WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate Republican leader, who last year accused the Obama administration of Nixon-style dirty tricks, said Friday the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups is part of a broader government assault on free speech.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky seized on the spate of controversies besetting the White House, saying Americans are recognizing a pattern of attack on First Amendment rights across government agencies, the administration, President Barack Obama’s congressional allies, left-wing groups and public employee unions.
“As serious as the IRS scandal is, what we’re dealing with here is larger than the actions of one agency or any group of employees,” McConnell, who is up for re-election next year, said in a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “This administration has institutionalized the practice of pitting bureaucrats against the very people they’re supposed to be serving, and it needs to stop.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the charge leveled by McConnell was “demonstrably bogus.”
“As I’m sure the minority leader in the Senate is aware, the independent inspector general has testified and has made clear in his report that he has found no evidence that anyone outside of the IRS had any involvement in the inappropriate targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status,” Carney said.
Speaking to the same organization last year, McConnell accused the administration and Obama’s re-election campaign of leaking tax information and maintaining an enemies list in a chilling style reminiscent of President Richard Nixon, the Republican who resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal. McConnell’s criticism was largely dismissed as election-year hyperbole.
In the first six months of Obama’s second term, the administration’s problems have produced an assortment of political targets for Republicans. One is the IRS affair, which has resulted in resignations and departures from the agency. So far, no evidence has come to light that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved in targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Other issues facing the Obama administration this year include government surveillance of phone and Internet records; its handling of last year’s terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans; the Justice Department’s seizure of phone records of journalists at The Associated Press and, in another case, reading the emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen.
McConnell referred to the IRS episode with a bit of I-told-you-so.
“When I warned about all this last year, I got slammed by the usual suspects on the left. They said I was full of it,” he said. “But even some of them now seem to realize that just because McConnell is the one pulling the alarm doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire. The IRS scandal has reminded people of the temptations to abuse that big government, and its political patrons, are prone to. People are waking up to a pattern here.”
In comments certain to appeal to Republican voters, McConnell described public sector unions as power hungry and able to expand their reach with the help of congressional friends. He said the unions no longer serve the public’s interest but rather serve the government’s.
“There’s no better illustration of this than the announcement this week that in the midst of congressional hearings into their activities, unionized employees at the IRS are about to get $70 million in bonuses,” McConnell complained.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said earlier this week that the IRS plans to hand out $70 million in bonuses to employees. Under a contract with the employees’ union, IRS workers can receive individual performance bonuses of up to $3,500 a year.
In response to Grassley’s criticism, the agency said it’s under a legal obligation to comply with its collective bargaining agreement with the National Treasury Employees Union. The agency and the union say they are in negotiations over the matter.
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.
Follow Donna Cassata at
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon