Archives for October 2015

Weekly Rundown 10-30-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

Daily CallerThe Daily Caller Sues The State Department For A Variety Of Clinton Email Records

Cause of Action is representing The Daily Caller in a lawsuit over five Freedom of Information Act requests that have gone ignored by the State Department.  Our suit states “Defendant has dragged its feet, refused to provide substantive updates on the status of the requests, and, through its delay, prevented Plaintiff’s access to the requested records and effectively denied it expedited processing,”

“The material being sought here is not complicated to understand yet, for whatever reason the State Department has failed to process these FOIA requests in a timely manner, as required by law.  Whether requests have come from big news agencies or organizations like mine, this State Department has repeatedly shown an inability to produce basic information regarding the emails belonging to the former Secretary of State,” said Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein.

In Other News:

Watchdog.orgDouble-dose of EPA regulations will make your bank account scream

According to a white paper by the Independence Institute the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan will be billions higher in cost for power and gas.  The research concluded that by 2020 the cost of electricity and gas in a given household will go up an average of $680.00.  All of this cost will result in no environmental change, as admitted by Gina McCarthy, current EPA administrator.

Daily SignalLois Lerner Won’t Be Facing Criminal Charges. Here Are the Problems With the ‘Investigation’ That Cleared Her.

Although the Department of Justice has decided to end its investigation into Lois Lerner and her email scandal they have failed to erase all doubt.  In the letter the DOJ sent to the House of Representatives they explain the results of their investigation, but fail to determine criteria for which organizations needed closer watching, among other unresolved issues.

The HillFive states sue over EPA’s ozone

The Environmental Protection Agency is being sued by five states because of the newly stated ozone limits. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has said that every state but California should be able to comply to the new ozone standards by 2025.  However, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich says that “reducing the ozone standards to 70 parts per billion will be nearly impossible for Arizona to attain.” AG Brnovich is leading the charge in the lawsuits against the EPA.


Statements made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have led to questions of what her definition of a work related email is. Mrs. Clinton said “Well, if you are talking about Mr. Blumenthal, which I assume you are, he had some that I didn’t have, and I had some that he didn’t have. And he — I was under no obligation to make any of his emails available unless I decided they were work-related.”  This seems to contradict a previous statement from Mrs. Clinton where she said she had turned over all emails “that could possibly have been work related,” which should include any emails from an advisor personal friend or not.

ForbesIRS Joins FBI, DEA & Other Federal Agencies With Access To Cellphone Surveillance Technology

For years now the IRS has had in its possession a Stingray, a device that can capture cell phone data such as location and identifying information without needing a warrant.  A recent Freedom of Information Act request revealed an invoice of $70,000 for the purchase of a HailStorm, a more powerful Stingray, and training for its use.  The IRS has not explained how they utilize the device and now make a list with 12 other federal agencies who own such technology.

White House’s “Open Government National Action Plan” Misses The Mark

The Obama administration on Tuesday published its Third Open Government National Action Plan to increase transparency and provide citizens with “unprecedented access” to government information. While this plan contains laudable sections to improve access to information through the Freedom of Information Act and to increase federal spending transparency, it neglects to identify and address two fundamental issues clouding this administration’s record on transparency.

This administration has demanded government agencies seek counsel from the White House on any matter that could be considered a “White House equity.” This policy threatens both the improvement of FOIA request transparency, and the public’s First Amendment rights.

The definition of “White House equities” is nebulous at best; most agencies are unsure exactly what the term means, although some have understood it to be anything of possible interest to the White House. This vague definition has caused confusion — and therefore delays — from many government agencies in processing FOIA requests, leaving the public waiting on information. Additionally, adding the White House onto the review process not only increases delays, but it actually provides the White House Counsel’s Office with documents it would not ordinarily have access to under FOIA.

White House equities are in clear conflict with government transparency, and should have been addressed in the National Action Plan.

In addition, the administration’s plan fails to address Executive Branch Earmarks.

In 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order 13457, aimed at ensuring that funds provided by Congress are transparent and merit-based, with all information made publicly available on the internet. However, the Executive Branch is currently ignoring Executive Order 13457 and still handing out its own earmarks behind closed doors.

Taxpayer dollars continue to be wasted in the absence of government transparency. A Cause of Action examination of federal discretionary spending through FOIA records and federal databases has revealed that efforts to ensure that discretionary grant decision-making is transparent and merit-based are ineffective. As a result, political appointees and others continue to use federal monies to reward political allies and appease powerful interests.

