As the IRS discrimination scandal grows, the head of the agency had an embarrassing moment this morning during a House hearing, lifenews.com reports. During intense questioning at a Congressional hearing this morning, Rep. Aaron Schock asked acting commissioner Steven Miller if the IRS has asked a pro-life group about the content of its prayers. Leading conservative activists and bloggers followed the morning hearing. The IRS will soon face more than controversy and Congressional hearings over its discrimination of pro-life and conservative groups. The federal agency will soon find itself in court. The news comes as a report today shows James Dobson, the pro-life family advocate, disclosed that he was a victim of IRS discrimination because he spoke out against pro-abortion President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, dailycaller.com reports that the Thomas More Society, a conservative public-interest law firm, announced Wednesday that the IRS excessively probed two of their pro-life clients when they were seeking tax-exempt status—including inquiring about the content of their prayers and pledges that the group would not protest Planned Parenthood. In the case of the Texas-based Christian Voices for Life, the Thomas More Society charges, the IRS repeatedly questioned the group about the content of its prayer vigils, communications, and activities around abortion facilities.
- Evangelist Franklin Graham blasted the Internal Revenue Service probe of conservative nonprofit groups as “un-American,” saying both the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the relief group Samaritan’s Purse were audited by the IRS, charismanews.com reports. In a Tuesday letter to President Obama, Graham said the two organizations he leads were notified last September that the IRS would review their records for the 2010 tax year. The IRS inquiry, he noted, occurred months after the BGEA ran ads in April 2012 supporting a North Carolina amendment that banned same-sex marriage, which passed in May. The BGEA also ran ads last fall urging voters to consider candidates who make decisions based on “biblical principles and support the nation of Israel.” Graham noted that the ads were bought with designated funds given by ministry donors for that purpose. The IRS audits were conducted on Oct. 15 at Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization based in Boone, N.C., and on Oct. 29 at the BGEA, in Charlotte. “I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the Administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us,” wrote Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham. “This is morally wrong and unethical—indeed some would call it ‘un-American.’” In other news, Fox News reports that the IRS official who led the tax-exempt organizations unit when Tea Party groups were targeted is now in charge of the IRS office responsible for Obamacare, according to two Capitol Hill sources. The acknowledgement comes after the administration announced that the official’s successor Joseph Grant—who had only been on the job a few days—would be retiring.
- Amid the firestorm about the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting conservative groups and wide concern that the tax service will be administering Obamacare, the IRS is also the subject of a class action lawsuit alleging that 15 of its agents improperly seized 10 million Americans’ medical records, dailycaller.com reports. Attorney Robert Barnes filed the lawsuit in mid-March on behalf of a John Doe Company and individuals whose records were seized in California Superior Court, according to a report from the Courthouse News Service. “This is an action involving the corruption and abuse of power by several Internal Revenue Service (‘IRS’) agents (collectively referred to as ‘Defendants’ herein) during a raid of John Doe Company, in the southern district of California, on March 11, 2011,” the complaint, quoted by Courthouse News, reads. “In a case involving solely a tax matter involving a former employee of the company, these agents stole more than 60,000,000 medical records of more than 10,000,000 Americans, including at least 1,000,000 Californians.”
- The House voted to repeal Obamacare on Thursday for the third time since Republicans took over the chamber in 2011, thehill.com reports. Only two Democrats sided with Republicans in the party-line 229-195 vote—Jim Matheson (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). All Republicans voted in favor of repeal. This is the 37th time the House GOP has voted to repeal or defund at least part of the bill, but this latest bill will also not become law given Democrats’ control of the Senate. Still, many House Republicans had clamored for the bill from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) to be considered, while Democrats accused the GOP of wasting the House’s time. Obamacare’s implementation is expected to be a major issue in next year’s midterm elections, and some Democrats have expressed worries that the law and its implementation problems could be a problem for their party. The two Democrats who voted for repeal were part of a group of five Democrats who voted with Republicans in last year’s repeal vote. The other three are no longer in office—Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Larry Kissell (N.C.) and Mike Ross (Ark.).
