6/22/14

Shockingly enough the missing e-mail scandal (yet another one) is NOT extensively covered by the media. Indeed the broadcast media with the exception of Fox hardly covers it and when they do, they shine the light on insignificant theatrics as opposed to the issue.

Even given the limited coverage, there is no excuse for the lack of discussion and questioning regarding one BIG issue here, the 800-pound gorilla in the room. So it is left again to me to raise the simple questions that everyone should have asked but no one does.

But first the facts and timeline:

  1. In January 2010, the Supreme Court decided in the famous Citizens United case that corporations and other organizations like unions are allowed to make political contributions, to the great chagrin of the Democrats that up till then had a lock on big donor money.
  2. On January 27, 2010, in his FIRST State of the Union address, President Obama found it necessary to criticize that decision, mischaracterize it, and in total breach of decorum and presidential ethics used that national forum for a politically partisan and personal attack against the supreme court judges sitting in front him as his guests paying respect to the office of the presidency and the tradition of the State of the Union address. This was neither the first time nor the last time that this hyperpartisan president broke with all tradition to spew his aggression and try to score political points as a complete partisan hack, as opposed to the president of the entire USA.
  3. On February 19, a mid-level CNBC anchor Rick Santelli went on a rant on live TV (I was actually watching it in real time). Santelli is CNBC’s reporter in the CBOT, the largest commodities and financial instruments exchange in the world, and probably the last bastion of real Laissez-Faire type capitalism. The rant was directed against the latest in a string of (failed) programs generated by the Obama administration to help house owners who have defaulted on their mortgages. The essence of his rant is that the people around him felt upset because that program rewarded the bad guys (those who defaulted) at the expenses of the good guys (those who worked hard and made an effort to NOT default on their loans). In the process of the rant, Santelli mentioned the famous Boston Tea Party in reference to the start of the revolution against the British 240 years ago in the context of no taxation without representation.
  4. The term Tea Party caught fire amidst the growing dissatisfaction of grassroots Americans with the socialist policies of the Obama administration, the biggest focus of which at the time was the ACA or Obamacare. The name Tea Party refers to a party as in a celebration, or birthday party, and NOT, as many in the media who lack any understanding of history many times infer to it, as a party like the Republican party—a political party.
  5. The confluence of all these events caused two strong vectors to occur in the political arena. First, a lot of Tea Party-type groups created 501c4 organizations (501c4 is the section of the IRS code that allows these organizations to raise contributions tax free and to get involved in political advocacy to some extent) in order to allow themselves to affect the political discourse. Given the level of dissatisfaction that existed in the conservative elements of American society, they managed to get significant amounts of contributions, only SOME of which were from corporate entities following the Citizens United decision.
  6. The other vector involved Democrats who faced a huge tidal wave of resentment and dissatisfaction with the policies of the Obama administration and gradually realized that they may face a serious loss politically in the upcoming mid-term elections in November 2010. Led by the president himself, they started a full-blown public relations campaign to try and stem the source of strength of this new political opposition—money. At the same time, the IRS started its now-infamous targeting campaign against these Tea Party groups. There currently exists no public evidence that anyone in the White House, or in the DNC, or in the Obama campaign machinery was involved in any way in this effort by the IRS to fight the Tea Party movement, but there is suspicion fed by the known and fully evidenced efforts by leading Democrats in the Senate to do just that with open letters to the IRS to investigate and restrain all these new conservative-leaning only 501c4 groups.
  7. As feared by Democrats, they suffered a major defeat in the mid-term elections of November 2010. The president called it a “shellacking.”
  8. On June 3, 2011, chairman Dave Camp, a Republican, of the very powerful “Ways and Means” House committee sent a letter to the IRS in which he advised the IRS that Republicans are hearing from their constituents that the IRS is targeting them by delaying and not approving their applications for 501c4 and asking those organizations questions which are inappropriate and beyond the scope of what the IRS is allowed to ask. The IRS spent the next TWO YEARS, I repeat TWO YEARS denying in verbal and written testimony before Congress that there was any truth in these allegations.
  9. On May 10, 2013, just days before an internal report by the IRS Inspector General (commissioned as a result of Republicans demands) was about to blow this scandal open, the IRS concocted a sort of admission of the targeting campaign. Note that their admission was not motivated by suddenly deciding to do the right thing after two years of official denials in sworn testimony, but because the IG was about to blow it open anyway.
  10. Within days of the camp letter of June 3, 2011, the now-infamous Lois Lerner is reporting that her computer’s hard drive crashed and she lost her e-mails. One can choose between a coincidence of amazing significance or a conspiracy, but one cannot deny the timeline as described above.
  11. To add insult to injury, the IRS for about 12 months has been reporting to congress that it will be providing all these e-mails amongst many other documents that the various investigating committees of Congress demanded from it after the scandal broke open in May 2013. As late as March of 2014, the commissioner of the IRS confirmed to members of the house committees that the IRS will fully comply with the demand for documentation. However, back in February he already knew of the mysterious or convenient hard drive crash and did not tell Congress about it. The IRS did tell the department of the Treasury about it, they told the White House, but no one advised Congress.
  12. They finally told Congress on Friday June 13, 2014, in what has become typical of this administration—using a Friday afternoon to break negative news. For those of you who think that the disclosure, however late it was made, is a sign of a modicum of good faith, rest assured it is nothing of the kind. Like the original admission in May 2013, this disclosure, too, was a result of an external event that was forcing the IRS to act, and not generated by their own free will. The Senate committee investigating this scandal and headed by a DEMOCRAT was about to wrap up their work. Before issuing a final report they wanted to be certain that they have all the relevant documents. So they asked the IRS commissioner to PERSONALLY sign an affidavit under oath stating that he is not aware of any information that was not delivered to them. Only after this request was made the commissioner and the IRS suddenly remembered that they had some missing e-mails—at least four months after they actually realized it.

