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July 29, 2014

Support Israel? IRS Will Apply "Special Scrutiny"

Do you - or have you ever - supported Israel's right to exist? You just might be deserving of special attention from the IRS:

The IRS has stuck by its story that tax-exempt applications by conservatives got slow-rolled because of bureaucratic bungling not because the groups opposed President Obama's policies. Now the slow drip of email evidence to congressional investigators is casting further doubt on that tale.

In 2009 the Pennsylvania group Z Street applied for tax-exempt status for its mission of educating people about Israel-related issues. In 2010 an IRS agent told Z Street that its application was delayed because the tax agency's Washington, D.C. office was giving special scrutiny to groups whose missions might conflict with Administration policies. The IRS's "Be On the Lookout" list that November also included red flags for groups referring to "disputed territories."

Z Street sued in August 2010 for viewpoint discrimination and its case is headed for discovery in federal court. Now emails uncovered by the House Ways and Means Committee show that the IRS and State Department were conferring in 2009 about pro-Israel groups like Z Street and considering arguments to deny their tax-exempt applications.

...one questionnaire we've seen from the IRS to another Jewish group applying for tax-exempt status asked, "Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?" and "Describe your organization's religious belief system toward the land of Israel." No matter the answers, they should not affect the processing of an application for 501(c) status. The State-IRS emails reveal a political motivation for IRS scrutiny that gives Z Street powerful evidence for its suit charging IRS bias.

On Monday the IRS filed an appeal of the judge's decision denying its motion to dismiss Z Street's case. The government says the action stops all discovery while the appeal is pending, a process that could take months or even years. By filing the appeal on the last possible day, the Justice Department is running out the clock on discovery during the remainder of the Administration.

Speaking of running out the clock, Z Street's application to the IRS was filed in 2009. It is now 2014. Their application has still not been approved. Oh, and look who's defending the IRS in court!

Defending IRS commissioner John Koskinen against the claims of the pro-Israel group Z Street is Andrew Strelka — and before joining the Department of Justice’s civil-trial section, Strelka worked at the IRS for Lois Lerner, who was then the agency’s head of exempt organizations. As it happens, this is the very IRS division at which the mistreatment of Z Street is alleged to have occurred — and Strelka worked there at the very time Z Street’s application for tax-exempt status was being considered.

Scott Coffina, a partner at the Washington, D.C. law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath and a former Justice Department prosecutor says Strelka’s representation could violate Washington, D.C.’s rules of professional conduct for lawyers in “several” ways, in particular the rule that prohibits a lawyer from representing a client in a matter where “The lawyer’s professional judgment on behalf of the client will be or reasonably may be adversely affected” by his personal interests.

...While at the IRS, documents indicate, Strelka was kept abreast of the agency’s targeting practices. He is one of 14 employees who received an e-mail from agency attorney Ronald Shoemaker on March 17, 2010, instructing them to “be on the lookout for a tea party case.

Hmmm....the so-called "optics" here don't look good.

If an IRS agent can reject or stall a pro-Israel group’s application on the grounds that “these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies,” then no group, no matter what its political orientation or cause is safe from being subjected to a political litmus test designed by any administration of either political party.

Don't worry though. The Clinton State Department may have colluded with the IRS. But under John Foreagainst Kerry, Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender in the administration.

The sad thing is, that may even be true.

Posted by Cassandra at July 29, 2014 05:20 PM

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If true, that would strike me as being a "high crime". Still not sure I want him impeached.

Posted by: htom at July 29, 2014 05:44 PM

I wouldn't want him impeached unless there was very good evidence that he broke the law.

Discredited by his own voluntary actions works just fine for me :p

Posted by: Cassandra at July 29, 2014 05:55 PM

Question for the ages: just how much "special scrutiny" is too much?

It is hard for me to imagine what would take them 4 1/2 YEARS.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 29, 2014 06:20 PM

It's really too soon to reach a decision until Israel has been wiped from the map.

Posted by: Texan99 at July 29, 2014 10:42 PM

This is all Israel's fault. If they had just ignored the international community in 1967 and just gone on and conquered Syria, Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula, and kept them ... they might have started the Islamic Reformation.

Posted by: htom at July 30, 2014 01:10 PM

Heh :) I think that wins Comment of the Day, htom!

Although Tex's was right up there!

Posted by: Cassandra at July 30, 2014 04:51 PM