS without firing everyone. If Congress does not set an example with the IRS now then what will stop a Republican president from using the IRS in the same manner? Thanks to Lois we are reminded that trust is easy to lose but very hard to win back.

Was The Republican Party Snub of John Becker Another Example Of What Is Wrong With Our Political Parties?

beckerYesterday I found out that the Enquirer is reporting that the Ohio Republican Party failed to endorse John Becker and two other area Republican state representatives. I am a constitutional libertarian with Republican leanings who voted for John in the last election. Based on my voting record I am not a reliable Republican voter so what is the Republican Party saying to me about John and the Ohio Republican Party? I can see that the Ohio Republican Party sounds petty. On the other hand the Ohio legislature has plenty of people who can spend money and relatively few people who have a clue how to balance a the budget. Considering Ohio’s poor performance at controlling spending Ohio probably needs more people like John. He has the skills we need for our future well being. It may be inconvenient for both political parties but it is hard to imagine Ohio taking businesses and jobs from Indiana and Illinois without getting its financial books in order. So why should voters choose Republicans over Democrats to govern the next four years? For most voters the top two issues is the economy and jobs.  Instead of a growing Ohio economy and jobs we seem to have settled for a Medicaid expansion. Not exactly an inspiring future for my kid. Maybe the current situation is dire enough that the winning party will get some bipartisan cooperation that gets businesses to expand while both parties promise to fight the good political fight another day. This may sound silly but this type of political bargain has worked in the past. The first step is getting along with people you disagree with. If Republicans want to be the winning party you have to ask if they cannot get along with people like John, what are the chances they will get along with Democrats who are still smarting from some pretty bad decisions over the last six years? Between the failed roll out of the Affordable Care Act, the questionable foreign policy decisions of Benghazi, Syria, and the Ukraine, and the never ending saga of the IRS targeting the Tea Party, you would have to say the Democratic Party has made a very persuasive argument that they are the stupid party. It is accomplishment they are not particularly proud of. After twelve months trying to defend the Affordable Care Act we should expect them to be a little testy. My favorite response by an Administration official has to be this comment about the Benghazi response to CBS News.

We’re portrayed by Republicans as either being lying or idiots," said one Obama administration official who was part of the Benghazi response. "It’s actually closer to us being idiots.

One thing we should have learned at the expense of the Democratic party was that “the my way or the highway approach” leads to bad decision making and impairs your re-election chances. So here is the big question. Has the Republican Party learned anything or are the Republicans doomed to make the same mistakes as the Democratic Party?

Did The President Join The Tea Party This Week?

I am still pondering the President’s plan for the individual mandate. I realize that the executive branch has been given a lot of leeway in implementing the Affordable Care Act but his recent actions concerning the individual mandate are humorous at best.  Just last year the Democratic party railed against the Tea Party as legislative arsonists for their efforts to defund Affordable Care Act. Here is a Nancy Pelosi quote from Mediate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on State of the Union Sunday morning to discuss the looming budget showdown, and told host Candy Crowley that the House GOP, which just passed a continuing resolution that did not fund ObamaCare, were legislative arsonists intent not on cutting government but crippling it.

Although defunding the Affordable Care Act was not likely even to the Tea Party faithful there was a lot of political agreement by both parties to postpone the individual mandate. Postponing the individual mandate was the political middle ground since it polls badly and it is an election year. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. The Administration had a great opportunity to give a little on the individual mandate in exchange for laying the ground work for bipartisan cooperation in fixing the Affordable Care Act. The greatest political opportunity to rescue the Affordable Care Act was staring the administration in the face and they fumbled it. Now we find that their plan is to postpone the individual mandate by executive order! They chose the solution with all of the problems and none of the benefits. I don’t get it! It is as if the Administration is deliberately setting fire to their signature legislation. Can we discern a difference between the Administration’s handling of the Affordable Care Act problems and the efforts of the Tea Party last Fall? Therefore if we  believe Nancy Pelosi’s definition that acting like a legislative arsonist is one of  the defining characteristics of the Tea Party then it follows that the President must have joined the Tea Party.

Is the NAACP Engaged in Illegal Partisan Politics?