- House Republicans continue to demand more documents out of the Obama administration on the Benghazi terror attack, praising the release of 100 pages of internal deliberations as an encouraging step but claiming the government should do more to clear up questions. “While these hundred are good and they shed light on what happened, we have nearly 25,000 that they haven’t released,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Fox News. He noted the documents released late Wednesday—a release long sought by Republicans—for the most part covered two days of communications. “What about the ones before and what about all the ones after? Let’s go ahead and release those as well,” Chaffetz said. The administration gave no indication that more documents would be forthcoming. White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the decision to make the records public was an “extraordinary step.” He said “hopefully” Washington can now move beyond the controversy. Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez also said on the Senate floor Thursday that the issue has been “fully vetted.” The information contained in the emails and notes released Wednesday depicted how several different agencies were deeply involved in editing and polishing the administration’s internal story-line on Benghazi in the days following the attack. They showed how State Department officials in particular voiced concern that references to prior attacks and security warnings could be used to criticize the administration—those references were later stripped. Further, they showed how references to Al Qaeda and Islamic extremists were ultimately removed as well. Some Republicans refrained from calling for more documents. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, said in a statement he was “glad” to see the White House publish the talking points. “I have been pushing for the release of this paper trail for weeks,” he said. The office of House Speaker John Boehner called the release “long overdue,” but also indicated it wanted to see more. Spokesman Brendan Buck said “there are relevant documents the administration has still refused to produce” and said they hope the “limited release of documents is a sign of more cooperation to come.” The documents were released under pressure after whistle-blowers testified on the Hill and some e-mail excerpts leaked to the media last week. The documents showed the White House, along with several other departments, played a role in editing the so-called “talking points,” despite claims from the White House that it was barely involved. And they showed then-CIA Director David Petraeus objected to the watered-down version that would ultimately be used as the basis for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s flawed comments on several TV shows the Sunday after the attack.
- The Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Corp., which is vying to buy telecom giant Sprint Nextel Corp., is reportedly resorting to what could be termed financial blackmail to persuade banks not to finance DISH Network’s competing offer for Sprint, newsmax.com reports. SoftBank is under fire for its close ties to a Chinese firm linked with massive cyberattacks on U.S. computer systems and concerns that it should not get control of Sprint, one of the nation’s leading telecommunications firms. Earlier this week, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee told Newsmax that the SoftBank offer “definitely needs to be not only scrutinized, it needs to be curtailed without some clear understanding as to what the implications could be. We know that China has been illegally eavesdropping. We cannot afford to allow something as significant as our communications networks to be in the hands of a country that has proven not to be trustworthy when it comes to information and of that information being handled responsibly and honorably.” Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah told Newsmax he is also “concerned” about the SoftBank bid.
- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal ordered that Bibles be returned to cabins and lodges owned at state parks, reversing a decision by the Department of Natural Resources to ban the books, Fox News reports. “Out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential litigation, the commissioner removed the Bibles from the rooms—though they were still available on site—after a complaint from a visitor,” Deal said in a statement. The Bibles had been donated to the state by The Gideons International and were traditionally placed in cabins and lodge rooms at state parks. The brief decision to remove the Bible sparked outrage across the Peach State. “I think that they should be left there,” Jamie Knight told television station WAGA. “If someone chooses to read the Bible then that is their right. If they don’t believe in God, then they don’t have to look at a Bible.” Deal, a Republican, said the attorney general determined the state was on “firm legal footing” and therefore decided to return the Good Book to the camp sties. “These Bibles are donated by outside groups, not paid for by the state, and I do not believe that a Bible in a bedside table drawer constitutes a state establishment of religion,” Deal said. “In fact, any religious group is free to donate literature.”
- Late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants born alive, but he was spared the death penalty, cbn.com reports. Instead, he received two life sentences without parole for the deaths of two infants in exchange for waiving the right to appeal. He may face a mandatory third life term for the third infant when he’s sentenced for an overdose death of a patient and a multitude of lesser charges. Gosnell’s gruesome case highlights a terrible problem in America: partial-birth abortion is not limited to Gosnell’s house of horrors. But his case may change the debate over abortion. Throughout the eight-week trial, Gosnell and his attorney maintained his innocence. But immediately after hearing the verdict, the late-term abortionist had nothing to say. In the end, jurors found sufficient evidence to convict Gosnell on multiple counts of first-degree murder for killing three newborns after they were born alive. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 41-year-old immigrant who died from a drug overdose during a botched abortion. Gosnell operated his clinic for 30 years in west Philadelphia before it was shut down for prescribing painkillers illegally. But what investigators found was far worse. They described his clinic as a “house of horrors,” with blood-stained walls, unsterilized medical equipment, and fetal remains stored in the employee refrigerator.