A former top IRS official warned Jewish groups that they would likely face a financial penalty and expensive audit process if they went through with plans to have the Republican vice-presidential candidate speak at an anti-Iran rally.
The warning came from Marcus Owens, a 25-year veteran of the Internal Revenue Service and the former director of its tax-exempt unit. According to the general counsel of the UJA-Federation of New York, it echoed the advice of several other lawyers.
Zimmerman’s version of events, confirmed by Owens, would appear to poke a major hole in the claim by right-wing critics that organizers of the rally were motivated primarily by partisan politics in deciding to disinvite Palin and other American elected officials.
The problem with this little charade by the Federation and the JTA is that the only named lawyer consulted here, Marcus Owens is very much a partisan source.
You will often find Marcus Owens being quoted on tax exempt church and politics matters, not so much because he's an authority as because Owens is the go to guy among liberal Churches and non-profits when it comes to protecting their political speech, while assailing the political speech of conservative churches.
Marcus Owens has vigorously defended liberal groups and churches such as the NAACP and the All Saints Church when they launched blistering attacks on Republicans.
At the same time, with the usual liberal respect for civil rights, Marcus Owens has vigorously gone after conservative churches that talk politics and is currently pushing hard to go after the ADF initiative, actually authoring a letter demanding that the IRS go after the churches involved.
It's safe to say that not only is Marcus Owens a wildly partisan source, but he has a clear agenda in the case of Palin. He supports liberal political speech by churches and non-profits but works to destroy conservatives churches or groups that engage in it.
The JTA and the Federation revealing Owens as a source may well track how the Democrats carried through the disinvite of Palin.
Mortimer Caplin was JFK's former IRS Commissioner, Ted Kennedy's former law professor and of course a major Democratic donor. In fact Caplin has dropped a cool 5 grand on Obama this year and 2300 dollars on him in the primary last year. He was even on the spot when Ted Kennedy endorsed Obama.
And Mortimer Caplin held down much the same duty for JFK that he's doing now for Obama, taking down opposition groups using the tax code, except back when he was the commissioner of the IRS.
The groups the IRS audited ranged from strongly anticommunist organizations such as the John Birch Society to traditional conservative organizations such as the National Education Program of Harding College. Coincidentally or not, the Reuther memorandum had singled out many of these groups. Bits and pieces of this targeting of conservatives have surfaced over the years, but Andrew shows it was an operation similar in scale to Nixon's infamous Special Services Staff. Called the "Ideological Organizations Project," the covert Kennedy scheme lasted through the Johnson years into the mid-1960s.
Reached by telephone for an interview, Caplin, who cofounded the Washington law firm Caplin & Drysdale upon leaving the IRS, admitted there was some direction from the administration to look at right-wing groups. But he said he insisted the IRS draw up a list of liberal groups to make sure there was balance.
But Andrew said his research showed the list of liberal groups largely was a cover for strikes against Kennedy's political opponents on the right. He points to an internal IRS report that found "75 percent of the audits completed were of right-wing groups." Furthermore, Andrew argues that the groups were targeted because of their prominence rather than any alleged tax problems. Caplin had written in a memo that "we are not certain any of these organizations or their benefactors are failing to comply with the tax laws." Andrew noted that "both the Birch Society and Robert Welch Inc., moreover, had been examined in 1960 [before Kennedy came to office], but the IRS had been unable to uncover significant problems. They were included for 1961 [quoting the IRS] 'because of widespread interest in the activities of these organizations.'"
Some critics have noted that the auditing of left-wing groups among JFK's enemies served Kennedy's purposes as well. One of the few left-wing groups selected for audit was the Fair Play for Cuba Committee a pro-Castro organization
It's safe to say that Caplin and Drysdale are the power brokers to go to when you're trying to shut up a non-profit you don't like by wielding the tax code. What we're seeing is an extension of that same process on behalf of Obama. It's how Palin's presence at the rally was suppressed and how the rally itself was sabotaged. It would be very interesting for Ellen Zimmerman to cite the names of the other "lawyers" who gave her that advice and whether any of them are also employed at Caplin and Drysdale.
The bottom line is that the Federation and JTA in attempting to provide an alibi have instead provided a window into the ugly mechanism used to by left wing Democrats to sabotage the rally.