Briefly Noted: March 2014

Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS’s tax-exempt division, orchestrated a crackdown on Tea Party and conservative groups and then attempted to scapegoat those nonprofits during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, blaming them for the harsh treatment they received at her instigation, according to an official report released last month by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Many questions remain, including the identities of others at the IRS and elsewhere who may have known about key events and decisions she undertook,” the report stated. “Americans, and particularly those Americans who faced mistreatment at the hands of the IRS, deserve the full documented truth that both Lois Lerner and the IRS have withheld from them.” President Obama has said that there was not even “a smidgen of corruption” in the IRS affair.

After Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai revealed that the Obama administration was planning to do a study and “send researchers to grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run,” People for the American Way’s “Right Wing Watch” blog shrugged off civil libertarians’ concerns about the disturbing plan. On Feb. 20, PfAW blogger Kyle Mantyla tried to spin the story by claiming that the FCC was “not going to be stationing agents in local news stations all over the country in order to monitor their reporting, as the Right has been frantically proclaiming.” But after a fierce backlash, the very next day an FCC spokeswoman said the agency was withdrawing the plan after its chairman determined “that survey questions in the study directed toward media outlet managers, news directors, and reporters overstepped the bounds of what is required.” She added, “Any subsequent market studies conducted by the FCC, if determined necessary, will not seek participation from or include questions for media owners, news directors or reporters.”

Passing your bucks: At least six states and several local governments are signing up prison inmates for health insurance via Obamacare exchanges after the National Association of Counties (NACo) began encouraging counties to shift some prisoner healthcare expenses onto federal taxpayers, Newsmax reports. Convicted prisoners under sentence may not be covered under the Obamacare law, but inmates awaiting trial can be signed up on the healthcare exchanges under a provision in the Affordable Care Act that expanded eligibility for Medicaid. To take advantage of the looser Medicaid sign-up rules, NACo put together a “how to” guide two years ago, which encourages counties to apply for Obamacare for prisoners who are in pretrial detention.

Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, a frequent teller of tall tales, claims she was detained and physically abused last month by Egyptian authorities when she flew into Cairo’s airport on her way to an anti-Israel rally in Gaza. Benjamin was traveling to Egypt for a meeting with international delegates before a scheduled trip to Gaza for what Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” described innocuously as a “women’s conference.” When talking to Goodman, Benjamin left out the fact that her pro-Islamist activities in recent years rendered her persona non grata in Egypt. Benjamin claimed her jailers broke her arm before deporting her to Turkey, but there appears to be no independent confirmation of the injury.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed SB 1062, an innocuous religious freedom bill, after left-wing activists mischaracterized it as anti-gay. The vetoed bill would have given some protection against lawsuits to those who refuse on religious grounds to provide services. In other words, it would have made it more difficult for activists to successfully sue service providers for refusing to make cakes for same-sex weddings or to photograph such ceremonies. The veto “marks a sad day for Arizonans who cherish and understand religious liberty,” said Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy. “When the force of government compels one to speak or act contrary to their conscience, the government injures not only the dignity of the afflicted, but the dignity of our society as a whole.” Gov. Brewer recently announced she would not run for another term.

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