A federal ethics watchdog agency announced Wednesday that it will pursue disciplinary action against Internal Revenue Service employees who, while on the job, openly supported President Barack Obama during the 2012 election season. The Office of Special Counsel said those employees were in violation of federal laws, particularly the Hatch Act, which prohibit federal employees from engaging in campaign politics while working.
In one case, the ethics agency said it was seeking “significant disciplinary action” against an IRS customer service worker who encouraged taxpayers to re-elect the president by “repeatedly reciting a chant based on the spelling of [the president's] last name.”
In another case, detailed in a Washington Post blog, the OSC secured a 14-day suspension for a tax-advisory specialist who promoted partisan political views. That worker admitted to Hatch Act violations upon being confronted with a recording of a conversation in which she shared anti-Republican opinions with a taxpayer.
“Republicans already [sic] trying to cap my pension and … they’re trying to take women back 40 years,” the employee said in the recording.
In a third case, the agency will merely issue “cautionary guidance” to an entire IRS assistance center in Dallas. It is alleged that employees at that office wore pro-Obama stickers and buttons. They also displayed similarly supportive screen savers on IRS computers.
The IRS said it was unable to comment on specific cases but issued a statement saying that it requires employees to follow Hatch Act guidelines and other laws governing the political activity of federal workers.
“The IRS regularly reminds employees of the Hatch Act guidelines,” the statement said. “When the IRS receives allegations of violations of the Hatch Act, it follows all the proper procedures and protocols and refers the matter to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.”
The announcement from the OSC came as Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer former IRS official Lois Lerner for criminal prosecution. Lerner, it is alleged, was behind an IRS policy of targeting tea party groups for increased scrutinization of tax documents.
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, was quoted in the Washington Times as saying he wasn’t surprised by the recent announcement.
“It’s no surprise that this is coming from the very same agency that targeted Americans based on their political beliefs,” he said. “How can the American people trust IRS employees to perform their job duties in good faith?”
Chris Mapp, a Texas Tea Party Republican is challenging Sen. John Cornyn in the upcoming GOP primary in that state. Mapp has not gained a lot of attention for his political views, but recently he has come under fire for his use of a racial slur, reports the San Antonio Express.
The Express reports that the remark was first made during a meeting with the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News. In that meeting, he referred to illegal immigrants crossing the Mexican border into Texas as “wetbacks.”
The Huffington Post also reported on the story, adding that Mapp claimed, “ranchers should be allowed to shoot on sight anyone illegally crossing the border onto their land.”
The upsetting remarks have left Republican leaders scrambling to distance themselves from Mapp. “That is way out of bounds and I can't imagine many people in Texas, much less Texas Republicans, voting for that guy,” said Robert Stoval, the chairman of the Bexar County Republican Party. “His views are in no way a reflection of the Republican Party nationally, statewide or in Bexar County.”
Mapp, who seems to be long on inflammatory comments, has referred to President Barack Obama as a “socialist son of a b----.” He defended his comments to the Express, saying that calling immigrants “wetbacks” is as “normal as breathing air in South Texas.”
Cornyn gave a measured response to the comments. “That kind of rhetoric is discouraging from anybody,” he said. “I recognize this is a free country but that's not the sort of way to gain people's confidence that you care about them and you want to represent their concerns in the halls of Congress.”
The primary with Cornyn is March 4. Early voting began last week, he is facing six opponents.
Most don’t seemed concerned that Mapp will mount any serious opposition. Stovall took a dismissive tone when asked about the upcoming election and Mapp.
“This is why we have primaries, so that we can see people's traits that come out when they are under pressure,” Stovall said. “And in this case, his true colors came out.”
Samuel Wurzelbacher, touted as “Joe the Plumber” by vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, announced Sunday that he’s now a member of the United Auto Workers Union and has a job with Chrysler Group, LLC.
“Is a teabagger welcome in a union shop?” Wurzelbacher, 40, asked on his blog. “Can a conservative work safely and soundly in a union environment – in a shop filled with union workers, activists, voters and life-long supporters of the Democrat Party? You betcha.”
