“We don't have an Official Secrets Act in the United States, as other countries do. Under the First Amendment, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and freedom of association are more important than protecting secrets.” — Alan Dershowitz
Before continuing this blog post I want to remind the reader of the exact words of the First Amendment to our Constitution — a freedom that was so important to our Founding Fathers it was put at the top of the list:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The most basic component of freedom of expression is the right of freedom of speech. The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech. A less stringent test is applied for content-neutral legislation. The Supreme Court has also recognized that the government may prohibit some speech that may cause a breach of the peace or cause violence such as advocacy of illegal action, fighting words, commercial speech and obscenity. The right to free speech includes other mediums of expression that communicate a message. This includes letters, writings, books, TV commentaries, editorials, and e-mails. The level of protection speech receives also depends on the forum in which it takes place.
Despite popular misunderstanding the right to freedom of the press guaranteed by the first amendment is not very different from the right to freedom of speech. It allows an individual to express themselves through publication and dissemination. It is part of the constitutional protection of freedom of expression. It does not afford members of the media any special rights or privileges not afforded to citizens in general.
The right to assemble allows people to gather for peaceful and lawful purposes. Implicit within this right is the right to association and belief. The Supreme Court has expressly recognized that a right to freedom of association and belief is implicit in the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments. This implicit right is limited to the right to associate for First Amendment purposes. It does not include a right of social association. The government may prohibit people from knowingly associating in groups that engage and promote illegal activities. The right to associate also prohibits the government from requiring a group to register or disclose its members or from denying government benefits on the basis of an individual's current or past membership in a particular group. There are exceptions to this rule where the Court finds that governmental interests in disclosure/registration outweigh interference with first amendment rights. The government may also, generally, not compel individuals to express themselves, hold certain beliefs, or belong to particular associations or groups.
The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) or other governmental action. It works with the right of assembly by allowing people to join together and seek change from the government.
This is the crux of the issue being debated and addressed in the hearings being held by Congressional committees — The Ways and Means Committee and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The subject of these hearings are the abuses by the IRS in targeting conservative and Tea Party groups for refusal to grant tax exempt status under 501C-3,4,and 5 status and the Department of Justice illegally monitoring the communications of AP and James Rosen of Fox News.
The late William F. Buckley once said of liberals: “Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”
This could not be a truer statement. Just look at the progressive/liberals in the media today. While they claim they are for free speech, expression and assembly they say conservatives and Tea Party groups are not included. They decry any past infringements of the First Amendment against liberal groups and persons like the NAACP. They claim Sandra Fluke has a right to promote her ideas for government subsidized birth control but want Rush Limbaugh off the air for his harsh criticism of her and calling her a “slut.” On the other hand MSNBC’s Ed Shultz and call conservative radio personality Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” and all is fine at the uber liberal network. Buckley was right.
On the issue of free speech both Limbaugh and Shultz were not exercising restraint in their speech, but they certainly had the right to utter their intemperate remarks. There are many more on he left like HBO’s Bill Maher who make a generous living out of nasty, insulting and gutter speech. But as the bestselling author Brad Thor states:
“I live in America. I have the right to write whatever I want. And it's equaled by another right just as powerful: the right not to read it. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people.”
While all of this true the right of free speech and expression extends to the citizens and cannot be infringed upon by any government official or bureaucrat be they federal, state or local. A parade or assembly permit must be given to a Tea Party rally, a group of Hispanics marching with Mexican flags demanding amnesty for all illegal immigrants, or a bunch of Nazis. The only caveat is he propensity for violence — which must be proven.
Today there was some powerful and compelling testimony given before the Ways and Means Committee. This testimony came from average American citizens like you and me. It was not the testimony of bureaucrats trained in the art of obfuscation and duplicity. It was just plain people telling the plain truth. One of the women testifying was Becky Gerritson President of Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama.
Gerritson spoke of demands asked of her ‘tiny group’ by the agency, including detailed contents of every speech ever given by someone involved in the Tea Party branch, copies of any communication sent to any member of a legislative body, including her own representatives, and the list goes on.
Gerritson fought back tears as she pointed her finger at the members of Congress sitting before her, saying of her group, “[we] had no party affiliation … It didn’t matter … the only notion expressed was that our representative government had failed us.”
