A Better St. Louis. Powered by Journalism.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Print
  • Email

McCaskill, Durbin issue scathing rebuke of IRS scrutiny

In Region

2:40 pm on Mon, 05.13.13

Two Democratic U.S. senators condemned the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups for stricter review as "un-American" and "absolutely unacceptable."

From left, U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, talk to reporters at the Thomas Eagleton Courthouse in St. Louis. Durbin and McCaskill sharply condemned IRS profiling of conservative groups applying for non-profit status.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Beacon
From left, U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, talk to reporters at the Thomas Eagleton Courthouse in St. Louis. Durbin and McCaskill sharply condemned IRS giving extra scrutiny to conservative groups applying for nonprofit status.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill added that high-ranking IRS officials should be fired if they knew what was happening.

Late last week, the Internal Revenue Service acknowledged tougher scrutiny of conservative groups applying for nonprofit status. IRS official Lois Lerner told reporters last Friday that dozens upon dozens of groups were singled out because they had "tea party" or "patriot" in their names. Further reports indicate the practice went back to 2011.

After a ceremony honoring federal law enforcement officials at the Eagleton Federal Court House, both McCaskill, D-Mo., and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, issued strong condemnations of the agency's actions. Durbin told reporters, "It is absolutely unacceptable to single out any political group -- right, left or center -- and say we're going to target them.

"That is unthinkable," Durbin said. "That goes back to some of the worst days of the Richard Nixon administration. And I'm glad this administration stepped up and said we've made a mistake, we apologize and we'll do things to correct it."

U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., discuss the IRS controversy.

McCaskill told reporters "somebody should be fired" over the agency's actions, adding that "it should not just be some line employee."

"Anybody who's in a position of responsibility that knew that this very un-American activity was going on should be fired," McCaskill said. "We see this in law enforcement. You can't pick out who you're going to apply the law to based on who they are, who they know or what they believe. Not in America.

"So I'm very hopeful that both sides of the aisle will come together here and make sure that the focus is on holding people responsible who may have actually done that," she added.

U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, did not comment during the press availability.

President Barack Obama called the situation on Monday "outrageous" and vowed to hold the agency accountable. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a statement that he was "outraged that the IRS played politics and wrongfully targeted conservative organizations during the election cycle." 

"I join my colleagues in calling on the Obama administration to conduct a transparent review and ensure this type of behavior is not tolerated moving forward and Americans’ first amendment rights are protected,” Blunt said.

Durbin, McCaskill on Benghazi

Durbin and McCaskill also offered their take on the continuing controversy over the Obama's administration's account of an attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

Durbin and McCaskill sound off on the Benghazi controversy.

The Obama administration  initially, and wrongly, characterized the attack as a spontaneous response to a YouTube video, not a terrorist attack. The administration found itself on the defensive last week after e-mails surfaced showing the White House was more involved in revising talking points about the attack than originally acknowledged.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he would like to interview under oath former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and retired Admiral Mike Mullen. Both led an investigation examining last year's attacks, which killed four Americans. At a press conference today, Obama dismissed increasing Republican scrutiny as a "sideshow."

Both McCaskill and Durbin told reporters that the focus is drifting away from protecting embassies and preventing a similar situation from occurring again.

"Was this handled right? Of course not," McCaskill said. "We lost American lives. It was not handled right. But the focus now has to be on fixing it so that we never have people in dangerous places on behalf of the American public in that kind of danger. The way that they're trying to politicize that does very little to solve this problem and turns it into a political three-ring circus. And that is what's most disappointing about this."

She contended that the increased scrutiny may be more intent on damaging former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's future political prospects.

"They see a shiny object," McCaskill said. "And they want to be over there and make this all about politics and Secretary Clinton. Because they're all afraid of her running for president. And what we need to do is set aside the politics, fix this so we never lose lives like this again."

McCaskill also took issue with the idea that the military didn't do enough to respond to the attacks.

"I don't think anybody believes that the military intentionally didn't want to protect these people," McCaskill said. "And that's how far they're going with some of these allegations. They're actually impugning our military that somehow they didn't want to protect American life. And on behalf of all the military, I find that offensive."

Durbin expressed similar sentiments as McCaskill.

"Sen. McCaskill and I and all of the senators were invited to a classified briefing after Amb. Pickering and Adm. Mullen finished their comprehensive investigation," Durbin said. "And they went through by chapter and verse the things we could improve. They gave them to the State Department and the CIA, and the Obama administration accepted them. They said 'no excuses -- we're going to make these changes so that our consulates and diplomats will be safer in the future.'

"It's a tragedy to lose four Americans," he added. "Under the previous president, we lost 64 diplomats who were killed in embassies. We've got to learn from these bitter life lessons and get these places safer." 

Renewed debate on background checks?

Both McCaskill and Durbin said they hoped Congress would once again take up legislation bolstering background checks for firearms purchases. 

The Senate earlier this year considered an amendment put forward a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks, but it failed to get the 60 votes necessary.

Asked whether they felt that issue would be brought back up, McCaskill said: "I think most Missourians really think that terrorists that come to gun shows should have to have a background check.

"That's what this is about," McCaskill said. "Are we going to say in America if you're a terrorist, you can go online or go to a gun show and get any weaponry you want? So, I hope it does come back and we can vote again. We have the majority of the Senate in favor of it. I know the majority of our country is in favor of it. So obviously in a democracy we keep working at it."

These Congressional Badges of Bravery were presented to federal law enforcement officials that help apprehend a fugitive in St. Louis. Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry was shot during the operation and eventually died.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Beacon
These congressional badges of bravery were presented to federal law enforcement officials that helped apprehend a fugitive in St. Louis. Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry was shot during the operation and eventually died.

