Key McCain aides moved to silence Tea Party

Just days after he announced another run, U.S. Senator John McCain has caught the attention of conservative watchdogs for his war on the Tea Party. Judicial Watch revealed on Friday that key McCain aides applied pressure on the IRS to shut down Tea Party type conservative tax-exempt organizations.

Judicial Watch reported that a new batch of documents “raise questions about the judgement of Senator John McCain (R-AZ). A May 1, 2013, email exchange between Lois Lerner and other top IRS staffers revealed that she met with select top staffers from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in a “marathon” meeting to discuss concerns raised by both Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. McCain that the IRS was not reining in political advocacy groups in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. This occurred 11 days prior to Lerner’s admission, during an American Bar Association meeting, that the IRS had “inappropriately” targeted conservative groups. These emails show for the first time that those attending this pressure meeting were key aides to McCain, the ranking minority member of the committee:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:26 AM — Lois Lerner to Nikole Flax [Chief of Staff to then-Commissioner Steven Miller] and others:

Yesterday’s marathon went well thanks to “the village.” Glad to have all of you as part of that village.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 12:23 PM – Sinno Suzanne [IRS Legislative Counsel] to Lerner and others:

I also took notes so I can compare and make sure we captured everything.

The staffers are below.

Laura Stuber (Majority Senior Counsel)

Elise Bean (Majority Staff Director and Majority Chief Counsel)

Kaye Meier (Senior Counsel for Senator Levin)

Henry Kerner (Minority Staff Director and Minority Chief Counsel)

Stephanie Hall (Minority Counsel)

Scott Wittmann (Minority Research Assistant)

The IRS seems to have blacked out the notes of the meeting. And McCain and Levin said nothing about the meeting at the time. But, in a press release sent 24 days after the meeting – and 13 days after the IRS scandal had already broken – the two senators claimed to be shocked at the news of the IRS targeting. The press release contained a letter the two senators sent to then-Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel claiming outrage that the subject had not even been broached in their committee staffers’ six-hour marathon meeting. But one is reminded of Shakespeare’s observation regarding Lady Gertrude’s transparently excessive claims of piety: “Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” because the letter also confirms that Levin (who is now retired) and McCain put pressure on the IRS to control political speech:

On April 30, 2013, Ms. Lerner and seven IRS colleagues spent six-hours being interviewed, on a bipartisan basis, by Subcommittee staff. That interview covered, among other topics, how the IRS determines which groups to review, what actions are taken in connection with the IRS reviews, and how the laws and regulations are used to examine those groups. Ms. Lerner failed to disclose the internal controversy over the search terms used by the Cincinnati office to identify 501(c)(4) groups for further review, the actions taken by that office in reviewing the identified groups, the investigation and imminent findings by the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA); and TIGTA’s conclusion that the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to target Tea Party and other conservative groups. Ms. Lerner also failed to disclose that she was fully aware of these issues as early as June 2011, and, according to TIGTA, had been personally involved in reviewing questionable actions taken by the Cincinnati office.

Judicial Watch previously forced the release of IRS documents that indicate extensive pressure on the IRS by Senator Levin to shut down conservative-leaning tax-exempt organizations. Senator McCain has been vociferous in his calls for reining in free and open political discussion. He was one of the chief sponsors of the McCain-Feingold Act, and called the Citizens United decision, which overturned portions of the Act, one of the “worst decisions I have ever seen.” One might conclude from these documents that McCain was happy to have Levin push the IRS to impose by regulation what the Supreme Court had already ruled to be out of bounds.

Just last week, AZ GOP Chair Robert Graham showed a testy side on Twitter, as the establishment fights back the insurgents in the Party rank and file.

According to Frosty Taylor, writing for MCRC (Arizona Maricopa County Republican Committee) Briefs, Graham is resisting an effort by the grassroots to close the Republican Primary. Conservatives believe that if the choice was left up to only registered Republicans, McCain could not secure the Party’s nomination for the 2016 race.Graham responded testily on Easter, “… it is an executive committee meeting and has never been open to PCs. Get a life it is Easter Sunday. #sad”

McCain’s war against the grassroots has become more intense as his potential opponent in the Republican Primary, State Sen. Kelli Ward, captures the attention of the grassroots and national media. McCain let it be known on Monday that he would seek re-election. In a move that surprised many, McCain sent out a press release with what appeared to be an endorsement by Obama administration Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

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