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Free Talkers Now

Monday, June 30th, 2014

Ah yes, “criminal schemes.”

The Weekly Standard reminds us that when partisan Democrats declare Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to be “at the center of a ‘criminal scheme’ in which Walker’s campaign illegally coordinated political activity with outside organizations,” they neglect the fact that two judges have already determined that the “case” against Walker is worse than bogus.

“Political coordination” seems to be an infinitely elastic category of pseudo-crime applicable to anyone a political apparatchik chooses to target. You “politically coordinate” if you’re a) political active, b) share political values with any other activists, and c) read the newspapers, talk on television. If “political coordination” is criminal, so is freedom of speech and freedom of association. It’s all the same species of delinquency.

Wisconsin district attorneys abused power to harass reformers like Governor Walker, my colleague Eric O’Keefe, and others into (what they hoped would be) silence and ineffectuality. Despite a gag order intended to shut up the victims, though, Eric has spoken out; and he’s sued Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm.

In May, federal Judge Rudolph Randa observed, for one thing, that the “theory of ‘coordination’ forming the basis of the investigation, including the basis of probable cause for home raids, is not supported under Wisconsin law and, if it were, would violate the United States Constitution.” Randa granted a preliminary injunction (pdf) to stop the probe.

I’m hopeful that the bad guys won’t win here. We still have the First Amendment.*

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

* Though, 44 U.S. Senators are proposing to repeal it.


Corruption Reeks

Friday, June 27th, 2014

When I write about “government corruption” I usually mean one of three things:

  1. Government personnel breaking their public trust and “working for themselves,” as in taking kick-backs and the like. You know, like Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) taking $2.3 million in bribes, and Hillary Clinton’s cattle future trades of a generation ago. This is what most people mean by corruption.
  2. Judgment and behavior modified by the practice of or access to power. In recent times, police have been engaging in SWAT team exercises, shooting innocents “by accident,” dogs on purpose — heart-rending examples of Lord Acton’s “power corrupts” maxim.
  3. Ideological corruption, whereby folks change their ideas — including abandoning principles — to fit into their new “class interest.” A balanced-budget talking, pro-term-limits politician enters office and Lo, a few years later, all he’s “learned” would be a shame to waste outside of office and every spending proposal deserves his vote.

But then there’s crazy stuff.

Environmental Protection Agency “Management for Region 8 in Denver, Colo., wrote an email earlier this year to all staff in the area pleading with them to stop inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.”

That’s according to Government Executive’s article “EPA Employees Told to Stop Pooping in the Hallway.”


Brian Doherty, at Reason, quipped that environmental bureaucrats “are just like us! If we like to leave feces around the hallways of our offices, that is.”

It’s a disgusting whiff of . . . something very rotten in the halls of government.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

IRS Says We Wuz Wrongish

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The IRS has a “Love Story” relationship with citizens. Being the IRS means never having to say you’re sorry.

Actually, in real life, as opposed to cinematic catch phrases, people who care about each other do often feel a need to genuinely apologize about actual wrongs. But the IRS doesn’t care about us except insofar as we have wallets. And doesn’t feel sorry about anything they do to get our cash or to protect their turf except insofar as they get caught.

Getting caught isn’t so bad. The worst is a little public embarrassment and maybe having to fork over some of the money provided by all taxpayers to a subset of all taxpayers. Example: the agency has agreed to pay $50,000 in damages to the National Organization for Marriage, whose tax return and donor list the IRS illegally divulged to an opposing political group two years ago.

The guilty IRS employee has still not been identified. And the IRS is not really regretful. All spokesman Bruce Friedland will say is that privacy law “prohibits us from commenting.”

This isn’t the only recent occasion on which IRS has divulged private tax-return info for ideological purposes. What about an employee’s abuse of the private tax information of U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell during a political campaign? What about Lois Lerner’s illegal provision of tax data on tax-exempt organizations to the FBI?

Yes, the IRS targets us ideologically, in addition to the other ways they target us. And they’re not sorry.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

The Dog-Ate List

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

It’s hard to keep track of things. It helps to make a list.

I’m trying to follow all the IRS-scandal stonewalling, the latest example of which is how emails inculpating Lois Lerner and others have mysteriously disappeared; with, allegedly, no server backups (see my latest Townhall column, “The Dog Ate My Country”).

How many ways have fedgov officials fudged, fabricated, prevaricated, and otherwise non-cooperated with investigators after news broke that IRS had targeted for special harassment sundry conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status?