“In Wetumpka, we are patriotic Americans; we peacefully assemble; we petition our government; we exercise our right to free speech. We don’t understand why the government tried to stop us. I’m not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my lord for mercy. I’m a born-free American woman, wife, mother, and citizen, and I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place.”
She called the IRS’ demands a “willful act of intimidation to discourage a point of view” and “un-American.”
Gerritson again became choked up as she concluded her statement, saying, “I’m not interested in scoring political points. I want to preserve and protect the America that I grew up in. The America that people crossed oceans and risked their lives to become a part of, and I’m terrified it’s slipping away. Thank you very much.”
Another witness was Laurens Tea Party President Dianne Belsom testifying on how her group was targeted by the IRS. Belsom's chapter has not received tax-exempt status after more than three years.
Then there was Karen Kenny of the San Fernando Valley Patriots who spoke about the patriotism of her group and objected to being singled out while liberal groups — often those devoted to destroying the constitutional foundation of the republic — were given a free pass. "We're the San Fernando Valley Patriots, not Occupy Oakland," she said.
It did not take long for the uber liberal congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) to turn on the witnesses and blame them for their problems stating they were against gay marriage and Planned Parenthood and did not deserve any tax exemption due to their political and religious beliefs.
James McDermott (born December 28, 1936) is the U.S. Representative for Washington's 7th congressional district, serving since 1989. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The 7th District includes most of Seattle and Vashon Island, and portions of Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Tukwila, SeaTac, and Burien.
He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is a member of the House Progressive Caucus. He was formerly the committee chairman, then in 1995, ranking minority member on the House Ethics Committee.
On April 28, 2004, Congressman McDermott omitted the phrase "under God" while leading the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The incident occurred after atheist Michael Newdow lost his court case to have the phrase "under God" dropped from the Pledge, and after McDermott had voted against a congressional resolution that called for overturning a court ruling that declared the phrase unconstitutional. In 1954, during the McCarthy era and communism scare, Congress had passed a bill, which was signed into law, to add the words "under God
In December 2004, the House Ethics Committee investigated McDermott over the leaking of an illegally recorded telephone conversation during a 1997 committee investigation of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.
In the conversation, Mr. Gingrich, his lawyer and several other Republican Congressmen discussed how Gingrich's Congressional allies should deal with the political consequences of his admission that he had violated House ethics rules by giving inaccurate information to the House Ethics Committee for its inquiry into his use of tax-exempt funds. Democrats have described the conversation as evidence that Mr. Gingrich broke an agreement with the Ethics Committee that he would not orchestrate a politically motivated response to those committee findings.
The recording was made by John and Alice Martin, who claimed that they had overheard the conversation on a police scanner, decided to record it for posterity's sake, and then decided that it might be important for the Ethics Committee to hear. The Martins gave the tape to McDermott because he was the senior Democrat on the Ethics Committee. Within two days, reportedly after the Republican Ethics Committee Chair Nancy L. Johnson refused to allow a vote on making the tape part of the committee's records, sending the tape to the Justice Department, or taking any action against participants in the conversation, and over the warning of the Committee's counsel of possible legal liability, McDermott gave the tape to several media outlets, including the New York Times.
Rep. John Boehner, who was part of the Gingrich conversation, sued McDermott in his capacity as a private citizen, seeking punitive damages for violations of his First Amendment rights. After U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ordered McDermott to pay Boehner for "willful and knowing misconduct" that "rises to the level of malice", McDermott appealed, arguing that since he had not created the recording, his actions were allowed under the First Amendment, and that ruling against him would have 'a huge chilling effect' on reporters and newsmakers alike. Eighteen news organizations – including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Associated Press, the New York Times and the Washington Post — filed a brief backing McDermott. On March 29, 2006, the court ruled 2–1 that McDermott violated federal law when he turned over the illegally recorded tape to the media outlets, ordering McDermott to pay Boehner's legal costs (over $600,000) plus $60,000 in damages. On June 26, 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated the judgment, deciding to re-hear the case with all nine judges. However, a split 4 to 1 to 4 en banc decision in Boehner v. McDermott, 484 F.3d 573 (D.C. Cir. 2007) affirmed the three-judge panel, but on different grounds; the Supreme Court declined review. On March 31, 2008, Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered McDermott to pay Boehner $1.05 million in attorney's fees, costs and interest. McDermott also paid over $60,000 in fines and close to $600,000 in his own legal fees.
