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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

The Right Stuff: Turning up the heat on an IRS freeze-out

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Tom Jackson’s conservative opinion column is published each Sunday. The Right Stuff blog is updated throughout the week at tbo.com/tomjackson/

In his previous life, U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy was the chief prosecutor for a two-county judicial circuit based in Spartanburg in northwest South Carolina. Halfway through his second term, it’s clear Gowdy, a rising star on the new Republican right, has not lost his prosecutor’s edge.

The latest evidence was presented Thursday at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform’s investigation into the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status under 501(c)(4) rules. Republicans on the committee are particularly interested in the email traffic of Lois Lerner in her role as the former director of the tax-exempt division.

Lerner already has been demonstrated — in limited email bundles surrendered to the committee — to have practiced partisan activism. A memo released earlier this month methodically details the essence of Lerner’s targeting tactics, her acknowledgement that she “felt pressure” to squeeze conservative groups and her attempts to cover her tracks.

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Suspecting there’s far more to be learned, the GOP majority subpoenaed the broadest possible cache of IRS documents, with particular interest paid to Lerner’s email, but the IRS appears to be slow-walking the process. Commissioner John Koskinen claimed fulfilling the committee’s request will “take years.” Or at least beyond November’s midterm elections, wink-wink.

Gowdy, his prosecutor’s sense tingling, tore into Koskinen.

“I want the subpoena complied with, and I want the subpoena complied with in a timely fashion,” Gowdy said. “Whether or not you think we need something, or we ought to have it, or we are on a wild goose chase, frankly I could care less what you think about that. Our subpoena is our subpoena. If you do not like it, move to quash it, otherwise comply with it!”

Wednesday night, Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta van Susteren the committee would have to consider holding Koskinen in contempt if the IRS failed to produce in a timely fashion.

“Well, we’re already going to do contempt of Congress for Lois Lerner,” he said, after van Susteren asked what happens if the emails aren’t received. “That’s coming up in the very near future.”

“One of the reasons they don’t answer our subpoenas is they don’t fear any consequences,” Gowdy explained. “And that’s something I’ve never been able to explain to you, is why we don’t stand up for our institution more.”

Contempt citations? Things are just about to get interesting.

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It’s hard to know where to begin dismantling the misinformation glut appearing under the name of Frank Cerabino, a Palm Beach Post columnist whose yammering about Marco Rubio’s opposition to Obamacare appeared on the op-ed page of Friday’s Tribune.

The crux of Cerabino’s critique centers on four weary lefty talking points, an irony, because Cerabino complains about Rubio’s reliance on “a litany of tired talking points.” Pot, meet kettle.

Let’s defuse two sleights of Cerabino’s hand here. (The rest are addressed in the original blog post.)

Cerabino grumbles Rubio failed to mention the “442,000 Floridians who have already signed up for Obamacare coverage.” Here’s why: The figure touted by Obamacare acolytes — the most in America! — is at best presumptive. The administration won’t/can’t say how many have paid premiums, or how many are being counted as sign-ups who have merely begun the application process.

We also don’t know how many enrollees were shoved into the exchanges because their old policies were scuttled by Obamacare mandates. If Florida is like the rest of the nation, Obamacare will barely have budged the needle when it comes to its animating goal: getting coverage to the uninsured.

Cerabino also tagged Rubio for ignoring unpaid medical bills as the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcy, but this, too, is thoroughly debunked mythology, a tale of woe whipped up using tortured numbers by a Harvard University team that included Democratic activist and senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren.

Still, there is truth in the quote from former George W. Bush speech writer and lapsed conservative David Frum. Once a chunk of Americans grow comfy with Washington controlling their health care access in exchange for tax-subsidized premiums, “They (will) have gained something they will think is worth protecting.”

That, at least, is a track-tested forecast, and it’s one all Republicans — especially those inclined to run for President — must address when Congress reconvenes in January 2015 with GOP majorities on both ends of Capitol Hill … leaving our friend Frank Cerabino in exquisite agony.

tjackson@tampatrib.com

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Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

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