Michael Gaynor
Why did the Obama administration target Catherine Engelbrecht personally?
By Michael Gaynor
June 3, 2013

True the Vote was on the Team Obama radar screen even before Election Day 2010 and since things did not go well at the polls for Team Obama that year, Catherine was a tempting target.

Larry Bell, author of "Why You Should Care That The U.S. Government Has Targeted Catherine Engelbrecht And Her Organizations" (www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/05/30/why-you-should-care-that-the-u-s-government-has-targeted-catherine-engelbrecht-and-her-organizations/) is right: "The Obama administration obviously considers Catherine Engelbrecht, founder of two public service organizations, 'King Street Patriots' and 'True the Vote,' to be a very dangerous person" and Catherine "apparently gained that ominous distinction soon after filing to obtain [still not granted] tax-exempt IRS status for King Street Patriots in July 2010...."

The key question that needs to be answered now is...WHY WAS CATHERINE TARGETED PERSONALLY?

Bell asked: "Was there anything in particular that you think may have triggered that special attention?"

Catherine answered:

"We believe that much of it had ultimately had to do with True the Vote activities involving our 'Verify the Recall' project to ensure that petition-gathering connected with actions in Wisconsin to remove Governor Scott Walker were following the rules. This was obviously seen as a threat by liberal organizations and unions bent upon recalling him.

"It's important to understand that our purpose and actions in this project were directed one hundred percent to ensuring fairness in the established legal process, not to engage in political advocacy for Governor Walker. True the Vote is a non-partisan organization and will work with any organization, liberal or conservative, that shares our priority of election integrity."

The effort to recall Governor Walker officially began on November 15, 2011, however. It may explain why Catherine's family business was targeted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, but it does not explain why the FBI Domestic Terrorism Bureau suddenly contacted King Street Patriots in December 2010 and the Internal Revenue Service suddenly audited Catherine, her husband and their family business in January 2011, since that contact and audit predated the recall campaign against Governor Walker by nearly a year.

Bell summarized the compelling evidence for his conclusion that Catherine was targeted this way: "Catherine's life has changed dramatically since submitting those applications. The organization has been questioned by the FBI on numerous occasions; she has had her personal tax returns audited by the IRS; and has also had her small manufacturing business tax returns audited by the IRS. In addition, her business has been subjected to two unscheduled audits by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, and Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) and has undergone another unscheduled business audit by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)."

Courageous Catherine described her outrageous experience this way: "This was certainly a very new, unpleasant and financially draining experience. Direct costs for IRS responses alone amounted to nearly one hundred thousand dollars...time and expenses for collecting and putting together mounds of materials in response to questions, accounting costs, and attorney charges. These expenses have and are placing a big burden on our family and business finances. The government has no such budget limitations, thanks to taxpayers such as us. "Delays in granting tax-exempt status to our organizations are imposing even larger monetary penalties in the form of lost opportunity costs which may well amount to millions of dollars. This is resulting because many large donor organizations that have intended to contribute money to our programs cannot do so until we are approved. Funding that would have otherwise been available to support program promotion, travel, technology development and other expenses, is being left on the table. In light of evidence that hundreds of other conservative organizations have been singled out for the same treatment, and just in advance of a hotly-contested presidential election race, it strains logic to imagine this wasn't entirely intentional.

"In fact, not only were we singled out for prejudicial treatment...we were featured discrimination targets. Other organizations have informed us that IRS questions submitted to them specifically asked if they were in contact with King Street Patriots and True the Vote. Examples include the Northeast Tarrant County Tea Party and the Clear Lake Tea Party."

It is appalling, but not unimaginable, that during the Obama Administration the IRS would process tax exemption applications by organizations that include the words "Tea Party" or "Patriots" in their names or seek to promote election integrity very slowly and subject them to excessive scrutiny and cost.

To date, no comparable personal harassment of anyone else who dared to found an organization and file for tax exempt status for that organization has been reported.

Catherine's participation in the political process was essentially limited to voting until 2009.

As Catherine told Bell:

"Up until the past few years I hadn't been involved in political activities at all. My husband and I were busy running our small precision parts manufacturing business in Rosenberg, Texas .... But then I began to become more and more disturbed witnessing politicians making statements and decisions that stood in stark contrast to fundamental American ideals: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This prompted me to get involved in the Tea Party movement with others that share the same concerns. After attending rallies, I became motivated to see if more might be done to make a difference....

