Obama Ignites the Tea Party for 2014
Just in time for the 2014 midterm elections, the Obama administration has breathed new life into the Tea Party movement that upended the House of Representatives in 2010.
To date, the IRS policy that targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status has unleashed a flurry of statements from Tea Party groups, members of Congress, and even the president and the attorney general. The operative words are “outrageous” and “unacceptable.”
Investigations by Congress and the administration have just begun, but a key question will be who in the administration knew what and when during the IRS targeting scheme that stretches back two years.
In House testimony at the end of the week, the Treasury Department’s inspector general testified that he told senior Treasury Department officials in June of last year that he was auditing the IRS screening of politically active organizations.
The inspector general said he briefed the Treasury Department’s general counsel and deputy secretary. It remains to be learned whether then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner or White House officials were aware of the audit.
Meanwhile, Attorney General Holder has launched a criminal investigation into the IRS scandal, pledging, “The facts will take us wherever they take us” in what he said would be a probe of IRS offices nationwide.
Investigations in Congress and the administration promise to occupy Washington and the nation for months. Regardless, the real fallout from the scandal will be the impact of Tea Party conservatives on the midterm elections next year.
Throughout 2011 and 2012, the mainstream media crowed that the Tea Party was a spent force, unlikely to have an impact in the presidential election last year. It would be impossible, they wrote, for Tea Party conservatives to repeat their performance of 2010.
Now we know that many conservative groups planning political activity were busy attempting to comply with intrusive questions from the IRS that delayed applications for tax-exempt status for months and even years. Many groups stuck with it and eventually achieved tax-exempt status; others are still waiting and some gave up.
The Tea Party movement was born in 2009 in response to Obama’s nearly $1 trillion stimulus spending and the debate over
Obamacare. Millions of conservatives held countless rallies and voiced their concerns at town meetings conducted by members of Congress. Their efforts paid off in November when Democrats lost the House and Obama was forced to surrender his one-party rule in Congress.
The Obama administration hatched the IRS scheme even before the November 2010 elections. But the effort to finger conservative groups shifted into high gear in 2011 and 2012 in advance of the presidential election. It was a full-court press to intimidate and silence conservatives to avoid a repeat of the Tea Party success in 2010.
Now the president and his political operatives have a real mess on their hands. Not only do they face further revelations of IRS misdeeds, they have reenergized Tea Party conservatives nationwide to up the ante in the fight against big government.
Conservatives will have new ammunition this summer as Congress struggles to pass a budget for next year and copes with the vexing question of increasing the national debt ceiling. Meanwhile, the administration faces a load of trouble in implementing Obamacare.
President Obama and his supporters have been dreaming of recapturing the House, retaining the Senate, and clearing the way for one-party rule in the last two years of the president’s second term. The dream is fading fast. The Tea Party is on the march.