The Ethics Committee formally rebuked McDermott in 2006, writing he had "violated ethics rules by giving reporters access to an illegally taped telephone call involving Republican leaders a decade ago. Rep. McDermott's secretive disclosures to the news media risked undermining the ethics process" and that McDermott's actions "were not consistent with the spirit of the committee." Previously, the Martins pleaded guilty to violating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. In 1997, Gingrich was reprimanded by the House for providing false information to the Ethics Committee and assessed $300,000 in costs.
This is the same McDermott who wanted free speech but is advocating its denial to ordinary citizens who have violated no laws or ethics. It so annoyed Chairman Paul Ryan that he had to rebuke McDermott:
If you thought Rep. Paul Ryan's take down of Democratic colleague Rep. Jim McDermott's "political theater" comments at today's House hearing on the IRS targeting conservatives was harsh, wait until you see Megyn Kelly's reaction. The Fox host convened a bipartisan panel to discuss the most heated moment of the hearing this afternoon, but saved the most outraged comments for herself.
Radio host Chris Plante also had some tough words for Congressman McDermott, who he said was "unencumbered by any quaint, old-fashioned notions of decency, honesty and integrity." In Plante's eyes, McDermott "decided to attack the people who were targeted for their political beliefs by the vicious arm of the federal government: the IRS." He added, "The congressman's dishonesty was outdone only by his shamelessness, his lack of integrity, and the vulgarity of the defenses that were seeing launched these days are really beyond anything I have seen in 25 years of watching Washington closely."
Liberal Fox contributor Leslie Marshall pushed back, defending McDermott's "frustration" and pointing to instances when liberal groups were targeted during the Bush administration. She added, that "any group, left or right, that is applying for this tax exempt status, as Americans and as a tax payer, I want them, left and right, to be scrutinized."
But Kelly got more heated as she delved further into the way McDermott questioned one of the tea party leaders testifying today about what questions should thought the IRS should be able to ask her. "Why is that the obligation of the woman from Iowa?" Kelly asked incredulously. "They so screw it up at the IRS in Cincinnati and Washington, that now the lady from Iowa has to come in before the House Ways and Means Committee and say 'this is the way it needs to be done'? How dare he put the burden on her?"
The hearing was the fifth congressional hearing on the IRS scandal. The agency has failed to identify the particular individuals responsible for initiating the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups. The White House has denied any involvement, though it knew more about the scandal than it first claimed.Note how the liberal on the left does not listen to the opposing view but shakes her head and rolls her eyes in disapproval. This is typical of lefties. Buckley hit the nail on the head. If they cannot break he argument they go into attack mode. It’s their Alinsky training. Facts mean nothing moral equivalencies rule the dialogue.
While the lefties attack the ordinary citizens who exercise their First Amendment rights the cloud around former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman begins to evaporate.
Former Internal Revenue Service commissioner Douglas H. Shulman, a frequent White House guest during the period when the IRS was targeting conservative nonprofits, is married to the senior program advisor for Public Campaign, an “organization dedicated to sweeping campaign reform that aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special interest money in American politics.”
The IRS is under fire for improperly scrutinizing the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups between 2010 and 2012, demanding conservative training materials, personal information on conservative college interns and even the content of religious groups’ prayers. IRS supporters have defended the beleaguered agency by railing against outside spending and special interest money supposedly pumped into the 2012 campaign by conservative benefactors.
One of those defenders is the group of which Shulman’s spouse is an executive.
Shulman’s wife Susan L. Anderson is the senior program advisor for the Washington-based nonprofit organization Public Campaign, which claims that it “is laying the foundation for reform by working with a broad range of organizations, including local community groups, around the country that are fighting for change and national organizations whose members are not fairly represented under the current campaign finance system.”
Earlier this month, when news broke of the targeting scandal broke, Public Campaign president and CEO Nick Nyhart belittled the concerns of disenfranchised conservatives.
