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Grant Bosse

Grant Bosse: The left abandons the First Amendment

The left’s simmering disdain for free speech went public last week. The Obama administration’s abuse of power finally turned much of the left-leaning press corps against this increasingly Nixonian White House.

The final straw was the revelation that the Justice Department secretly seized two months of phone records from 20 separate Associated Press phone lines. The seizure was part of a criminal investigation into leaks revealed in May 2012 AP story on the foiled underwear bomb plot.

The AP called the secret subpoena “a massive and unprecedented intrusion,” as the records included AP bureaus not involved in the story, as well as the home and cell phones of several reporters and editors.

This wasn’t merely a fishing expedition. It was fishing with dynamite. Attorney General Eric Holder could have narrowed his subpoena, but the breadth and initial secrecy of the subpoena serves as a warning to those thinking of talking to the press.

Closer to home, Sen. Kelly Ayotte gave the commencement address at New England College in Henniker yesterday. Senior Erin Faith Page started a petition to rescind Ayotte’s invitation, deeming her a “supporter of homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and sexist policies.”

NEC Vice President for Academic Affairs Mark Watman said Ayotte’s invitation would stand, but that “we’re incredibly proud of Erin and her political ideology and her stance and what she’s learned at New England College for self-advocacy.”

Hogwash. Page’s petition wasn’t about her political ideology or self-advocacy, whatever that means. She was trying to kick a dissenting voice off campus. In Page’s world, failure to agree with her makes you illegitimate as a public speaker.

NEC’s mission statement includes “respect for the varied qualities of individuals.” Page should get a refund.

The largest attack on free speech began three years ago, but we’re just finding out about it now. The IRS targeted conservative groups seeking nonprofit status since 2010, peppering groups about their activities and affiliations and delaying their certification for years.

Many politically active groups have filed as tax-exempt 501(C)4 social welfare organizations and are allowed to engaged in limited election activities. (The Josiah Bartlett Center, where I used to work full-time and am now a senior fellow, is a 501(C) 3.)

The IRS started cracking down, demanding that

groups with Tea Party, Patriot, or 9-12 in their names demonstrate that a majority of their work was non-political. They just didn’t bother asking any of the liberal groups.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen fueled IRS persecution of conservative groups with a pair of letters in 2012. In February, she joined six other Senate Democrats is writing a letter to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, urging investigation of C-4s engaging in federal election activities. Shaheen’s letter did not mention conservative or liberal groups. But her House colleagues were less careful, singling out conservative Crossroads GPS in the press conference announcing a similar letter.

In March, Shaheen and company followed up on a New York Times report that the IRS had “sent dozens of detailed questionnaires to Tea Party organizations,” pushing Shulman to change the way he dealt with C-4s. The Times mentioned that the IRS planned to eventually look into existing groups, including conservative American Crossroads and liberal Priorities USA, but Shaheen’s letter can fairly be read as encouraging further IRS scrutiny of Tea Party groups.

Shaheen and her defenders insist that she was merely seeking to close a loophole in the tax code. That’s simply not credible. Liberal outrage at independent political expenditures, whether from 501(C)4s or the Section 527 Super Pacs that cropped up recently, always fades when liberals are doing the spending. Does anyone remember Shaheen rushing to defend Ayotte from out-of-state special interests a few weeks ago?

Shaheen’s campaign to shut down politically active non-profits isn’t about the tax code. It’s about silencing opposition. Nonprofits can have political messages without engaging in electioneering, the key test under the tax code. Those annoying “Call the governor . . .” and “Thank you, Senator…” ads don’t expressly endorse candidates, and despite liberal paranoia, have nothing to do with the Citizens United decision.

Shaheen’s own re-election campaign is rightfully tax exempt, because we have never trusted the government with the power to tax candidates. But Shaheen saw nothing wrong in using the IRS to determine which political groups were and were not promoting social welfare. Liberals and conservatives seeking to education and motivate voters actually believe they are working to make the world a better place.

The primary purpose of the First Amendment was not to protect Nazis and smut peddlers. It was to prevent government from silencing its critics. Political speech, especially unpopular political speech, should have the highest protection under the law.

(Grant Bosse is editor of New Hampshire Watchdog, an independent news site dedicated to New Hampshire public policy.)

Legacy Comments30

This column is so full of factual errors, non sequiturs and unjustified conclusion jumping, that it is difficult to respond. Just to take one of the subjects that Mr. Bosse mangles--the IRS debacle--I doubt that either he or the usual raft of right-wing commenters here really care about the facts. But in case you do check out the article at that contains some actual facts about the subject. Bosse is pathetically off the mark.

