Real Scandals

Scandals fill the newspaper and the 24 hour news cycle.  There is the IRS scandal.  There is the Benghazi scandal.  There is the AP scandal. Congress spends all its time chasing scandal.  But while the members of Congress are scandal hunting, the real scandal is that the business of the American people goes untended.

The Scandals

1.  Benghazi.

The scandal that the GOP is pursuing is an alleged Presidential cover-up of a terrorist attack.  Two issues with this:  1.  Benghazi doesn’t fit the literal definition of terrorism.  You have to attack civilians for a violent act to be called terrorism.  Only 7 people evacuated from Benghazi worked for the State Department.  The rest worked for the CIA.  No civilians, no terrorism.  2.  The State Department has complained that it doesn’t have enough money for security, and Congress won’t give them more money.

If Congress is doing the business of the American people, isn’t the real scandal the underfunding of civilian national security agencies?   In the body of information about the Benghazi tragedy, little of the focus concerns the Diplomatic Security Service. Weren’t there 60 embassy and consulate workers killed during the Bush Administration?

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The Diplomatic Security Service (DS) guards staff in embassies and consulates.  There are about 4  embassy or consulate staff per DS member assigned to protect an embassy or consulate.  The question that needs to be answered is “is that enough?”

While embassies get Marine protection, consulates do not.   But even where there are Marines, protecting diplomatic staff is not their mission.  The Marines’ mission is guarding the embassies.  The Marines are there to protect US secrets, mostly shredding or burning documents if there is an attack on an embassy.  It is the role of the DS to protect embassy and consulate staff.

Usually DS contracts with private security agencies to give more resource to protect embassies and consulates.  But, they couldn’t do that in Libya.  After Qadhafi fell, Libya banned all armed private security.  It became the role of the DS to protect Consulates in Libya.  The problem with the DS is that it is undermanned and underfunded.  The DS asked for 12 agents in Libya, before the September 11 consulate attack.   They were told that they might as well be asking for the “moon and the stars”.

There are two things wrong here.  One is that our government has money for private contractors, but doesn’t have money for federal employees to protect embassies and consulates.  The second problem is that the focus is on the past, instead of focusing on risk of other embassy or consulate staff being killed.

Therefore isn’t the real scandal that we haven’t provided for adequate protection of embassy and consulate staff?  Isn’t that a budget issue?  I am just saying.

2.  IRS

This is the non-scandal scandal.  The acting IRS Commissioner is out.  There is a lot of noise about “targeting”.  Every group that exploits certain tax advantages gets targeted.  Only an unsophisticated White House could get caught in this trap.

In doing its business, the IRS always sets flags.  The acting commissioner was a career IRS employee.  He formulated this program like other IRS programs.  For instance on personal incomes, there is what is known as the 12 deadly sins of deductions.  Taking one of those deductions puts the taxpayer in the cross-hairs for an audit.

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And so it goes for 501c4 organizations.  There are about 100, 000 501 c4 organizations.  501c4 organizations are social welfare organizations.  But, they can spend half of their money on politics.

The kicker, unlike PACS and direct donations, 501c4  organizations don’t have to show the their donors.  A lot of dark money can flow into elections without proper oversight.  501c4 organizations create a perfect storm; dark money in electoral politics without disclosure.  Through a series of federal court decisions the FEC was effectively taken out as a monitoring force for 501c4 orgs.  That left the IRS as the last government agency standing to regulate the effect of dark money in elections.

The Tea Party is a political party.  They even have a Tea Party Caucus in Congress.  So if the IRS saw a bunch of 501c4 organizations with the name Tea Party it should have raised flags.  It is no different from the 12 deadly sins filers.   You would have to ignore the obvious to not look at the connection between politics and the “social welfare” agencies given that the FEC could not regulate.

Bottom line, the IRS had the regulatory duty to make sure that 501c4 was not being misused.  The alleged scandal is that the Tea Party was looked at, while presenting the biggest red flag?  Also, these groups were wildly transferring money back and forth between each other.  Money transfer is yet another red flag that the rules were being skirted.

Take Crossroads GPS’s 2010 tax returns: They show that the organization made $15.8 million in grants to other organizations: $4 million to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform; $2.75 million to the Center for Individual Freedom; $500,000 to the American Action Network; $50,000 to the 60 Plus Association.

If Crossroads GPS had instead spent all this money on politics, it would have been over the 50 percent limit for political activity. (Crossroads declined to comment on this issue.   Crossroads GPS distributed $15.8 million in grants in 2010. This helped to keep its spending on direct political activity under 50 percent of its total budget.

Really, isn’t the complaint like saying that if the traffic cop doesn’t catch all speeders, the one caught is not guilty?  There may have been stepped up enforcement, but it wasn’t wrong enforcement.  It was a political election year a lot of dark money was flowing through the system, why wouldn’t the IRS be looking there? It is just kind of understandable, and it wasn’t politically motivated.  So where is the scandal?  I’m just saying.

3. AP Scandal

This might be a real scandal.  But it also includes a congressional oversight scandal.  There is no question that the Obama administration is secretive.  But what did Congress do in the summer of 2012, when a small amount of information was published about drones, targeted killings and cyber warfare

Did Congress call hearings?  Did Congress push for oversight?  No, but on a bi-partisan basis they did call for criminal investigations about the leakers.  Basically, Congress gave the administration a green light.

But the green light wasn’t just for the Obama Administration.  Congress has given a green light on cyber warfare and drone strikes since 9/11.  So when we pursue this alleged scandal, can we please make sure that Congress fulfills its oversight role?  I am just saying.

The Real Scandals.

And then there are at least 13 other scandals that Congress is not talking about, including:

1. The Sequester – Cuts to Head Start, Cuts to Medicare (denying cancer treatment), among other things

2. Student Loan Crisis

3. Aid to Farmers – There was a drought last year.

4. Tax Reform – 67% of corporations paid no federal income tax last year

5. Entitlement Reform – Arguable whether this needs reforming, but the issue of reform needs to be addressed.

6. Presidential appointments –  18 judicial nominees wait for Senate votes even though they were approved by the Judiciary Committee, 16 unanimously;  At least 68 other administrative of positions are vacant, including 43 that have been vacant for more than a year.

The vacancies have been spread across dozens of different departments and agencies, with some hit harder than others.  At the Department of the Interior, for instance, six of its 18 appointed positions were vacant at the end of Obama’s first term. The department had three vacancies midway through Clinton’s presidency and only one midway through Bush’s.

7. Criminal DNA analysis backlog

8. Veteran Housing

9. Dodd Frank Regulations – the banks that are too big to fail are back doing the things that brought down the economy in 2007

10. Gun Control – Almost 100 children under age 10 have been killed by gun violence since the massacre at Sandy Hook.  Yet we still fail to act as a nation to prevent more deaths.

11. Debt Limit – the government’s ability to function is still threatened.

12. Hurricane Sandy Relief,  and

13. Filibuster reform

These are among the issues which are not being addressed by Congress.  And they are big scandals.  Too bad they are not the ones Congress focuses on.

I am just saying.

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