While the administration may have a plan to make government more transparent, there is a great deal that it has neglected. If the administration really wants to increase transparency, then it must address White House equities and Executive Branch Earmarks.

The Real Cause Of The IRS Targeting Scandal, And Why It Could Happen Again

The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced on Friday that it would not prosecute Lois Lerner after its two year investigation into the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) revealed no evidence that the IRS’s targeting of conservative group constituted criminal conduct. “Our investigation uncovered substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment, and institutional inertia…[b]ut poor management is not a crime,” the DOJ wrote in a letter to Congress.   

The DOJ investigation echoes congressional reports, which broadly attributed “poor judgment” as the reason that so many Tea Party groups experienced delay and unequal treatment by the IRS. Even the President, after initially expressing outrage, ultimately blamed “bonehead decisions out of a local office,” stating that the IRS employees were just implementing the law “poorly and stupidly.”   

The DOJ’s decision not to prosecute comes as no surprise to Cause of Action, which has been investigating the IRS and its operating procedures for more than two years. Our investigation, which was documented earlier this year in National Review, shows that the targeting of conservative groups was not caused by IRS employees making “bonehead decisions,” but, rather, was the direct result of employees actually following IRS procedures perfectly- not “poorly.”  And certainly not “stupidly.”   

The Internal Revenue Manual (“IRM”), the employee handbook that sets all IRS processes, required agents to apply extra scrutiny to Tea Party applications. The IRM requires that an application from an organization that is “newsworthy” be elevated up to management for review. It also requires that IRS employees create a Sensitive Case Report for an application that is of interest to the media. These processes subject applications to extra levels of review, delays in processing, and allow high-ranking IRS officials to make the final say in whether to approve or deny the application for tax-exempt status.   

This is exactly what happened to Tea Party applications. In 2010, all major media outlets covered the Tea Party movement. When an IRS employee in Cincinnati received the first Tea Party application, he immediately elevated the issue to his supervisor due to “recent media attention.”  


IRS Pic 1

In turn, this manager notified Cindy Thomas, head of the entire Cincinnati office, to elevate it to the national office to “let Washington know about this potentially politically embarrassing case involving ‘Tea Party’ organization.”

IRS pic 2

On April 5, 2010, IRS employee Steve Grodnitzky directed subordinates to prepare a Sensitive Case Report for the Tea Party cases due to this media attention.

IRS Pic 3

Ultimately, Lois Lerner first learned about the Tea Party applications when she received a Sensitive Case Report summary listing these applications.

In the end, while the investigation into Lois Lerner was well intentioned, her prosecution would not have prevented political targeting from happening again in the future. In order to truly solve the problem, the IRS must reform its internal policies. The fact that an organization receives media coverage should never result in delays or unequal scrutiny.

Weekly Rundown 10-23-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

Wall Street JournalThe Latest Progressive Attack on Speech (Still infuriated by the Citizens United ruling, the left keeps trying to undo that blow for freedom.)

Cause of Action Executive Director Dan Epstein wrote about Van Hollen v. FEC which is currently being heard by the D.C. Court of Appeals.  Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen is arguing that nonprofit organizations should be required to reveal all donors, not just those that donating for an election.  Mr. Epstein writes “If the court forces nonprofits to disclose the identity of their supporters, it will lead to the “threats, harassment, or reprisal” that chill free speech and limit free association, just as the Supreme Court has warned.”

Delaware OnlineBloom rival settles with state over fuel cells

A settlement was reached that will now allow out-of-state fuel cell manufacturers to compete in Delaware.  Dan Epstein, Cause of Action Executive Director, had this to say about the ruling: “This settlement should send a message to government officials that fair interstate competition is a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution.  Today is a great day, not only for clean energy manufacturers, but for innovators and entrepreneurs everywhere who wish to compete on an even playing field.”

PoliticoLawyer: Clinton ‘unable to obtain’ emails from first weeks as secretary

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lawyer David Kendall says that while she has turned over all of her federal emails, but is “unable to obtain” emails from the beginning of her time in the State Department.  Mr. Kendall said the following in his letter: “She does not have custody of e-mails sent or received during the first few weeks of her tenure.” Kendall’s letter comes amidst ongoing lawsuits regarding Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private server, including the case brought by Cause of Action.

