Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, acknowledges a fellow Navy veteran during a Phoenix Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, Monday, May 30, 2016, in Phoenix. At age 79, running what may be his last campaign, McCain finds himself on uncertain terrain. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)
After the Democrats got their clock cleaned in 2010, they and their progressive allies turned to the tried and true Obama era method of using law enforcement authority to pursue political goals. Eventually, the IRS admitted it had targeted conservative groups improperly and this resulted in the resignation and contempt of Congress citation for Lois Lerner, and earlier this year, a multi-million dollar settlement to the targeted groups. Now, thanks to the indefatigable Judicial Watch, we know there was another player involved: the sainted John McCain. On April 30, 2013, John McCain’s staff director and counsel, Henry Kerner, was at a meeting with Lois Lerner where the subject was how to rein in 501(c)4 groups who were, in the view of the group, primarily political.
Lerner and other IRS officials met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. Senator McCain had been the chief sponsor of the McCain-Feingold Act and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.”
Henry Kerner asked how to get to the abuse of organizations claiming section 501 (c)(4) but designed to be primarily political. Lois Lerner said the system works, but not in real time. Henry Kerner noted that these organizations don’t disclose donors. Lois Lerner said that if they don’t meet the requirements, we can come in and revoke, but it doesn’t happen timely. Nan Marks said if the concern is that organizations engaging in this activity don’t disclose donors, then the system doesn’t work. Henry Kerner said that maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous. Nikole noted that we have budget constraints. Elise Bean suggested using the list of organizations that made independent expenditures. Lois Lerner said that it is her job to oversee it all, not just political campaign activity.
You can read the meeting summary here.
What is notable in this is that it is Lois Lerner assuring McCain’s staffer that systems are in place to police the system, but McCain’s guy doesn’t think they are working fast enough.
This is not the first time that McCain has been accused of having a hand in the IRS crackdown of conservative groups and the reason the story was plausible is because McCain’s contempt for conservative grassroots groups and his love of incumbent protection schemes of all types was pretty well known. In April 2015, as more and more details of the IRS abuse were becoming known. Judicial Watch issued a press release saying that McCain was working with Michigan Senator Carl Levin to limit the impact of the Citizens United case. McCain denied the allegation
“Like so many Americans, I was shocked and appalled by revelations that the IRS inappropriately singled out conservative groups for scrutiny, and that our tax system was used to target political opponents.
“As Ranking Member of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, I devoted significant time and resources to help get to the bottom of this disturbing abuse of power by the IRS. Any article suggesting otherwise is simply wrong, and ignores the facts of my actions over the last several years.”
Ironically, McCain cites the same meeting where his staff director suggested using audits as a way of driving these small nonprofits out of existence as proof that he was on the ball on IRS abuse and uses it as a way to slam Lois Lerner.
This brings us to Henry Kerner. He now heads the Office of Special Counsel, that is the office charged with overseeing the protection of whistleblowers, the enforcement of the Hatch Act, and the integrity of the federal personnel system. He got that job because President Trump nominated him.
In fairness, the President has the authority to directly appoint around 3,000 federal employees. Most of them he doesn’t know and couldn’t pick out of a two-man line-up. But is the cupboard really so bare that we have to rely on McCain staffers, particularly one that now looks damned complicit in the targeting of conservative nonprofits, to fill those jobs?
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