With the Internal Revenue Service reeling after revealing it intentionally targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison says the agency and Congress should "get more engaged, not less" on campaign finance.
Targeting groups based on their politics is wrong; all groups, liberal and conservative, should be scrutinized, Ellison said Monday during an appearance on MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes."
The IRS has often failed to draw lines of distinction between "social welfare" non-profits and political groups, he said.
"We need Congress to act to say that we're going to scrutinize all groups that are electioneering when they really should be doing social welfare," Ellison said. "The thing I fear ... is that the IRS will be backed off. The IRS should get more engaged, not less ... We need to redouble our efforts to bring real campaign finance forward."
On Friday, the IRS apologized for singling out conservative and tea party groups for extra scrutiny during the 2012 election cycle, originally blaming the problem on low-level functionaries in their Cincinnati office. The scandal has now ensnared the former and acting directors, who repeatedly denied the targeting.
Reform groups and some congressional Democrats, Ellison among them, have urged the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt social welfare organizations that reel in hundreds of millions of dollars in anonymous donations. The groups spent at least a quarter of a billion dollars on political activities during the last election cycle, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics.
Reform supporters now fear that the IRS will cave and abdicate its oversight role, allowing all the organizations to go unchecked.
"There are clearly flagrant misuses of the term social welfare," Ellison said. "This needs to be reined in. Congress should move forward to do it, on a fair basis, not back off."
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison has written an autobiography, "My Country 'Tis of Thee," set for release on Sept. 24
Ellison's 304-page memoir will take a "provocative look at America and what needs to change to accommodate different races and beliefs," while touching on topics ranging from race and immigration to President Obama and the rise of the Tea Party, according to a book description page.
The first Muslim elected to Congress and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Ellison is the latest in a long line of Minnesota political figures to pen a memoir. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty released autobiographies during their presidential runs in 2011.
U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison Tuesday night began an interview on Fox News by telling host Sean Hannity that he was "the worst excuse for a journalist I've ever seen," who is guilty of "inaccurate," "yellow journalism."
The interview went downhill from there.
Clips of the show Hannity introducing the spot by saying President Obama is "more concerned with fear mongering" on the spending automatic cuts due this week "rather than finding a solution" and suggesting Ellison could provide some insight. Shortly thereafter, Minneapolis congressman tangling over whether Hannity is a Republican -- Ellison insisted he was and Hannity countered that he's a registered conservative and Ellison responding that Hannity is a "shill for the Republican Party."
Then, with few interruptions from Hannity, Ellison attacked Republicans, defended Obama on the looming sequester.
"Let me ask you a question," Hannity said, as Ellison continued speaking. "I gave you three minutes to rant. Calm down. I gave you three minutes. Relax."
"This is a first amendment issue. I'm going to say what I think is right," Ellison said.
"Why're you so angry,"Hannity asked.
"Why are you so angry," Ellison responded.
"I'm not angry, I'm laughing at you because I think this is actually comical," said Hannity.
"I'm laughing at you and it's not the first time," Ellison said.
They briefly tangled again about whether Hannity is a Republican after Hannity asked for a bipartisan dialogue, and Hannity offered to make a $1,000 bet with Ellison that is he a registered conservative.
As Hannity then attempted to ask Ellison about the country's debt, Ellison repeatedly interrupted him and they each called the other a "broken record." After Hannity asked about the debt level under Obama, Ellison said: "Why don't you call someone at the White House...I'm here to speak for myself," before making his own suggestions on how to close the debt.
Then Hannity began to ask another question about the debt: "Is it immoral to put 16 and 1/2.."
"You are immoral," Ellison said, interrupting. "You tell lies."
After a bit more cross talk, Hannity ended the interview by saying: "Congressman, you are a total waste of time. I'm moving on because our audience deserves better....I tried to give you a fair shot."
In response, Ellison said: "No, you didn't."
Somalia President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud will travel to Minnesota on Friday as part of his official visit to the United States. The U.S. State Department has not yet announced the details of his visit to Minnesota, which has the nation's largest Somali population.
During a meeting with President Mahamud today, Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton is expected to announce that the United States recognizes his government as the Somalia's official government. Mahamud's election in the fall marked the first step towards permanent governance for Somalia in more than a decade.
"The U.S. is committed to continue assistance to the new government to strengthen democratic institutions, improve stability and security, and improve its ability to provide services to its citizens," a State Department release said.
Mahamud met with several members of Minnesota's congressional delegation, including U.S. Reps. Keith Ellison, Rick Nolan and Erik Paulsen, earlier this week.
In December, Ellison and Paulsen introduced legislation to help address the difficulties Somali-Americans have sending money to family and friends back home because of restrictions placed on wire transfer firms that send money to Somalia. Millions of residents in the country depend on the funds. The Somali government has estimated that one-third of the nation's gross domestic product comes via small money transfer businesses.