  • When the head of IRS’s department overseeing nonprofit applications, Lois Lerner, felt compelled to admit that IRS had specially targeted right-leaning organizations applying for nonprofit status, she and others put the main blame on a few low-level clerks.
  • Lerner twice formally refused to testify to Congress about the doings of her own department. Yet she also asserted, formally, that “I have not done anything wrong.”
  • IRS says it’ll take many years to comply with congressional requests for relevant documents. IRS was prompter when it handed abundant confidential information on conservative nonprofits to the Justice Department so that they could be selectively prosecuted.
  • DOJ selected an “avowed political supporter”  of President Obama to lead a meaningless “investigation” of the targeting of Obama’s critics. No prosecutions of wrongdoers are in the works.
  • Initially professing outrage at the IRS’s “inexcusable” targeting, Obama later airily dismissed the affair as a “phony scandal.” On which occasion was he lying? (Hint: both.)
  • Major media outlets do all they can to abet the stonewalling.

What did I miss?

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Legal, Shmegal

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

Lots of unanswered questions about the prisoner swap of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Will negotiating this swap cause more Americans to be taken prisoner?

Did Sgt. Bergdahl desert his unit five years ago? Was he responsible for the deaths of other soldiers who had to search for him in dangerous terrain?

“[Bergdahl] served with honor and distinction,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice told the media.

How dangerous are the five released prisoners? Can we be confident they won’t return to the battlefield?

Only one question has been clearly answered: the Administration broke the law.

By law, the president must notify Congress 30 days before the release of anyone held at Gitmo. Obama didn’t do so.

“Oh I think he clearly broke the law,” said CNN Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “The law says 30 days notice. He didn’t give 30 days notice.”

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley concurred, telling CNN, “I don’t think there’s much debate that they’re in violation of the law.”

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), a former Ambassador to the United Nations, admitted as much, but called the law “impractical,” asking, “What is [Obama] supposed to do, give them 30 days?”

Well, yes.

The law, after all, was passed by a Republican House and Democratic Senate, and signed by Obama himself.

The president added a signing statement, at the time, expressing his view that Congress didn’t have the power to so limit him. Obama, like his predecessor, ignores the law, pretending that a president’s signing statement is an all-powerful pocket veto.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Virginia’s New Boss

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Virginia’s previous governor, Bob McDonnell, faces a federal prosecution, along with his wife, Maureen, for “illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond area businessman who sought special treatment from state government.”

With that high-profile scandal unfolding, legislators came to the capitol this year ready to enact reforms. One bill sought to prevent corruption by banning campaign contributions and/or gifts to the governor of more than $50 from any entity seeking a grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.

That fund, with a current balance of $35 million, is designed to promote economic growth by allowing the governor to personally dole out cash or loans to assist various commercial enterprises that “maintain or create jobs in the state.”

Not hard to imagine how such a fund could be used, in reality, to reward only those who reward the governor . . . or his campaign. And so, even in a session marked by major partisan warfare including an ongoing budget stalemate, every legislator in the state House and Senate, whether Republican or Democrat, came together to vote in the affirmative for the bill.


Last week, Terry McAuliffe, the new governor and old Clinton confidante, vetoed this reform. Before killing it, McAuliffe offered a lame excuse about keeping the applicants to his slush fund confidential. So much for his big talk about transparency.

With the legislation now dead, let’s try an even better idea. End the Governor’s Opportunity Fund. Zero it out. No governor should have a slush fund to shower millions of dollars on crony companies. No such program should exist.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

Assault on Political Speech, Deferred

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

It’s like jumping from ice floe to ice floe while being shot at. Great if you can reach the next slab of ice while the shooters pause to reload. But then what?

Having been caught targeting right-leaning applicants for tax-exempt status, the IRS decided to clear up the “ambiguity” in rules for tax-exempt organizations that had “led” to this “confusion.” The solution, they decided, should be to make it impossible for a tax-exempt organization that ever mentions political candidates or elections to avoid getting into trouble with the IRS.

No. What Americans needed post-scandal is what we have needed all along: more restrictions on the government, not on our freedom to speak out.

Persons of all political stripes saw the danger in the Draconian new rules IRS was proposing, resulting in an unprecedented 150,000 public comments — mostly negative. So the IRS is backing down for now . . . but says it will try again.

Not everyone is happy about the reprieve.

“This delay is deeply disappointing and a real setback for democracy[!!] and faith in government[!!!],” says Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. “The only hope we have is when the IRS goes back, they don’t succumb to any form of political pressure and enact a very tough rule that will equally curtail liberal and conservative groups.”

“Only hope” for what? Equal-opportunity repression?

It bodes ill that any major political figure could be so open about wishing to stomp on our freedom of speech.

The battle for our basic rights is far from over.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.