Politics

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While IRS Targeted Tea Party, White House ‘Censored’ ThinkProgress Criticism

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File this under ‘another story that would be blaring in the headlines if it had happened under a Republican.’ Even as Lois Lerner continues to obstruct the investigation into the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups, a former  writer at a leftist tax-exempt group has revealed how the group changed the focus of their activities after being “berated” by the White House, which violates the IRS code for such organizations.

Zaid Jilani describes in a Tumblr post entitled “How Working in Washington Taught Me We’re All A Little Like RT America” where the White House “berated” Think Progress, the official blog of the tax-exempt “charity” Center for American Progress:

I worked with our art and design team at CAP to put together a chart showing that Obama’s supposed “withdrawal” plan from Afghanistan would leave more troops in the country than when he began his presidency.

 

The post was one of the most successful things I had ever written to that point. It was featured by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell and the Congressional Progressive Caucus used it in their briefings to criticize Obama’s plan. I felt great… But then phone calls from the White House started pouring in, berating my bosses for being critical of Obama on this policy.

For 501(c)(3) organizations to remain tax-exempt (this is the exact same status Tea Party groups were seeking when harassed by the IRS), they must not advocate, “to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.” [Update: We have been informed that ThinkProgress operates under the 501(c)(4) sister organization Center for American Progress Action Fund, which allows for some political advocacy.] Here’s what Zaid said happened at the Think Progress offices after the White House phone calls:

Soon afterwards all of us ThinkProgress national security bloggers were called into a meeting with CAP senior staff and basically berated for opposing the Afghan war and creating daylight between us and Obama. It confused me a lot because on the one hand, CAP was advertising to donors that it opposed the Afghan war — in our “Progressive Party,” the annual fundraising party we do with both Big Name Progressive Donors and corporate lobbyists (in the same room!) we even advertised that we wanted to end the war in Afghanistan.

 

But what that meeting with CAP senior staff showed me was that they viewed being closer to Obama and aligning with his policy as more important than demonstrating progressive principle, if that meant breaking with Obama.

Incredibly, this has hardly been reported even in the right-wing media sphere where the IRS scandal continues to hang over Obama. Even as liberal reporters are praising Liz Wahl for walking out on the propaganda machine of Russia Today over being pressured to do the exact same thing Think Progress was bullied into doing here for Obama.

Now we know what “fundamentally transforming” America meant.

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[Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the Obama administration’s action in this matter were illegal. We have corrected the mistake, and regret the error.]