“Yes, I have a website that puts out conservative news. Yes, I am part owner of a gun company. Yes, I’m a Republican who was cast into the limelight for having the temerity to confront Barack Obama on the question of redistributing wealth… But I’m a working man and I’m working,” wrote the Ohio native.
Wurzelbacher said he was required to join the union.
“In order to work for Chrysler, you are required to join the Union, in this case UAW. There’s no choice – it’s a union shop – the employee’s voted to have it that way and in America that’s the way it is,” he added.
He said on the fourth day of his orientation at Chrysler, he was taking a smoke break when someone called him a “teabagger.”
“Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Democrats and liberals, who are supposed to so tolerant and enlightened regarding homosexuals have for three or four years now, have been using a gay slur to describe people who they think are associated with the Tea Party,” he wrote.
Despite being bullied he’s sticking with the United Auto Workers Union.
“I am happy that Chrysler has given me a job, I only hope the UAW lets me keep it," he said.
As far as his conservative views clashing with his new union digs, he says he actually supports unions as long as they’re private.
“But there’s a big difference between private unions and pubic unions and I have never made it a secret that I do not like public unions because taxpayers are never properly represented at the bargaining table,” he wrote.
Author Garret Keizer predicted this kind of conservative cognitive dissonance over unions in an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times: "The two-labors fallacy rests on an even shakier proposition: that profits exist only where there is an accountant to tally them."
A recent report from The New York Times highlights the war being waged inside the Republican Party and sheds some light on what the primary season of the 2014 mid-term elections might look like. Since the 2010 Republican rout, insurgent Tea Party candidates have unseated long-term incumbents in surprisingly hostile election battles. In many cases due to gerrymandering, the primary election is the general election.
According to the report, fundraisers “representing the party establishment, like Karl Rove's American Crossroads, are struggling to bring in the level of cash they raised in 2012,” and feel their money was wasted. So over the last year, they have sent their dollars to the Tea Party and other political action committees that represent the extreme right.
While many threatened Republicans have simply left the party, some—such as Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell—have no option but to stay and fight it out. The Senate Conservative Fund, based in McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, and FreedomWorks are backing his primary challenger Matt Bevin, although the latter group misspelled his name—Matt Blevins—in a fundraising e-mail.
Essentially, what these challengers are attacking are the compromises made by these GOP incumbents and Democrats, such as the deals made to raise the debt ceiling or the more recent budget agreement. Often called Republicans-in-name-only, the desired strategy seems to be to cull these compromising losers and elect representatives and Senators who will engaging in a political fight where no quarter is either asked or given.
People such as Rep. Randy Weber of Texas who tweeted before the State of the Union, “On floor of house waitin on ‘Kommandant-In-Chef’[sic]... the Socialistic dictator who's been feeding US a line or is it ‘A-Lying?’" The underlying message being as mean-spirited as it is incoherent: President Obama (and, by extension, everyone he works with) are un-American, and no government at all would be better than working with them.
Like always, the balance of power in the government will come down to a few “hot” races that defy statistical expectation such as the Senate race in Kentucky. What remains to be seen is if the Democrats will be able to capitalize on GOP in-fighting or if
Cuban-Venezuelan actress Maria Conchita Alonso faced a backlash from the Latino community after she endorsed a Tea Party immigration hardliner for California governor this month.
Now Alonso has resigned from a production of “The Vagina Monologues” in San Francisco’s Mission District after the producer began taking heat.
“We really cannot have her in the show, unfortunately,” producer Eliana Lopez told KPIX 5.
“Of course she has the right to say whatever she wants. But we’re in the middle of the Mission. Doing what she is doing is against what we believe,” Lopez added.
Alonso, best known for her role in “Moscow on the Hudson” starring Robin Williams, appeared in the ad below with Tea Party Assemblyman Tim Donnely.
“Politicians and big government are killing our prosperity, pushing welfare costs through the roof and driving our schools into the ground,” Donnelly said in the ad. Standing next to his, Alonso jokingly translated in Spanish, “We’re screwed.”
