In his State of the Union this year, President Obama announced that Bob Bauer would be heading the “Presidential Commission on Election Administration.” On the surface Bauer seems to be a reasonable pick; as the Obama Campaign counsel paired with Romney Campaign Counsel Ben Ginsberg to lead a commission on elections “to improve the experience of all voters.”
However, serious questions about Bauer are beginning to surface. Mainly was Bauer a key White House force behind the effort to intimidate the Tea Party and conservative groups in the IRS Scandal? It can be argued that Bauer led the effort of the 2008 Obama campaign to silence those who opposed them by means that look similar to those later imposed by the IRS.
Bob Bauer, general counsel for the campaign (and later general counsel for the White House), on the same day wrote to the criminal division of the Justice Department, demanding an investigation into AIP, "its officers and directors," and its "anonymous donors." Mr. Bauer claimed that the nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), was committing a "knowing and willful violation" of election law, and wanted "action to enforce against criminal violations."
AIP gave Justice a full explanation as to why it was not in violation. It said that it operated exactly as liberal groups like Naral Pro-Choice did. It noted that it had disclosed its donor, Texas businessman Harold Simmons. Mr. Bauer's response was a second letter to Justice calling for the prosecution of Mr. Simmons. He sent a third letter on Sept. 8, again smearing the "sham" AIP's "illegal electoral purpose."
Also on Sept. 8, Mr. Bauer complained to the Federal Election Commission about AIP and Mr. Simmons. He demanded that AIP turn over certain tax documents to his campaign (his right under IRS law), then sent a letter to AIP further hounding it for confidential information (to which he had no legal right).
The Bauer onslaught was a big part of a new liberal strategy to thwart the rise of conservative groups.
Requests for inappropriate information, intimidation of 501(c4) groups, etc. sounds just like what the IRS would later do to the tea party.
Bauer was trying every trick he could to chill the speech of groups that oppose Obama, whether it was using the Justice Department or the FEC. In 2008 he also went after groups that were pro-Hillary such as American Liberty with similar tactics.
It does not take a major leap of faith to make the connection that Bauer as White House Counsel would push for the IRS to use those same tactics in 2010-11 before he left to go back to the Obama for President campaign. As information yesterday came out that the IRS Commissioner visited the White House more than any cabinet official, it would be good to know how many times those meetings were with White House Counsel Bauer before Bauer left to be campaign counsel.
What is definite is Bauer is not the man to lead a commission on election administration. It seems like Bauer has led efforts to chill speech and fought against open elections at a minimum. Until those questions are answered, Bauer seems like a poor choice to lead a commission “to improve the experience of all voters” because all voters deserve to hear from both sides.