Last night I watched a video clip on Fox of Senator Tim Scott responding to remarks made by a NAACP leader, Rev. William Barber. Last year I looked at the NAACP and concluded that Tea Party organizations would likely set up political activity guidelines modeled after the NAACP guidelines. They were best example of a 501(c)(3)/501(c)(4) organization that is engaged in issue politics and political education while successfully meeting the IRS guidelines for political activity. So I was surprised to hear a NAACP leader engaged in petty partisan politics when the True The Vote versus the IRS issue is a hot issue. The last thing the IRS wants to explain again is how their treatment of the True The Vote organization is not different than the way they would treat other 501(c)(4) organizations such as local NAACP affiliates. Rev. Barber did not talk about voter registration or educating people about the issues. He engaged in a personal attack of an elected official. The IRS has frowned upon this behavior in the past. The parent organization of the NAACP has specific instructions to its 501(c)(4) affiliates forbidding partisan politics and Rev. Barber’s actions seem to be unnecessarily risky in an election year. If the IRS is applying the same standards to all 501(c)(4) organizations then they should be talking to the NAACP today. Rev. Barber crossed the line.

Did the IRS Confuse the Tea Party with the NAACP?

Recently I did some research and figured out the NAACP is probably the best example of political activism by a 501(c)3/501(c)4 organization. While the national organization is a 501(c)3 organization, the local affiliates are 501(c)4 organizations. The national organization has strict requirements on its political activism so it is up to the local affiliates to promote voting in the black communities. When you use the 2012 presidential election voting demographics to compare the organizational effectiveness, the Associated Press concluded in its study of the 2012 election that for the first time black voter turnout rate exceeded the white turnout rate. When you look at this result the NAACP can claim that they were more successful than the conservative organizations at getting their constituency out to vote. They also successfully fought off the IRS investigations into their tax exempt status in 2004. Their “Election Year DOs and DON’Ts” document is an example of excellent, proactive instructions to their affiliates that should keep the organization safe from IRS scrutiny. In the case of political activism by a non-profit, the NAACP is arguably the best in the class. They successfully avoided extra IRS scrutiny while showing a measurable success on the voter turnout issue.  From this point of view it would not be surprising that “Tea Party” and other organizations interested in increasing the vote within their constituency would copy the organizational structure and some of the tactics used by the NACCP to improve their organizational effectiveness while staying compliant with IRS regulations. Although students of organizational effectiveness might say some non-profit organizations are “NAACP-like”, the average man or woman would never use “NAACP-like” to describe the “Tea Party” organizations. It is equally unlikely they would use “Tea Party” as shorthand  to describe the NAACP. Are we to believe that the IRS personnel commonly used the term “Tea Party” to describe the political activity by the NAACP? According to Ms. Paz that is exactly what the IRS did. If her statement is true, the IRS is naïve and probably incompetent. If the IRS was using a shorthand for politically active tax exempt organizations then the term “NAACP-like” would be a more logical shorthand term. It has more syllables but it is the organization all politically active tax exempt organizations are trying to copy. It has the additional advantage that when IRS personnel say they are scrutinizing political activities in “NAACP-like” organizations since it recognizes that the NAACP is the model everyone is following and it would be difficult for the average person to conclude that the IRS was targeting “Tea Party” organizations. The simplest solution would have been for the IRS to spend an extra second on a few extra syllables and use the term “politically active tax exempt organizations” to describe the organizations they were targeting. If Ms. Paz’s statement is false, then she is lying and attempting to cover up the IRS targeting of conservative groups in direct violation of IRS policy.

Instead, Paz described an agency in which IRS supervisors in Washington worked closely with agents in the field but didn’t fully understand what those agents were doing. Paz said agents in Cincinnati openly talked about handling "tea party" cases, but she thought the term was merely shorthand for all applications from groups that were politically active ”” conservative and liberal.

Read more:

The IRS Efficiency Argument

Okay, let’s go down the rabbit hole again. In testimony by outgoing acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steve Miller he explains the targeting of groups with “tea party” and “patriot” as an inadvertent result of trying to improve efficiency in the IRS group for non-profit applications. So let us assume that you are in charge of this group and you are being swamped with new applications. You are confronted with several choices. The “efficient choice” is to let most of them through with just a cursory review. Desperate times calls for desperate measures and this is the choice that cleans up your backlog the quickest. If upper management wants a more thorough review then the they need to increase the budget for this group.