So these are the facts. If it is not bad enough already then let’s add to it the fact that as of Monday of this week, it has been discovered that SIX more, I repeat six additional hard drives have crashed. That is a total of 7 out of the 83 computers that were to be interrogated and e-mails from them to be provided to congress. According to the commissioner they think that no e-mails were lost in these additional crashes but this is still open.

The commissioner further testified that of all the missing e-mails from Lois Lerner’s hard drive, the IRS was able to recover those that were sent internally within the IRS by interrogating other computers inside the IRS. That still leaves open the questions regarding:

  • The other six hard drives that crashed—did they really recover all the e-mails from those computers? But more importantly and very conveniently:
  • All the e-mails that Lerner sent to NON-IRS participants. After all THAT is the CRUX of the entire investigation. Was there any coordination or cooperation between the IRS and any other party on the Democrats’ side in the targeting campaign?

We already know that the IRS acted illegally and grossly inappropriately in targeting conservative groups. No question about that. The only remaining issue was why did they do it? Was it a personal vendetta of Lerner or was she being instructed, incentivized, pushed, and motivated by outside parties? We know for a fact that leading Senate and House Democrats did push for such an investigation but we do not know the extent of it. What we do not know is whether there was there any involvement from an outside party such as the White House, the DNC, the Obama campaign committee? There is no evidence of that.

But herein lies the issue: It is not that the evidence shows that there was NO such coordination; there is no evidence, as it disappeared. How convenient. You see all the external agencies and Democrats in Congress are not volunteering to give their e-mails with Lerner (ostensibly the White House says that they did search and found NONE. At this stage I am inclined not to believe them).

While I am continuously amazed by the lengths that this administration will go to obfuscate and lie, I accept that they are doing what they believe is their job. I said it many times—they are driven by the philosophy of the “the goal justifies the mean.” We know that and we’ve come to expect it.

What does amaze me though time and time again is the incompetence of Republicans in exposing and bringing the administration to justice.

Hearing Republican speakers for the entire week since the hard drive mishap was exposed, and watching the entire hearing on Friday in front of House Ways and Means committee, I am astounded by the lack of coherence and articulation by Republicans. With all due respect, based on their performance, one has  to conclude that they simply are not intelligent enough. There is NO one there who I can say is impressive in his focus on the real issue and in his articulation or eloquence.

I can only say that the GOP deserves what they get seeing their leadership stripped naked by the Democrats.

With all that said, here is the 800-pound gorilla that I promised at beginning of this blog. It is the lack of raising this simple question that brought my ire with the sheer incompetence of Republicans to new heights:

  • We know that in June 2011 Lerner complained that she lost her e-mails.
  • We know that according to the IRS intensive efforts were made by its IT department to recover those e-mails from her hard drive.
  • We know that in early August 2011 they declared it dead and recycled/destroyed the hard drive.
  • I have to assume that as soon as she reported the problem, she was provided with a new hard drive. That must be a foregone conclusion. She cannot work without a functioning computer.

My question is, the question that no one else has asked—why did Lerner and/or the IT people at the IRS not, IMMEDIATELY upon discovering that she has a problem in June 2011, seek to use the backup system to restore the missing e-mails to her new hard drive then in real time? Is that not what any normal person would do? Your computer crashed, you get a new one while the IT department seeks to see if they can salvage the old one. Do you not immediately restore all the information that you lost from your back-up system?

Isn’t that the most natural and obvious thing to do? Why did Lerner not do it?

No one even asks the question let alone highlights this huge discrepancy in the otherwise supposedly “innocent” tale.

Presented with frequent government misdeeds I always go for incompetence as opposed to conspiracy. I just do not believe in conspiracies.

But I have to say that this time it looks and smells like corruption and conspiracy. It simply stinks.