Press Releases

IRS reverses “no records” claim, admits they have records on 87,000 new agents

The IRS previously and repeatedly stated that they had no records on the controversial budget increase.

January 23, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative is announcing a significant development in our investigation into the Biden Administration’s plan for an $80 billion increase to the IRS budget to hire 87,000 new agents, as well as their proposal to require taxpayers to report transactions that total as little as $600. After FGI filed suit against the Treasury Department and the IRS, the IRS walked back claims of having no records about the massive budget increase. In court filings, they have now admitted that they do likely have thousands of records on these issues.

In February 2022, FGI launched an investigation into the Biden administration’s controversial IRS proposal for the budget increase, additional agents, and other supposed enforcement measures, as well as their plan for lowering the mandatory reporting threshold. FGI received an alarming response: the IRS stated they had no records or analysis regarding the proposal for these controversial policy items. Finding this to be impossible and believing that an adequate search was not conducted, FGI appealed the response through the administrative process. The IRS denied that appeal and, for a second time stated that no such records existed. Only after FGI filed a suit against the IRS did the agency signal that they do, in fact, have the records that they previously denied possessing.

The initial lack of transparency from the agency tasked with collecting taxes from Americans raises several questions and concerns. Why did the IRS take almost nine months to admit they had records? Were records properly kept as required by the Federal Records Act? What will these records these show us about the IRS’s plans to further surveil Americans’ finances with its 87,000 new agents? Did the IRS really not conduct any analysis of the controversial change to lower the bank reporting requirement to $600, which will impact millions of taxpayers and force peer-to-peer payment systems such as Venmo, PayPal, and Zelle to send tax forms to individuals with small-dollar transactions? Our mission at FGI is to shine a light on government dysfunction, and we will continue pressing the IRS and the Treasury Department in court to release the information the public has a right to review.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“What do you know? The IRS budget proposal for 87,000 new agents at a cost of $80 billion did not just appear out of thin air. Based on the 8,000 documents and 150,000 potentially responsive pages exposed in litigation, this type of record-keeping would land most Americans in hot water or worse. Yet, FGI’s success is hardly worth cheering for as the battle for transparency is just beginning in what appears to be a long legal fight ahead. Sadly, the American public – oftentimes lower-income citizens – won’t have the resources or expertise to challenge the IRS when their new army of auditors comes knocking. FGI will continue to press in court for the release of the information that will shine a light on the plans posing a real threat to many law-abiding Americans.”

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USDA Secretary Vilsack’s Leadership of the Supply Chain Task Force – All Hat and No Cattle

Agriculture Secretary AWOL from Task Force While Calling for Investigation of Private Sector

January 20, 2023

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative announced findings from litigation around the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) response to the ongoing supply chain crisis. Records obtained show that Secretary Vilsack’s leadership of the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force was not only lacking – it was nonexistent.

Amidst much fanfare, in June 2021, the White House announced the creation of the “Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force” to address “structural weaknesses in both domestic and international supply chains [that] threaten America’s economic and national security.” The Administration explained that the Task Force would take a “whole of government approach” to tackling these threats and assigned the secretaries of Agriculture, Transportation, and Commerce to lead the effort. USDA proudly announced Secretary Tom Vilsack’s selection as co-chair of the Task Force that would “convene stakeholders to diagnose problems and surface solutions—large and small, public or private—that could help alleviate bottlenecks and supply constraints related to the economy’s reopening….” Secretary Vilsack also touted the robust role he expected the Task Force to play.

FGI submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the records of Secretary Vilsack or anyone else he delegated to participate in the Task Force meetings. After more than five months after the request, only after FGI filed a federal lawsuit, USDA produced a “final” response of merely 19 pages, 14 pages of which copies of the public statements from the White House and USDA. While USDA has indicated these are all the records they have on the topic, none were dated after the Task Force’s creation and no records exist to evidence Secretary Vilsack or any of his deputies participating in – much less co-chairing – the Task Force.

Notably, the Task Force itself seems to have been disrupted by the absence of another of its “co-leaders,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose official calendars from his two-month paternity leave show he apparently also participated in no Task Force meetings during that time.

Interestingly, while the USDA appears to be MIA when it came to finding solutions to the supply chain crisis, another ongoing FGI investigation shows USDA was quite active in the effort to target and place political blame on meat producers for empty shelves and rising food prices. Across multiple issues, this appears to be a favorite approach of the current administration’s approach to any type of crisis – investigate the private sector while ignoring any federal policy that may be contributing to out-of-control inflation and supply chain challenges.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“The supposed ‘whole of government’ approach taken by the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force under the leadership of Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack might be more aptly called a ‘hole in government’ approach. As the Administration rightly recognized in creating the Task Force, supply chain issues threaten the economic and national security of the country. Secretary Vilsack’s failure to convene a single meeting with his fellow leaders, while dedicating federal resources to investigate and blame the private sector, shows that the Task Force was little more than a cynical attempt to signal engagement on supply chain disruptions while, in fact, doing little or nothing.”

