Conservatives Cry Foul Over Obama Intimidation of Critics

Image: Conservatives Cry Foul Over Obama Intimidation of Critics Bob and Maureen McDonnell, left, and Dinesh D'Souza

Saturday, 25 Jan 2014 10:49 PM

By Andrea Billups

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Conservatives are decrying what they describe as the heavy hand of the Obama administration using the power of the government to silence and intimidate people and groups on the right.

"It sure looks like a message is being sent," says John Fund, national affairs columnist for National Review Online. "If you're trying to intimidate political opponents and encourage them not to get involved in politics, this is a very effective set of practices."

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In recent days, the federal government has gone after several high-profile conservatives. In Virginia, former Gov. Bob McDonnell was indicted along with his wife over gifts and loans he allegedly received from a political donor in exchange for influence.

In New York, filmmaker and author Dinesh D'Souza, whose work has criticized Obama, faces indictment for alleged election fraud in a case over his political contributions to a friend and U.S. Senate candidate.

The IRS, which was already under fire for targeting tea party groups seeking tax-exempt status, recently came looking into the nonprofit activities of a group of elite Hollywood conservatives, Friends of Abe.

The timing for such engagement by the administration seems suspect, Fund told Newsmax.

"The tea parties were very active in 2010 but much less in 2012 because many of them had roadblocks put up in front of them… They had their non-profit statuses delayed. Now, as we are heading into 2014 elections, we see the same thing happening all over again, with slightly different tactics and highly visible people put under the microscope," Fund said.

While Fund said, "I'm not accusing anyone of anything," he also speculated the administration's motive.

"One would certainly have to be suspicious of the timing of this just about the same time as people are deciding on becoming active in politics in an election year. If you were to send a signal, you'd want to send them several months before the election. If this were political, you'd want to dissuade people from getting involved in politics this year," Fund said.

In the D'Souza case, Greg Molen, D'Souza's co-producer on his scathing Obama film, "2016," was quick to defend his creative partner.

"In America, we have a long tradition of not doing what is commonly done in too many other countries — criminalizing dissent through the selective enforcement of the law. In light of recent events and the way the IRS has been used to stifle dissent, this arrest should send shivers down the spines of all freedom-loving Americans," Molen told the Hollywood Reporter.

Of McDonnell and D'Souza, Fund said, "I think it's pretty clear they did something wrong. But the real question is the high-profile investigations. Normally, these things, they get handled at the state level, under state laws, or though the Federal Election Commission. For the DOJ to step in here directly is unusual.

"What is also unusual is in most of these cases, there would be a quick plea agreement or a civil fine — it wouldn't go to criminal behavior," Fund said.

The administration's actions have some crying foul over what they say is clearly a concerted political attack on critics and opponents.

In the Friends case, for example, the New York Times reported Wednesday that the federal tax officials sought "a 10-point request for detailed information" from the group, specifically its meetings with GOP leaders like Herman Cain, former Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, and Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. The group, whose membership is kept secret in left-leaning Hollywood, is seeking tax-exempt status.

"It's obvious the left is targeting the right very hard, while ignoring the bigger, more nefarious criminal on their side," says Republican political analyst Cheri Jacobus.

"The heavy hand of so-called 'justice' seems to only come down on conservatives, while ignoring the left's — and chiefly President Obama's — role in the IRS scandal, Fast and Furious, the big Obamacare lies and the deadly Benghazi actions," Jacobus told Newsmax.

Web pundit Matt Drudge was more blunt: "Holder unleashing the dogs," Drudge wrote on his Twitter account Thursday, noting in another tweet that Attorney General Eric Holder along with the FBI is now seeking to investigate News Corp. and its outspoken head Rupert Murdoch, in addition to others who have criticized the administration.

Cleta Mitchell, a Washington, D.C., attorney who has represented tea party groups and conservative organizations targeted by the IRS for investigation, said Friday that many people are now afraid to speak up against government pressure.

It represents a new climate in government — unlike any she has seen in her decades working in Washington.

"I think it's like living in the former Soviet Union with these people doing everything they possibly can to try to silence people who disagree with them and to try to make it impossible to citizen groups to try to hold elected officials accountable," Mitchell told Newsmax. "It's quite dreadful. I've never seen anything like this."

Mitchell says she started noticing a change in the climate inside the IRS in 2009 and 2010. "They were just not processing the applications" for conservative groups.

Mitchell took her concerns to Congress in 2012 and subsequently sued the IRS on behalf of two clients. She remains involved in efforts aimed at stopping newly proposed regulations introduced that would cut off grass roots organizations trying to become involved in the political process.

"They are all doing this in plain sight, counting on the fact that the mainstream media won't report on them," Mitchell said.

The end result may be that some will be intimidated but she thinks many people of conscience will speak out, comparing them to the early Christian church whose persecuted members went underground in the catacombs to share the message of Jesus.

"If we have to go underground and to try to express our views as Americans, I think people will continue to do that," she said. "It is a pretty sad day when you have the government trying to dissuade the American people from speaking up."

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