“There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)4 status,” Nyhart said in a statement provide to ABC. “It’s unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias.”
Shulman, who did not deny in congressional testimony that he visited the White House 157 times, met Anderson at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which they both attended. The couple own a house in Washington, DC’s fashionable Embassy Row neighborhood which they bought for $1.3 million in 2003 and is now estimated by Zillow to be worth $1.8 million.
Public Campaign receives “major funding” from the pro-ObamaCare alliance Health Care for America NOW!, which is comprised of the labor unions AFL-CIO, AFSCME, SEIU, and the progressive activist organization Move On, among others.
“Together we are building a network of national and state-based efforts to create a powerful national force for federal and state campaign reform,” according to Public Campaign’s website.
Public Campaign also receives funding from the liberal Ford Foundation, the Common Cause Education Fund, and Barbra Streisand’s The Streisand Foundation, among other foundations and private donors.
This Public Campaign “holiday card” clip leaves little to the imagination regarding where the organization stands politically:
Well, whatever the overall politics of Public Campaign, there is no doubt that Susan Anderson herself is lefty and occasionally vitriolic about it. A cursory inspection of her twitter feed reveals cordial correspondence with peeps like Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, a retweet of an NAACP leader's slam on "Koch brothers' money," a retweet of someone begging Harry Reid for "filibuster reform," criticism of Bob McDonnell for "blocking women's access to health care" and her own snarky speculation that "GOP pines for Old Europe after all." Of course money from George Soros is okay!
Admittedly, Ms. Anderson's politics may not be Mr. Shulman's but her twitter feed is indicative of the atmosphere that filled the IRS commissioner's home at the time conservatives were routinely being targeted by the agency he headed.
Ms. Anderson was also a supporter of, and active participant in, the Occupy Wall Street movement, attending and promoting Occupy DC in Oct. 2011
Interestingly, Ms. Anderson stopped tweeting in early May, about the time when the IRS investigation started to heat up. Coincidence? You decide.
As these scandals continue to unfold more and more will be revealed. For the past five years we have been living under an increasing soft tyranny imposed by the statists and masterminds occupying the seats of power in the federal government From the IRS to the EPA these statists, with the help of the left-wing media, have been doing the bidding of Barack Obama. They have gone wild with the power he has given them. Why on earth did Doug Shulman visit the White House 157 times in three years? What did they talk about? I am sure it was not about shooting hoops.
The passage of the 16th Amendment opened the gates for tyranny imposed by the federal government. While opponents couldn’t stop the 16th amendment, they argued long and hard against it. Richard E. Byrd, speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates made a particularly impassioned plea to reject the amendment, offering a potent rhetorical blend of state rights, limited government, and anti-tax convictions. Ratification, he warned, would open a new and dangerous chapter in American government:
“A hand from Washington will be stretched out and placed upon every man’s business; the eye of the Federal inspector will be in every man’s counting house. The law will of necessity have inquisitorial features, it will provide penalties, it will create complicated machinery. Under it men will be hailed into courts distant from their homes. Heavy fines imposed by distant and unfamiliar tribunals will constantly menace the tax payer. An army of Federal inspectors, spies and detectives will descend upon the state. Who of us who have had knowledge of the doings of the Federal officials in the Internal Revenue service can be blind to what will follow? I do not hesitate to say that the adoption of this amendment will be such a surrender to imperialism that has not been since the Northern states in their blindness forced the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments upon the entire sisterhood of the Commonwealth.”
The Virginia House of Delegates, under Byrd’s leadership, did not vote for ratification and the Commonwealth of Virginia had never ratified the 16th Amendment. Richard Byrd was ringing the clarion of warning that went unheard or ignored for years. The progressives have used the IRS and the tax code not only to collect money they have used it to regulate behavior and impose a soft tyranny Perhaps (I hope) the American people will wake up to the abuses of the IRS for the past years and force Congress to abolish it and install a flat or fair tax — if we don’t the abuses will continue.
Even if a few mid-managers go to jail for a few years the abuses and tyranny will continue.
As William F. Buckley, Jr. quipped “The best defense against usurpatory government is an assertive citizenry.”