So full of factual couldn't name one.

Here's an apparent factual error in the Bosse piece: "They just didn't bother asking any of the liberal groups." According to the Times article Tommy H. linked to: "...their review went beyond conservative groups: more than 400 organizations came under scrutiny, including at least two dozen liberal-leaning ones and some that were seemingly apolitical." This error allows Bosse to leap to the same Faux-powered conclusion as the rest of the regressive blogosphere. Which then itself becomes 'fact' in that blogosphere-- never mind the weak evidence on which it was built. Using the rule of Occam's Razor--that the simplest explanation is usually the right one--the actions by the IRS office were more likely the result of overzealous and overworked staffers hoping to streamline the process of determining which of many groups truly warranted tax-exempt status. Just as their boss, Mr. Miller stated in his testimony.

24 liberal groups out of 400 total groups is 6%. So, based on what you wrote 6% liberal groups and 94% other groups. Do you think that that 6% of liberal groups were there as a smokescreen. Keywords that were used..."patriot", "Constitution", "make American a better place", "tea party", "Israel" and on and on. So, if that is not targeting, I don't know what is.

You are correct Bruce 400 were targeted that were conservative and 2 dozen where liberal. But my question is this. Is it possible that the 2 dozen liberal ones got noticed in the first place because they had names that sounded conservative? The facts are coming out. The theory that the Ohio IRS is 2 rogue lower level employees has also been questioned. Just as the Ohio office was the only one. We are now hearing of more offices like CA and WA that also did the same practice. The New York Times is a joke. Citing them is like me citing Glenn Beck. Both very biased with an ax to grind. I am sure it will take a lot of searching for all 3 of these investigations to get answers. The reason is that the left blocks information. The question remains, that if you have nothing to hide, then info should be forth coming easily. That is not the case with Libya and I am sure the left will do the same with the other two issues. The plan is to stall releasing information with the hope the issue will go away. Throw up another issue to attack your enemies like the gun law, and hope folks will just think Libya is old news and needs to be forgotten.

Bruce, Occan's Razor is great for natural and scientific phenomenon but has little utility with the current far left administration. With all the zealotry (and world ethics) of a Islamic bomber - they would do anything and like that same group - there is little societal taboo to lying - the wrong is in getting caught.

Reply to Carpers down below: What evidence do you have that your math is accurate? You seem to assume that all the other groups queried than the 24 'liberal' ones were conservative, when the article states that some of those on the list were "seemingly apolitical". I haven yet to see a breakdown of that entire list. Until we know more, there is still no evidence this is other than bureaucratic zeal, practicing the same kind of profiling that conservatives laud in other contexts. In this case, they looked at words like 'Tea Party' instead of ethnicity or skin color. In seeking tax-exempt status, these groups also sought the non-disclosure benefits of (4)(c) status. They were seemingly intent on skirting a fine line as to just how politically active they could be You all are getting ahead of yourself in your zeal to see this 'scandal' tied to the White House. As with the Benghazi tragedy, I think you're going to be disappointed. I note in Bosse's column and elsewhere there is little discussion of the Justice Dept supoenas of AP records--a genuine 1st Amendment issue and a seeming overreach by the Obama administration.

The real questions that should be asked of the IRS is What were the result of these investigations? Were any organizations denied tax free status? If so was that denial justified ?

Reply to Mr Diversity below. We will find out tomorrow when Lois Lerner testifies, wont we??? (LOL)

Somehow, no matter what her testimony reveals, it doubt it will make much difference to the tone of certain posters' scribblings.

Reply to Mr Diversity below...and if her testimony reveals absolutely nothing (as in "I plead the 5th") then what?

Nice coverup story from the NY Times, the IRS is confused and overwhelmed. Of course this is the agency which is especially efficient with garnishment of wages and liens on property for late taxes. They are exceedingly efficient in levying fines and figuring out exactly, to the penny what you owe. But they were confused? This was hidden for a year by none other than the NY Times. If this happened under the Bush administration and liberal groups were targeted, there would be no discussion, progressives would be calling for impeachment and it would be on all major networks 24/7.