Instead IRS management chose the least efficient method to deal with the backlog. Instead of quickly dispensing with the non-profit applications, they chose to scrutinize primary small “tea party” groups in greater detail. These groups are pretty small fish in the pond. Whatever! As shown in the hearings this involved a lot of communication between the IRS and the applicants. A lot of the questions asked by the IRS in these communications do not appear to be relevant to the application. Some of the questions were against IRS policy and some are probably illegal. So as Hillary Clinton might say, “What was the point of all of this?” If efficiency was the primary concern, the IRS created more work for themselves in processing the backlog and opened the door to increased Congressional oversight and public scrutiny. Yea, that is how we improve efficiency in the IRS!

Maybe It Is Time to Restrict Anonymous Donations but Who Can You Trust?

The Washington Post has a nice post on the subject aptly titled, What is a 501(c)(4), anyway? I wanted some examples of 501(c)4 corporations so I investigated the typical organization classifications a little bit further. Most churches and charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity get their tax exemption under section 501(c)3. Labor unions get their their tax exemption under section 501(c)5 and Chambers of Commerce get their their tax exemption under section 501(c)6. I thought the section 501(c)4 might cover the Knights of Columbus but they are covered under section 501(c)10. The most prominent group besides a few political groups to register under section 501(c)4 appears to be volunteer fire departments.

The crux of the problem is that according to is that the 501(c)4 nonprofits outspent super PACs in 2010 and three conservative nonprofits accounted for over half of those expenditures. If this money was spent on valid political speech, I am not sure what the problem is other than the Democratic party is irked with the three conservative nonprofits who accepted large, anonymous donations. I have mixed feelings on the anonymous donations issue. In theory I agree with Democrats who want to restrict anonymous donations. However in the real world I understand that some big donors who are expressing their right to free speech are concerned that elected officials will use their position in the government to illegally harass and intimidate them. Their concerns sounded like paranoia until the IRS admitted that they targeted organizations with “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their applications to additional scrutiny that violated IRS policies. To make things even worse, the Administration denials over the IRS actions are sounding just like they did during the Watergate years. With people starting to compare the IRS actions to Nixon’s enemies list, who can we trust in government to do the right thing with hot button political issues like campaign finance reform and anonymous donations? The trust is gone. It is not surprising that several lawyers on MotherJones think that this debacle has seriously hurt the IRS efforts to restrict anonymous donations to 501(c)4 corporations.  Both campaign finance reform and the war against “dark money” contributions have been severely impaired by these actions and the Democratic party has no one to blame but themselves. With great power comes great irresponsibility.

Separated at Birth, Watergate and the IRS Scandal

The IRS scandal in which they targeted 501(c)4 applications with Tea Party or Patriot on them for further investigation is the most bone headed political maneuver since Watergate. Every time I think about Watergate I am amazed someone thought this was both necessary and that they could get away with it. I read Ezra Klein’s article expressing his concern that “the IRS has permitted 501(c)4s to grow into something monstrous”. When I tried to figure out how dangerous 501(c)4s had become, I was not impressed. If there is a problem with money in politics, it is represented primarily by 527 corporations like for the progressive side and Crossroads for the conservative side and not 501(c)4s. You would think the IRS had enough problems with the public’s perception of the organization without adding partisan politics to the mix. Talk about an organization that took its eye off of the ball. That leaves me with the unenviable comparison to the abuse of political power demonstrated in the Watergate scandal. I was hoping we had learned our lesson in Watergate.

Things that make me go hmm… Progressives and Tea Party separated at birth

If we can avoid the broad brush caricature of the Tea Party that the Tea Party wants a smaller government regardless of the consequences and the Progressives have never seen a large Federal or state spending program that they did not like, I can see some common ground between the two groups. Yesterday I got a copy of The Forgotten Man and it reminded me of the dual meaning of this title. For Progressives they feel their programs are protecting the forgotten man while the Tea Party folks think they are the forgotten man. Another area where they share common ground is their disgust in the performance of the President.