Before talking with reporters, Durbin, McCaskill and Enyart participated in a ceremony presenting the congressional badge of bravery to federal law enforcement officials who helped apprehend an armed fugitive in St. Louis.

One of those honored was Deputy U.S. Marshal John Perry, one of two people shot during an attempt to arrest Carlos Boles. He later died of those injuries.

"Today we honored these marshals, one of whom gave his life when a convicted felon had a gun and set out to kill these brave men," Durbin said. "I don't know if there's anything in our law that could have stopped it. But we have to do everything humanly possible to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and mentally unstable people.

"I think sportsmen and hunters agree: They want to protect their Second Amendment rights," he added. "They don't want to protect a convicted felon who's trying to buy a gun over the internet or at a gun show."

In addition to honoring Perry, other people who received the congressional badge included Supervisory Deputy U.S. Marshal Patrick James, Deputy U.S. Marshal Theodore Abegg, Deputy U.S. Marshal Travis Franke, Deputy U.S. Marshal Nicholas Garrett and Deputy U.S. Marshal Jeremy Wyatt.

Before the badges were delivered, Enyart -- who served as the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard before being elected to Congress last year -- said that the ceremony was "about the service of the front line soldiers battling crime and protecting us."

"Just as soldiers, airmen and Marines protect us, without the effort, without the work, without the blood, sweat, toil and tears of the police officers who every day go forth to protect us, we would not have the society that we have today," Enyart said. 

No Comments

Join The Beacon

When you register with the Beacon, you can save your searches as news alerts, rsvp for events, manage your donations and receive news and updates from the Beacon team.

Register Now

Already a Member

Getting around the new site

Take a look at our tutorials to help you get the hang of the new site.

Most Discussed Articles By Beacon Members

Conference of American nuns will mull response to Vatican charges

In Nation

7:55 am on Fri, 08.03.12

Meeting in St. Louis next week, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious will have its first opportunity as an assembled group to consider what to do after the Vatican issued a mandate for change this spring. It calls on the conference to reorganize and more strictly observe church teachings.

The 'free' Zoo

In Commentary

7:51 am on Tue, 05.22.12

When a family of four goes to the St. Louis Zoo, they can be forgiven for not knowing it will cost them $60, $72 if they park. If they can't pay, the alternative is to tell the kids they can't do what kids do at the zoo.

Featured Articles

House sends Boeing incentive bill to Nixon

In Economy

12:55 pm on Fri, 12.06.13

The Missouri House easily passed legislation aimed at attracting production of the 777x, a move that wraps up a legislative special session that saw little suspense and few surprises. The bill now goes to Gov. Jay Nixon, who has strongly supported the legislation.

Gandhi inspired Mandela on South Africa's 'Long Road to Freedom'

In World

10:10 am on Fri, 12.06.13

Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, was a towering moral figure of the 20th century -- along with Mahatma Gandhi. It was no coincidence that Gandhi and Mandela, whose paths never crossed directly, both embarked on their campaigns against discrimination in South Africa. It was when Mandela won election as South Africa’s first black president that Gandhi's influence became apparent.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Encore: Dead before death

In Performing Arts

12:58 am on Fri, 12.06.13

For years , the author was certain he would never come to appreciate The Grateful Dead, let alone be a Deadhead. But little by little, he's come around. He talks about his conversion and relates a real evolution: by a musician who went on to play with the Schwag, a Dead cover band.

Featured Articles

Schlichter honored with St. Louis Award

In Region

4:57 pm on Tue, 12.03.13

The attorney has founded Arch Grants, which brings together nonprofit philanthropy and commercially viable opportunitiesto fund new business startups, and Mentor St. Louis, which finds adult mentors for elementary students in the St. Louis Public School System. He was the driving force behind the state's historic tax credit program.

BioGenerator sets open house to celebrate new digs for entrepreneurs-in-residence

In InnovationSTL

12:29 pm on Tue, 11.12.13

BioSTL's BioGenerator organization is on the move as its entrepreneurs-in-residence find a new home in 4,300 square feet of office and conference space in an old automobile factory. The blossoming program, which helps BioGenerator's portfolio companies to get off the ground, continues to pay dividends within the growing biotech community.

Ambassadors aim to soften rough landing for St. Louis immigrants

In InnovationSTL

6:34 am on Fri, 11.08.13

The St. Louis Mosaic Project is set to hold an orientation for its new ambassadors -- dozens of foreign and native-born volunteers who aim to help make the community a more welcoming place for those from other nations. Participants will be expected to do everything from visiting local restaurants serving international cuisine to having dinner with an immigrant to the area.

Recent Articles

More Articles

Innovation and entrepreneurial activity are on the rise in St. Louis, especially in bioscience, technology and alternative energy. The Beacon's InnovationSTL section focuses on the people who are part of this wave, what they're doing and how this is shaping our future. To many St. Louisans, this wave is not yet visible. InnovationSTL aims to change that. We welcome you to share your knowledge, learn more about this vibrant trend and discuss its impact.

Featured Articles

Regina Carter brings jazz and therapy to Children's Hospital

6:36 am on Mon, 12.09.13

One night, the violinist is taking bows before a standing ovation at Jazz at the Bistro. The next afternoon, some of her audience may have trouble standing, but the kids in the playroom at Children's Hospital were no less appreciative. “Jazz is medicine personified," according to a doctor who brings in the jazz musicians.

Featured Articles

Featured Events:

More About The Beacon Home