"In 2009 I volunteered to serve as a polling place alternate judge for Fort Bend County. That was a well- managed system, although there was a need for many more volunteers. However this sort of honest operation wasn't the case I began to hear about during meetings with officials from polling stations across the much larger Harris County. The gross irregularities many of them reported were very similar. In numerous reports people showed up at polls with multiple voter registration cards. In other prevalent instances, individuals were 'delivered' to the polls telling workers they didn't remember who they 'were supposed to vote for.' They were then taken into booths by judges who directly 'reminded' them who to vote for.

"The offensive and shocking horror stories prompted me to create the King Street Patriots as an umbrella organization to support and defend American exceptionalism, constitutional governance and civic duty. True the Vote was founded for the specific purpose of working to ensure election integrity as a voter's rights organization. Those rights apply equally to all legal voters, regardless of party or candidate preference."

What more did Catherine do that resulted in what Bell called a dramatic change in her life since she submitted tax exemption applications on behalf of True the Vote and King Street Patriots?

Catherine invited ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief to come to Houston, Texas and to address a King Street Patriots meeting on September 26, 2010, put the address on You Tube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrhxUCTq0xk) and included MonCrief on True the Vote's advisory board with Justice Department whistleblower J. Christian Adams and election expert Hans von Spakovsky.

That's not justification for governmental harassment of Catherine, of course, but it seems to explain a lot.

True the Vote was on the Team Obama radar screen even before Election Day 2010 and since things did not go well at the polls for Team Obama that year, Catherine was a tempting target.

Who had an interest in punishing and trying to intimidate Catherine and was in a position to prompt federal government agencies to harass her?

Stated otherwise, who could have decided that Catherine and her True the Vote organization potentially were too dangerous to Team Obama not to suppress AND then launched a war, using various agencies of the federal government as weapons, not only on that organization, but also on the woman threatening the Team Obama election strategy by promoting voting integrity?

It's an important question, especially now that it is no longer disputed that the Internal Revenue Service targeted "conservative" organizations seeking tax exempt status, including Catherine's True the Vote and King Street Patriots!

Perhaps an October 2012 Obama Biden memorandum to Interested Parties from Robert F. Bauer, then General Counsel, Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee represented to be an "Update on Voter Misinformation Activities and Efforts to Protect the Vote" available online at http://secure.assets.bostatic.com/pdfs/BauerMemo/BauerMemo.pdf contains clues.

In the first paragraph Bauer charged that there was a "Republican assault on voting rights....with deep roots in the party's history and politics" led by the Republican National Committee "aided by organizations closely associated with the party and its goals, such as True the Vote." True the Vote is demonized in the six-page, single-spaced memorandum and, according to Bauer, it was "assisting the effort [to disrupt] the voter registration process" by purporting to train and deploy to polling places around the country 'poll watchers' on the watch for 'fraud'...." Section IV of the memorandum is devoted to True the Vote and begins, "Since the 2010-midterm elections, Texas-based True the Vote (TTV) has been an outspoken member of the voter fraud community and is the social group focused on ending 'vote fraud.' It is the first group since the Karl Rove inspired American Center for Voting Rights was discovered to be a Republican front in 2007."

What was Bauer doing before and after the 2010-midterm elections?

He was President Obama's general counsel. He was appointed on January 3, 2010. Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) opined at the time that Bauer was "perfectly positioned to be tasked with erasing the tracks between Obama and ACORN" when fallout arising from an ACORN investigation then underway in Louisiana was foreseeable. King also stated: "Bob Bauer has a public record of defending Barack Obama's relationship with ACORN" and his hiring "appears to be a tactical maneuver to strategically defend the White House exactly one week after Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell raided ACORN's national headquarters in New Orleans and seized paper records and computer hard drives that may lead to the White House." Bauer stayed until June 30, 2011, and then returned to private practice to again represent President Obama's election team and the Democratic National Committee. President Obama publicly described Bauer as "a critical member of the White House team" who would "continue to be one of [his] close advisers."