Yup, the old "It's Not My Job Man" excuse. No surprise there when you have govt and state workers taught to do one thing. They are not encouraged to know the whole procedure in their dept. If they did then govt would be small. Cannot have that, the unions would have an issue. Now the folks that are suppose to be in charge of these depts have no clue. They do not get reports from their managers, the President has to hear on the news because the IRS or Treasury Dept does not tell him, nor does Holder report to him about anything. By all means lets just make our govt bigger so we can have more of this. Besides throwing common sense out the window, we can now add to that the expectation of competence. Imagine telling your boss you did not see this or that in the dept you run. Kinda makes you wonder what they do all day. Looks like they are having a very difficult time with their job descriptions and what they are actually responsible for. These are the folks who run our govt. Lets give them more money in the way of taxes so they can hire more folks who are confused. DAH!

For me Tommy it is the left that do not care about the facts. Instead they accept answers from the folks in charge like this. I did not see that Email requesting more security-Clinton I found out about the IRS from the news-President Obama I do not know the names of the 2 Ohio workers involved-Miller I cannot answer that question because there is an ongoing investigation.- Every head of dept that is questioned at a hearing. Two possibilities here. Either these folks are incrediblly incompetent or they do not want what actually happened revealed.

Tammy, Seriously? Quote the New York Times as an objective data source? Really?

Anyone who thinks the NYTimes is NOT a reliable source of objective news reports is not dealing with reality. You may not like their editorial positions, or the results of their reporting, but as a news gathering organization, the Times is still the newspaper of record for the nation. Those who claim otherwise may be able to cite a particular story that the Times got wrong, or missed or screwed up on. But to make a wholesale statement like yours suggests a level of paranoia and conspiratorial thinking that is considerably removed from reality. Feel free to cite an alternative that in your view does a better job of printing "all the news" than does the Times. (I'd rate the WSJ reporting as a close 2nd.)

This might help:"For example, there’s a 501(c)(4) called Americans for Prosperity (AFP) that was founded by David Koch, one of the billionaire Koch brothers." Notice not ONE example of a union.

Of course there are no unions, they fund the government machine.

Wow, such powers Sen. Shaheen has! Bosse would have us believe that IRS workers in 2010 anticipated letters from Sen. Shaheen in 2012 and that through telepathy she communicated to them that they should ignore plain text of the letters. Oh, and those little differences between a political committee and a 501(c)(4) - political committees have to disclose donors, 501(c)(4)s do not; contributions to political committees are not tax-deductible, contributions to 501(c)(4)s can be deducted as business expenses. One more, by statute, 501(c)(4) groups' activities are required to be exclusively for social welfare. Political committees, well, those are for political activity.

As Shaheens council, I would hope that you can read and understand what Bosse said in his column. Ah, but that would be too generous. "Bosse would have us believe that IRS workers in 2010 anticipated letters from Sen. Shaheen in 2012 and that through telepathy she communicated to them that they should ignore plain text of the letters." How does one come up with such twaddle? No wonder Congress has such a low approval rating, with statements such as that coming from council. Good God.

Please tell me more about this letter

One would wonder if Shaheen gave MS Reardon the go ahead to respond.

No doubt. Anything to distract people and make it go away. I mean, we would not want the Monitor to take on Shaheen as they did Ayotte for something far less important. Oh wait, the Monitor has not reported this and probably won't do so.

Thank-you Grant for Writing about Obama and Shaheen. The Monitor treats those tow with Kid gloves. Question has the Monitor's Cartoonist: Marland the Misogynist - Ever published an Editorial Cartoon critical of Jeanne Shaheen?

To the regular Monitor readers...was this the first time you have heard about Shaheens letter? I think if you read the Monitor as your only source of news, you wouldnt even know Shaheen IS your senator. But welcome to the party..better late than never.

Yes, the Concord Monitor the official White Wash of the Democrat party.

I Thank God that the 1st Amendment Rights of Grant remain available again this is no mistake that recent democrat actions should scare you to take action.....“The progressives have infiltrated every aspect of our lives. It appears we can´t get away from their ideology in our culture, news media, entertainment, education, or government. It so permeates government agencies that doing whatever it takes to advance their agenda is automatic. It is so engrained in their thinking that it is their "go to" response. Everything for the state. The IRS is just the tip of the iceberg. You can follow their agenda right back to Fast &Furious, Benghazi, the AP phone taps, and IRS discrimination. What we see as an affront to liberty and freedom the progressives see as success. We are the only thing standing in the way to their socialist utopia”

You forgot to paste in "it's the democrats fault", don't go changing your tactics now. Now for our daily hypocrisy check. So according to the spokesman of the right, just how do you reconcile the AP taps and your belief that all the media is a leftist tool. Why would the left wire tap the left? A bit to convenient for me, eh?

"The left abandons the First Amendment"...Really? When did they embrace it???????????

best line of the week

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