In Other News:


Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff was asked if he thought the FBI should be investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails and private server.  He first insisted that the investigation wasn’t into Mrs. Clinton herself, but rather to find out when the classified emails on her server were originally marked as classified.  Eventually he did say “Absolutely, I think it’s legitimate for the Justice Department to look into the proper classification of the information and whether any steps need to be taken to protect it. If it’s out in the ethosphere because of this investigation, that’s perfectly appropriate.”

Washington ExaminerStates can sue EPA over climate rules starting Friday

Today the timer begins for states who want to sue the Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan.  There are already 16 states who are ready to sue the EPA and the GOP plans to fight the rules in Congress.  As of today, states must either come up with alternative plans or provide a plan that will explain their compliance with the Clean Power Plan by September 2016.

NY PostRevolt of the watchdogs: Federal inspectors general vs. the Obama stonewall

Federal inspector generals have continued time and again to be blocked by the current administration.  Last year over 60 percent of the federal inspectors general wrote a letter stating “serious limitations on access to records that have recently impeded the work” and have reduced their “ability to conduct our work thoroughly, independently, and in a timely manner.”

Clean Energy Manufacturer Scores Victory In Fight For Economic Fairness

CoA Logo

Clean Energy Manufacturer Scores Victory In Fight For Economic Fairness

Settlement stipulates that Delaware’s renewable energy program must even the playing field for out-of-state companies


 MEDIA CONTACT: Geoff Holtzman | | 703-405-3511

WASHINGTON – Today, Cause of Action is pleased to announce that a federal court in Delaware has approved a settlement agreement between our client, FuelCell Energy, Inc., and Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Delaware state utility officials regarding the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA).

Under the terms of the settlement, Delaware’s Public Service Commission (DPSC) must now allow competition across state lines with respect to fuel cell manufacturers, in compliance with the commerce clause of the United States Constitution.

Cause of Action Executive Director Daniel Epstein issued the following statement:

“Today is a great day, not only for clean energy manufacturers, but for innovators and entrepreneurs everywhere who wish to compete on an even playing field. This settlement should send a message to government officials that fair interstate competition is a cornerstone of the U.S. Constitution. Cause of Action is proud to have played a role in reaching this agreement, and we will continue to fight hard in the name of economic fairness.”


In a 2012 complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Connecticut-based FuelCell Energy alleged that it was disadvantaged by the DPSC‘s special tariff awarded under REPSA to an in-state energy manufacturer and the associated State financial support for establishing in-state manufacturing that was offered to only one select company by the Governor of Delaware, without any prior public notice or bidding process.

FuelCell Energy, a global fuel cell company that designs, manufactures, installs, operates and services efficient and affordable stationary fuel cell power plants, argued that Delaware’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act, which was amended in 2011, violated the commerce clause of the United States Constitution, which prohibits state laws that discriminate against out-of-state competition.

Under REPSA, the State of Delaware only allowed bids on a State fuel cell project from a fuel cell company that agreed to establish manufacturing in the State, and the State provided financial incentives to support construction of the manufacturing facility, resulting in a sole-source contract rather than a competitively bid contract.

In April 2014, the District Court permitted FuelCell Energy to proceed with its constitutional claim.

The settlement agreement that we are announcing today will level the playing field for all out-of-state fuel cell manufacturers wishing to compete for business in the state of Delaware. Prior to this settlement, out-of-state fuel cell power plant manufacturers were prohibited from bidding on REPSA-funded incentives for fuel cell power generation projects, a violation of constitutional prohibitions on state-legislated discrimination against out-of-state businesses.

Cause of Action is a non-profit, nonpartisan strategic oversight organization committed to ensuring that government decision-making is open, honest, and fair.


Weekly Rundown 10-16-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

Daily Caller  – Watchdog Group Hopes To Depose Hillary, State Department Officials                                                                                                       
Cause of Action has requested to depose former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Under Secretary of Management for State Patrick Kennedy, the State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Margaret Grafeld, in addition to officials in the National Archives and Records Administration.

Our hope is that if the deposition of these individuals is allowed we will be able to shine a bright light onto the mystery of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.  A couple of the questions we plan on asking Mrs. Clinton include why she deleted emails in the first place and why she didn’t turn over electronic copies, which could contain insightful metadata.

In Other News:

Examiner.comFTC joins EPA, Justice in probes of Volkswagen

In addition to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission has joined the Volkswagen investigation.  The FTC is planning on looking into VW’s advertisements.  With at least 250 consumer lawsuits in 28 states and criminal probes in other countries this just adds to the car manufacturer’s woes.

