Report: EPA followed double standard for conservative groups too?

Don’t worry. The media will be all over this two years from now, when the head of the EPA finally comes clean.

Time to add one more to the scandal scorecard?

FOIA is clear that public interest groups who, by trade, obtain and broadly disseminate “government” information to the public are the intended beneficiaries of its provision for waiving fees. EPA routinely grants such fee waivers to its favored left-wing groups who demand a more intrusive and powerful EPA, but systematically denies waivers for groups on the right, according to research compiled by CEI Senior Fellow Christopher Horner, author of “The Liberal War on Transparency.”

In a review of letters granting or denying fee waivers granted at the “initial determination” stage from January 2012 to this Spring, Horner found green groups, such as the National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and EarthJustice, had their fees waived in 75 out of 82 cases. Meanwhile, EPA effectively or expressly denied Horner’s request for fee waivers in 14 of 15 FOIA requests over this same time.1

Moreover, every denial Horner appealed was overturned. “That these denials are ritually overturned on appeal, not after I presented any new evidence or made any new point, but simply restated what was a detailed and heavily sourced legal document to begin with, reaffirms the illegitimacy of these hurdles EPA places in the way of those who cause it problems.” Horner said. “EPA’s practice is to take care of its friends and impose ridiculous obstacles to deny problematic parties’ requests for information.”

Green groups had their FOIA fees waived 92 percent of the time, CEI had its waiver requests denied 93 percent of the time. Does that sound familiar? Per Lachlan Markay, it should: Last year, the Daily Caller reported that the FCC had an odd habit of rejecting conservative groups’ FOIA requests while granting similar requests made by pro-net neutrality groups. At Reason, Mike Riggs remembers yet another example, of DHS routing FOIA requests through political appointees for a year beginning in 2009 (“If the request came from Congress, career employees were expected to alert political appointees to the party affiliation of the office making the request”) before questions about the practice led them to discontinue it.

So much for freedom of information. Meanwhile, according to Brandon Darby, at least one conservative group targeted by the IRS for special scrutiny in its 501(c)(4) application suddenly started getting attention from other federal agencies too. That’s the next question in this clusterfark: Did the IRS share information with other arms of the government? If they’d leak to a news outlet, why wouldn’t they leak to the FBI?

True the Vote, a Houston-based nonprofit which focuses on election integrity issues, was formed by Catherine Engelbrecht and her King Street Patriots Tea Party group. True the Vote applied to the IRS for their 501(c3) non-profit status in July 2010, and almost immediately their problems began.

Within two years, multiple federal agencies, along with an EPA-affiliated Texas state agency, began auditing True the Vote and its founders, visiting their group, their businesses, and asking questions of people who knew them. The IRS was not the only governmental agency involved…

Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family’s firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership–which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.”

Worth a look from the press? Probably not, no.

Let me speak a language here that Obama can understand: I want to know what the “permission structure” was for the IRS and EPA in creating double standards for conservative groups. Remember when O used that term at his presser last week to explain how he was going to get Republicans to cooperate with him? I’m more interested in the “permission structure” by which federal agencies start singling out the president’s ideological opponents for special scrutiny, whether or not he’s handing down direct orders. Ross Douthat had a theory about that. Let’s hear more.