“The Tim Donnelly ad with Maria Conchito Alonso ad is so bad it’s almost laughable,” Café Con Leche, a Latino Republican group, said in a statement. “The ad seems designed to appeal to Hispanic voters, but instead insults the intelligence of many Hispanic voters.”
The group said the ad is an example that “time and time again movie stars often lack common sense.”
Alonso told the newspaper La Opinion that she agrees with Donnelly’s stance on immigration.
“I am among those who think that we should help illegal immigrants who are already in the country and who do not have a criminal background, who contribute and who are good people, but those who are not, we need to take out,” she told La Opinion in an email. “I spoke with Tim about this issue and he agrees with me.”
Critics took issue with the fact that she called undocumented workers “illegal” and that she uses some vulgar language in the ad.
“We don’t act like that. First of all, that is not a typical Latina,” said Jim Salinas, a Mission resident and former president of the San Francisco Latino Democratic Club. “First Amendment rights, we all have the right to say something. But it’s also our right to say we object to that.”
Salinas said Alonso bowed out because she knew there would be boycotts of the production if she stayed.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has hired lawyers to help him renounce his Canadian citizenship, but he claims it had nothing to do with a 2016 presidential bid.
Cruz has lived in the U.S. since he was four years old. Born to a Cuban father and an American mother, Rafael Edward "Ted" Cruz was born in Alberta in 1970.
The Tea-Party favorite said he didn’t know he held dual-citizenship until her read a report by the Dallas Morning News in August.
“I have retained counsel that is preparing the paperwork to renounce the citizenship” with Canada, Cruz said.
The move should be complete some time next year.
“Serving as a U.S. senator, I think it's appropriate that I be only an American,” he told CNN.
Because his mother is American, Cruz is a “natural born” American who is eligible for the presidency. However Cruz says the move is unrelated.
"My political perspective is focused on representing the state of Texas," he said.
A Texas Tea Party Group is suing Brazoria County officials for allegedly kicking them out of their meeting place in the local county court house. According to the lawsuit, the Alvin Tea Party Patriots had been holding meetings in a public space allotted by the court house for at least the past three years. Their meetings had occurred in an annex of the building.
The ABA Journal reports that District Attorney Jeri Yenne had claimed that the Texas Constitution “does not allow private groups to use county facilities,” and that all public spaces aside from the county fairgrounds would be restricted from access by outside groups. The lawsuit against the county claims that Yenne’s justification for removing the Tea Party group is a misinterpretation of the law, as other groups, including the Alvin Republican Women, have also used the facilities since the tea party group was kicked out.
“We believe that the court, once faced with the violations of the Constitution as shown, will do the right thing and allow the Tea Parties to once again use the county facilities as before and will not force the waste of county funds to defend the indefensible before a judge,” a portion of the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also claims that other counties throughout Texas, including nearby Galveston County, allow Tea Party groups to use county facilities for their meetings. Many view the removal of the Tea Party groups in Brazoria County as a strategic political move enacted by “traditional” Republicans in order to maintain control of the GOP. The lawsuit did not receive a response from the county and after 60 days, the plaintiffs requested a permanent injunction against the defendants, the Houston Chronicle reports.
11GOP Conservatives Criticize Ryan-Murray Budget Deal Because It Was Designed for Bipartisan Support
October’s government shutdown was said to have marked the rise of the Conservative caucus as a serious power-player in Washington. Despite lawmakers’ own desires to avoid the shutdown, the threat of conservative backlash during the 2014 primary season saw them all falling in line.
After the shutdown ended, a committee chaired by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Mass.) was formed in order to work out a deal to avoid the “cycle of crisis” that was the status quo. Tuesday they presented a truly bipartisan bill that increased discretionary spending in the short-term while reducing mandatory spending in the long-term, and does away the sequester cuts in favor of more targeted spending reductions.
