Paul L. Caron
Dean


Sunday, August 23, 2015

The IRS Scandal, Day 836

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner: Is This Woman the New Lois Lerner?:

As some at the Federal Election Commission seek to broaden the power of the agency, critics are arguing that it's beginning to look increasingly like the Internal Revenue Service under Lois Lerner, who has been accused of using her office for partisan purposes.

They take special aim at the commission's Democratic chairwoman, Ann Ravel, who also served as chairwoman of California's equivalent to the FEC, the Fair Political Practices Commission, before coming to Washington in 2013. Ravel has lambasted the commission as "dysfunctional" because votes on enforcement issues have often resulted in ties, and she has said the commission should go beyond its role of enforcing election laws by doing more to get women and minorities elected to political office. She has complained that super PACs are "95 percent run by white men," and that as a result, "the people who get the money are generally also white men."

To remedy those problems, Ravel sponsored a forum at the FEC in June to talk about getting more women involved in the political process. She has also proposed broadening disclosure laws to diminish the role of outside spending, and suggested that the FEC should claim authority to regulate political content on the Web. She's also voiced support for eliminating one member of the commission in order to create a partisan majority that doesn't have tie votes, saying in an interview with Roll Call, "I think it would help."

Hans von Spakovsky, who served on the FEC from 2006-2008, takes issue with Ravel's effort to go beyond the traditional purview of the commission's functions. "The FEC has one duty, and one duty only — to enforce the existing campaign finance laws. It has no business trying to 'encourage' or 'discourage' folks to get involved in politics, no matter who they are, minority or otherwise," Spakovsky told the Washington Examiner. ...

Wall Street Journal's editorial board has compared Ravel to the IRS' Lerner, who's also been accused of using her office to push a political agenda. "We'll take our chances with donations freely given than with the arbitrary and partisan rulings of Lois Lerner at the IRS or Ann Ravel at the Federal Election Commission," the editorial board wrote.

Spakovsky also referred to a June 2013 interview with Ravel in which she appeared to express support for Lerner's targeting of conservative organizations. In the interview, Ravel said, "The IRS has apparently sent some letters to a number of 501(c)(4)s [nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations] asking them to justify that they are in fact social welfare organizations, but so far there is no evidence that the IRS has taken any action against these organizations." She went on to say, "It is very important that it happen."

Asked about the comments, Ravel's office stated that she "was responding to a question and by stating 'apparently' made plain that she based her remarks on publicly available media reports, not on personal knowledge," and that "she was not referring to any particular cases."

Lerner had apologized the preceding May for the discovery that, under her leadership, the IRS had targeted groups with words such as "tea party" and "patriot" in their names. Lerner resigned the following September.

Ravel, Spakovsky said, "does not see her role as enforcing campaign finance laws," but rather "to use her government authority as a partisan weapon, particularly against the same type of conservative groups that Lois Lerner targeted."

Cleta Mitchell, a Republican campaign finance attorney in Washington, voiced a similar sentiment. "She and Lois Lerner are peas in a pod," Mitchell said. "She wants to weaponize government agencies to shut down and chill free political speech," which, she continued, is "a very odd position for someone who swore to uphold the Constitution."

Yet Ravel has supporters, and if she fails at the FEC, others have advocated using the IRS to accomplish some of her policy objectives.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/08/the-irs-scandal-day-836.html

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