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Griftonomics

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I did a little more digging into Matthew Whitaker’s “non-partisan” advocacy group, which he or his paymasters christened with Orwellian moniker Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT. Clever, very).

I looked at every reference in the Lexis news data base to the organization during 2016 — a year during which Whitaker, who has always been the organization’s only employee, got paid the handsome sum of $402,000 for his scrupulously non-partisan advocacy of “accountability, ethics, and transparency.” (The tax code requires the organization to be non-partisan to qualify for tax-exempt status).

Findings:

(1) FACT and Whitaker did very little advocacy during the entire election year.  Whitaker and FACT are referenced 36 separate times in Lexis News.  For the sake of comparison, I’m referenced 357 times over the same time, which if I understand the principles of free market capitalism correctly means that George Soros owes me slightly more than four million dollars for 2016 alone.

(2) 34 of these 36 references involve criticism of Democrats.  17 of those 34 criticisms are of Hillary Clinton.  Many of those criticisms are of — wait for it — the Clinton Foundation, for supposedly failing to adhere to the legal standards controlling the advocacy work of non-profit entities.

(3) The two times Whitaker/FACT criticized a Republican each involved an intra-party squabble during a Republican primary.  In each case, Whitaker/FACT criticized a GOP upstart challenging an establishment favorite.

This would be a good time to recall this edifying little episode:

Remember the IRS targeting scandal? The one in which President Obama ordered the IRS to target Tea Party and other conservative non-profits for extra scrutiny, to determine if they were violating restrictions on partisan political activity by such groups? When news of this egregious abuse of the federal bureaucracy for partisan ends first broke, Even Many Liberals(tm) fell over themselves apologizing for the policy, and promising that it wouldn’t happen again.

You will be shocked to learn that it hasn’t happened again, because it never happened in the first place. The whole scandal was completely made up.

First, one branch of the IRS did create search terms designed to allow the branch to give extra scrutiny to political groups that might be falling askance of limitations on political activity by non-profits. Yet a series of several year-long, multi-million dollar investigation have concluded, over and over again, that these search terms were not designed to give extra scrutiny to right-wing organizations. Many liberal and left-leaning groups were subjected to scrutiny as well. In short, despite extensive (and costly) efforts to find it, no evidence has ever been found that conservative groups were in any way “targeted” because they were conservative.

Second, not a shred of evidence has ever been found for the proposition that the (again, what was actually a non-partisan) IRS investigative policy was itself a brainchild of the Obama administration in the first place. The worst that could be said of the policy was that it was an inefficient use of agency resources — no group, conservative or liberal, actually had its non-profit status revoked — and that it was vulnerable to being mischaracterized by ideologues wanting to undermine the agency (who of course did and continue to do exactly that).

The whole “scandal,” in other words, has always been an utter fabrication from beginning to end.

But the real story was actually even worse than this. As LGM commenter cpinva pointed out:

The “scandal” was that the IRS was inundated with 1,000’s of applications for non-profit status, from rightwing grifters eager to get in on the Tea Party grift. in an effort to do its job of separating out the obvious political entities from the rest, in a timely fashion, Exempt Orgs. came up with a methodology they believed would help them do so, and applied it to all of the applications, in order to approve those qualifying as quickly as possible.

In other words, IRS Exempt Orgs. was doing its job, just as it’s always done, only this time without the manpower necessary to process the unusually high number of applications, in a relatively short period of time. it took the people in my office about a day to realize this, once we had enough information to figure out what had actually happened. the difference was, all the rightwing grifters screaming, because they couldn’t get in on the grift, until they got their non-profit status approved.

To sum up: like so many of his right-wing fellow travelers, Matthew Whitaker set up a phony non-profit to commit tax fraud while enriching himself.  This is exactly the kind of thing the IRS is supposed to prosecute, but of course it can’t because “targeting” people who commit tax fraud is a form of discrimination against Republicans.

He then got paid upwards of a million dollars of right wing dark money for doing basically nothing.  (What sort of “value” did Whitaker add to the right wing scream machine by getting quoted in 17 of the eleventy zillion stories about EMAILSBENGHAZICLINTONCASHPODESTA?)

He then became Attorney General of the United States (acting).

I’m leaving out all the stuff about toilets for especially masculine men and time-travel-based cryptocurrencies and building landing strips for gay Martians because frankly I can’t even.

 

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