SlateIRS Hasn’t Finished Doing Windows Upgrades Because It Can’t Find a Bunch of Its Computers

Even after spending $128 million upgrading their computers from Windows XP on their computers and Windows 2003 from their servers, the Internal Revenue Service isn’t finished. An audit revealed that almost fifty percent of the servers and over a thousand computers have not yet been upgraded.  It was also revealed that the IRS cannot find these computers and servers to upgrade them. “At the conclusion of our fieldwork, the IRS had not accounted for the location or migration status of approximately 1,300 workstations and upgraded only about one-half of its Windows servers.”

Washington ExaminerNew EPA climate rules target your air conditioning

The Environmental Protection Agency has introduced new rules that will directly affect the American people in their homes.  Air conditioners and refrigerators are the next target the EPA has in its sights.  The EPA’s administrator said that the rules would get us closer to meeting the current administration’s climate agenda.

Business InsiderFacebook, Google, Amazon and other big tech companies just slammed a proposed US cybersecurity law

A group of large tech companies have grouped together and have gone after the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, which they claim “does not sufficiently protect users’ privacy or appropriately limit the permissible uses of information shared with the government.”  The act is supposed to make it easier for the government to get customer information from big tech companies.  As of right now, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act is being deliberated in Congress.

Wall Street JournalClinton Server’s Technical Problems Boosted Use of Personal Accounts (In less than a month, the server appeared to stop functioning at least twice, according to emails the conservative group Citizens United obtained)

By now everyone has heard of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email server.  What everyone may not know is that after being in use for only a month the server started having technical difficulties.  When the server was down the email addresses that it was responsible for weren’t working either, which may have led to the use of personal email accounts to send State Department emails.

Weekly Rundown 10-9-2015

Cause of Action in the News:

Government ExecOMB Pressured to Invoke Bush Directive Banning Earmarks

The week Cause of Action has partnered with Demand Progress, another government watchdog, to petition the Office of Management and Budget to enforce an executive order that was put in place to protect taxpayers.  When looking into the discretionary spending of federal agencies, we discovered “that OMB’s current efforts to ensure that discretionary grant decision-making is transparent and merit-based are ineffective.”

Dan Epstein, Executive Director of Cause of Action, said the following about the matter: “Cause of Action’s research shows that for years, federal agencies have been ignoring a binding executive order designed to protect taxpayer dollars from being misused. Our organizations believe that Washington has a duty to the public to ensure that federal discretionary spending decisions are transparent and merit-based.”

In Other News:

PoliticoJudges refuse to align Clinton email FOIA lawsuits

With almost 40 Freedom of Information Act lawsuits concerning Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the current administration had requested that they all be combined into one suit.  The federal court judges in charge of those cases have all denied the request.  Chief Judge Richard Roberts said “The judges who have been randomly assigned to these cases have been and continue to be committed to informal coordination so as to avoid unnecessary inefficiencies and confusion, and the parties are also urged to meet and confer to assist in coordination.”

Daily SignalAudit: IRS Fails Transparency Test on Over 1 in 10 FOIA Requests

“Although the IRS properly released thousands of pages from these documents, taxpayer rights still may have been violated because some information was erroneously withheld.”  This was said in an audit that determined that 12.3 percent of the time the IRS failed to turn over Freedom of Information Act documents.  In addition, the audit also found that “eight cases we identified included improperly withheld information of examination and collection activity and other tax return information that the taxpayer or authorized Power of Attorney should have received.”

Washington Business JournalDHS leads federal cybersecurity efforts, but will other agencies follow?

The Department of Homeland Security has announced that they will be using a private company Raytheon Co. to help with their cybersecurity.  They are the first government agency to adopt this method of protection for their IT environment.  Experts believe this shows us that the agencies themselves are unable to handle all of their cybersecurity without private sector assistance.

Washington ExaminerAttorney general blasts FBI leaks in Clinton email probe

Attorney General Loretta Lynch chastised the FBI for the anonymous leak of information regarding the FBI investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server.  Since the leak, the FBI has confirmed an investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email. Attorney General Lynch said “I think leaks are detrimental to any matter, no matter what it is, no matter who is involved.”


Representative Jim Jordan has claimed that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen will be impeached by the House this session.  The IRS has failed to be helpful and has in fact discouraged the investigations into the Tea Party scandal. “If we don’t hold some people accountable in the executive branch for the executive overreach we’ve seen in [the Obama] administration, then they’ll never get the message,” said Rep. Jordan about the issue.