WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate Republican leader, who last year accused the Obama administration of Nixon-style dirty tricks, said Friday that the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups is part of a broader government assault on free speech.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky seized on the spate of controversies besetting the White House, saying Americans are recognizing a pattern of attack on First Amendment rights across government agencies, the administration, President Barack Obama's congressional allies, left-wing groups and public-employee unions.
"As serious as the IRS scandal is, what we're dealing with here is larger than the actions of one agency or any group of employees," McConnell, who is up for re-election next year, said in a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "This administration has institutionalized the practice of pitting bureaucrats against the very people they're supposed to be serving, and it needs to stop."
Speaking to the same organization last year, McConnell accused the administration and Obama's re-election campaign of leaking tax information and maintaining an enemies list in a chilling style reminiscent of President Richard Nixon, the Republican who resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal. McConnell's criticism was largely dismissed as election-year hyperbole.
In the first six months of Obama's second term, the administration's problems have produced an assortment of political targets for Republicans. One is the IRS affair, which has resulted in resignations and departures from the agency. So far, no evidence has come to light that anyone in the Obama administration outside the IRS was involved in targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.
Other issues facing the Obama administration this year include government surveillance of phone and Internet records; its handling of last year's terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans; the Justice Department's seizure of phone records of journalists at The Associated Press and, in another case, reading the emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen.
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