Catherine not only founded and led True the Vote when it became, in Bauer's words, "an outspoken member of the voter fraud community and...the social group focused on ending 'vote fraud,'" but allied with ACORN whistleblower Anita MonCrief, who had worked for Project Vote, an ACORN family member that never even renamed itself after ACORN filed for bankruptcy at the time of the 2010 election.

She IS dangerous to Team Obama.

Even before Election Day 2010, Obama supporter Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Texas, was horrified that Catherine had acted "to ensure election integrity."

On October 28, 2010, Congressperson Lee wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder as follows:

"I write to bring to your attention several disturbing instances of voter intimidation that have taken place in Houston, Texas, and in the 18th Congressional district which I represent. This week alone, there have been at least fifteen reports of abuse of voter rights throughout the city of Houston. As a senior Member of the House Judiciary Committee, I urge you to order an immediate investigation into these incidents, and call for the Department of Justice to send poll monitors to Harris County immediately to ensure a safe and neutral voting environment during the November 2 election.

"Although there are usually a few isolated occurrences of voter intimidation during the election season, the incidents that took place at polling stations earlier this week appeared to be both organized and systematic. Poll watchers have been reportedly over-stepping the boundaries between observing and interacting in the democratic process by hovering directly behind voters as they entered their votes. The group thought to be behind these acts is known as the King Street Patriots, reportedly tied to some Tea Party activists. The King Street Patriots have deployed poll watchers around the city as they implement their 'True the Vote' campaign.

"Many of these incidents of voter intimidation have been occurring in predominately minority neighborhoods and have been directed at African-Americans and Latinos. It is unconscionable to think that anyone would deliberately employ the use of such forceful and intimidating tactics in 2010 to undermine the fundamental, Constitutional right to vote. However, such conduct has regrettably occurred in Houston, and I urge you to take appropriate action to ensure that it does not recur. As the Nation's chief law enforcement officer, I know you are as concerned as I am about this troubling situation. I know you will give this matter your immediate attention and ensure that action is taken promptly to prevent any further abuses of voter rights. I eagerly await your response."

Thereafter, the FBI Domestic Terrorism Unit made inquiries to the King Street Patriots in December 2010, January 2011, May 2011, June 2011, November 2011 and December 2011, and in January 2011 Catherine and her husband learned that for the first time the IRS would audit their personal income tax returns and their family business tax returns. Unsurprisingly, no terrorists were found among the King Street Patriots and the IRS eventually paid refunds to Catherine and her husband.

After the Wisconsin recall failed, the pressure on Catherine was ratcheted up. In February 2012 and April 2013 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms performed time-consuming, but fruitless unscheduled audits on Catherine's family business. In July 2012 the Occupational Safety and Health Administration performed an unscheduled audit on the family business and in November 2012 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality did the same.

Catherine explained: "OSHA conducted its first-ever unscheduled audit of our facilities in July 2012. After the inspector minutely examined our premises and talked with our managerial staff and employees, she found only a couple of small problems...the wrong type of safety glasses on an employee...the wrong type of seat belt on a forklift. And although the inspector complimented us on a tightly-run shop, we later got slapped with a $25,000 fine. That represented quite a lot of money for our small business. We eventually negotiated it down to $17,000, but that was still a lot. It meant that instead of giving an employee a raise or hiring another worker, we wrote a check to the government."

As to the processing of the True the Vote and King Street Patriots tax exemption applications, the IRS asked shockingly intrusive questions.

Catherine told Bell: "They asked more than 300 questions over four rounds of exchanges, and many were truly amazing. For example, they wanted to know every Facebook post and Tweet I had ever written, what groups I had spoken to and what I said, whether I had ever sought public office or ever intended to...it was endless. They also wanted to know backgrounds of our board members, and who all of our King Street Patriot speakers were. In response we submitted thousands of pages of answers. Some of those individual submissions have involved 500 pages – 600 pages – and that has required an enormous amount of time." Catherine's good deeds certainly have not gone unpunished, but Catherine chose to fight back.

Catherine: "In our case we faced a difficult decision regarding whether or not to challenge a powerful government establishment. We have now done so because demanding government lawfulness and accountability is essential for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness our forefathers so wisely cast in the foundation of our great republic. It is also important to establish a precedent for other private individuals and small organizations that fall victim to unjust acts on the part of out-of-control government entities and agents, urging them to stand up...stand together...to demand better service."


© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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