Heeding Rahm Emanuel’s adage that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” area Republicans and Democrats in Congress scrambled quickly last week to capitalize on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party groups and other conservative organizations who applied for tax-exempt status.
“The revelations of the last week have confirmed that it’s time to reduce or completely eliminate the IRS, and build a new tax system that treats American taxpayers with the fairness, honesty and integrity they deserve,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee.
He touted one bill to abolish the IRS and replace the income tax with a national consumption tax. If that fails, he’s also co-sponsoring a bill that would eventually give taxpayers the option of paying a flat 17 percent income tax rate.
Rooney also joined the chorus of Republicans using the IRS as an avenue to attack the new federal health care law, which relies on IRS enforcement for much of its implementation. Rooney signed on as a co-sponsor of a “Keep The IRS Off Your Health Care Act” introduced Wednesday.
Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, was quick to blast the IRS’s actions as “completely unacceptable” and demand a congressional investigation. But that didn’t earn the targeted freshman any good will from the GOP. The National Republican Congressional Committee called on Murphy to return $3,000 in campaign contributions he received from the union that represents IRS workers. Murphy Chief of Staff Eric Johnson rejected the idea.
Reps. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, and Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, followed the lead of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in using the IRS uproar to focus on the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which holds that the First Amendment bars the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations or unions. The decision led to an increase in “social welfare” organizations seeking tax-exempt status to funnel money into political causes.
“The larger problem here is that the IRS was never intended to enforce campaign finance laws, and that’s why I continue to push for a constitutional amendment that overturns Citizens United and restores the people’s right to limit money in our elections,” Deutch said.
Said Frankel: “An even larger issue is the role that political organizations pretending to be social welfare organizations play in polluting campaigns. This calls for real campaign reform, overturning Citizens United and demanding greater disclosure and transparency from tax-exempt organizations.”
— Addie Greene cited worries about the effects of stress on her health when she resigned from the Palm Beach County Commission in 2009. But she hasn’t exactly found tranquility in her tiny hometown of Mangonia Park.
Greene climbed back into politics in 2011 by narrowly defeating an incumbent in a bloody town council race. Since taking office, Greene has repeatedly clashed with Mayor William Albury. She recruited real estate agent Jerome Norton to challenge Albury last year, but Norton got only 22.5 percent against the longtime mayor.
Now Greene is pursuing a small-claims suit against Norton, saying she loaned him $800 after the election and never got it back. Norton denies accepting any money from Greene. Greene said she has no written record of the loan because she used cash she had just received from a tenant’s rent payment.
Norton’s campaign finance reports say he loaned his campaign $800 the week before the election, then used leftover campaign money after the election to repay the loan. He said the loan came from his own personal money and had nothing to do with Greene.
— Perhaps the least surprising news of last week was the hiring of former Republican Rep. and conservative celebrity Allen West as a Fox News contributor. West also hosts an online, subscription-only “Next Generation” show on conservative PJ Media, but said he’ll have no problem handling the two gigs. He noted the Fox and PJ Media studios are only a block apart on North Capitol Street in Washington.
— The power of West’s name on both the right and the left was confirmed last week after a Tampa radio station asked Gov. Rick Scott if he’d consider West for the lieutenant governor’s job that’s been vacant since Jennifer Carroll resigned in March. Scott called West “a great American and a great patriot. … he’d be a great lieutenant governor.”
That led Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux to send out a fundraising appeal Tuesday urging donors to “help keep Rick Scott from hiring Allen West. It’s time to send both of them packing for good.”