The resulting deal, however, seemed to fly in the face of the demands of the conservative caucus who has said (vaguely) that they would not vote to be rid of the sequester without “long-term budget reform.” In a piece for The National Review, South Carolina Republican Mick Mulvaney said, “This bill is not designed to get our vote.” He added, “This bill is designed to pass with bipartisan support in the House,” as if that were an undesirable quality in a piece of legislation.
In a lengthy report from Talking Points Memo, the clash between Ryan and the conservative caucus is put into the context of building support for a Presidential run in 2016. This, one might argue, is what gives this particular battle relevance beyond simply passing a budget. Already the 113th Congress is the most ineffective when it comes to passing legislation in the history of the United States. So the move towards bipartisanship could be interpreted as both a rejection of that do-nothing attitude and, more importantly, the quickest rise-and-fall of power in the GOP.
The Tea Party furor that overtook the 2010 mid-term elections seemingly signaled a shift in the GOP (if “more of the same” qualifies as a shift). Yet after the GOP took most of the blame for the government shutdown, Republicans who hope to have a future are dialing back their allegiance to, for lack of a better term, this conservative purism. Ryan and other Republicans like him seemingly believe that the foundations for their future is best laid on the middle-ground rather than the fringe, where they might be washed away by changing tides.
South Carolina State Sen. Lee Bright, Republican primary challenger to Sen. Lindsey Graham, said recipients of unemployment benefits shouldn’t be allowed to eat.
Bright gave unemployment benefits as an example of failed policy during a Tulsa, Okla., fundraising event, after someone mentioned that “folks in government” aren’t looking out for the best interests of the country.
“We’ve got a lot of people who won’t work,” Bright said. “They won’t work because we’ll provide their food, and we’ll provide their housing and we’ll provide them their spending money.”
Bright added that we often see this “type” in line at a grocery store, like those in line using food stamps who have nice wallets and cars.
During the same event, Bright suggested that immigrants in the country should self deport. He also criticized the Internal Revenue Service, arguing that receiving a letter from the IRS is something that would happen in Nazi Germany.
“There’s no other institution in our government that people are more fearful of than the IRS,” Bright said. “I mean you think about it, the people who are just trying to feed their families, they’re horrified.”
Bright’s other radical ideas include sending anyone who enforces health care reform in South Carolina to jail, creating the state’s own currency and seceding from the nation.
A Texas teacher claims President Barack Obama wrote him a handwritten letter admitting that Obamacare wasn’t a “smart political thing” and referring to Tea Partiers as “tea baggers.”
Fifth-grade teacher Thomas J. Ritter wrote the president expressing his unhappiness with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Ritter, 49, told the New York Post that Obama responded to his complaints on White House stationery.
“This bill has caused such a divisive, derisive and toxic environment …The reality is that any citizen that disagrees with your administration is targeted and ridiculed,” Ritter wrote the president.
To be fair, the term “tea bagger” was borrowed from Ritter’s own letter.
“I watched you make fun of tea baggers and your press secretary make fun of Ms. [Sarah] Palin which was especially beneath the dignity of the White House … Do the right thing not the political thing. Suggest a bill that Americans can support,” Ritter wrote.
“I received you letter, and appreciate your concern about the toxic political environment right now. I do have to challenge you, though, on the notion that any citizen that disagrees with me has been ‘targeted and ridiculed’ or that I have ‘made fun’ of tea baggers … [I] defend strongly the right of everyone to speak their mind — including those who call me ‘socialist’ or worse.” Obama allegedly responded.
“I believe that health care reform will be the right thing for the country … It certainly wasn’t the smart ‘political’ thing!” the letter continues. “And I hope that in the months to come, you will keep an open mind and evaluate it based not on the political attacks but on what it does or doesn’t do to improve people’s lives. Sincerely, Barack Obama.”
Ritter says he’s putting the letter up for auction online with a reserve price of $24,000.
“I am selling the letter because I am just so disappointed, and this ObamaCare bill is wrong,” Ritter said. “The president told me what he thought I wanted to hear. The letter is just words on a paper. It doesn’t mean anything to me because Obama doesn’t mean any of it.”