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Watchdog seeks records on HHS Secretary Becerra’s recommendation for a COVID shot every two months

HHS has not released any scientific information on its new vaccine-timing recommendation, leaving America confused.

December 12. 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced an investigation into the announcement by Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra that recommends a COVID vaccine every two months, just a day after the administration stated that only one shot a year is recommended. FGI is seeking documents surrounding the communications and studies the Secretary relied on for this new recommendation so that they can be available for independent review.

On November 28, Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted, “One shot, once a year—that’s all most people will need to stay protected from COVID year-long.” The very next day, Secretary Becerra put out a similar message, except he recommended vaccine doses every two months. Judging from these tweets, especially without any scientific documentation for the public to review, Secretary Becerra apparently recommends six times more vaccine doses per year than the Vice President recommends. Becerra repeated his two-month recommendation in another tweet on November 30.

With repeated and differing messages within only a few days, these announcements are causing confusion, particularly given the blanket recommendation to all Americans provided by Secretary Becerra. The messages could also have dire public health impacts if further clarity is not provided by HHS. COVID-19 vaccines have been the subject of multiple allegations of scientific integrity violations by senior government officials, including those surrounding Secretary Becerra. Recent media stories indicate there may have been an intentional suppression by the CDC of the ability to report potential side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine. Other stories have reported that the traditional approval process for the vaccine and booster shots for various populations have at times been disregarded. With this knowledge in mind, the recent announcement has served to both heighten Americans’ anxiety about the danger of COVID-19 if they forego a booster and expose millions more Americans to potential side effects that have apparently gone unreported.

Millions of healthy Americans across the country deserve to know what the science says so they can best protect themselves. FGI has demanded expedited processing from HHS to find out.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“While Americans are consistently told to ‘trust the science’ when it comes to matters of public health, they are rarely being shown the science underpinning these decisions. Going from one shot a year to six shots a year in less than 24 hours without any justifying data leaves Americans confused and concerned with their government’s ability to respond to health crises. It could also unnecessarily straddle millions of healthy young Americans with a not-insignificant exposure to myocarditis and little to show for it outside of a boosted vaccine count. The public deserves to know what scientific information – if any – Secretary Becerra reviewed before his recommendation for bi-monthly booster shots was issued.”

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Watchdog files suit against FTC for blocking records on baby formula shortage investigation

The agency has launched multiple investigations into “top-level” crises facing the country

October 31, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for blocking records surrounding the FTC’s investigation into the baby formula shortage crisis.

In May 2022, the nation began to experience a shortage of baby formula after a major producer was shut down in February by the FDA for health violations as some of the formula from that facility had been contaminated with bacteria. However, it was soon revealed that a whistleblower tried to warn the FDA as early as October 2021 about the conditions and what could happen if they did not act. Unfortunately, the FDA had a series of missteps in response. Most notably, the whistleblower’s report was lost in the FDA’s mailroom for four months.

Instead of digging deep into what caused the crisis and what could have been done differently to stop it, the administration directed the FTC to investigate baby formula manufacturers. Between industry consolidation and price gouging, administration officials appeared intent on shifting all responsibility to the private sector. This is not the first time the administration has turned to the FTC to avoid accountability for an emerging crisis, as the public has witnessed domestic energy producers and the meat industry pegged for unstoppable inflation. FGI has an ongoing case against the FTC for withholding records pertaining to its oil and gas investigation.

Americans deserve to know what this FTC investigation into the baby formula producers is accomplishing, if anything, that can help alleviate the crisis and provide information that could stop it from happening again. Due to the urgency of the ongoing baby formula shortages, FGI has filed suit to force the FTC to release the information.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“Launching FTC investigations has been a favored tactic of this administration in the face of multiple crises. Instead of changing policy or personnel, the FTC has been called in to refocus criticism on the private sector. Americans deserve to know what this investigation is doing to get baby formula back on the shelves and how it can help prevent future shortages.”

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Watchdog files suit against DOT; FHWA for blocking records on controversial highway memo

Transportation has been reluctant to release records surrounding the December 2021 memo discouraging states from spending funds on expanding roads

October 6, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for failing to release records surrounding a December 2021 FHWA memo asking states to use funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) for bike lanes and climate resilience instead of maximizing investment in highway expansion and new bridges.

In November 2021, Congress passed the BIL, a whopping $1.2 trillion funding bill that was sold to the public as an investment in America’s infrastructure. However, on December 16, 2021, the FHWA released a memo laying out “guidance” for states on how to spend the funds they would receive from the BIL, calling it an “overarching framework to prioritize the use of BIL resources on projects that will Build a Better America.” The guidance encouraged states to spend funds on climate projects and bike lanes rather than the traditional infrastructure that had been a primary selling point of trillion dollar bill. The memo came during the height of the nation’s supply chain crisis when support for investment in new infrastructure was at its peak. The catalyst for the memo and the influence of special interests on its development remain open questions that FGI is seeking to identify through its FOIA request.

Environmental special interests’ backroom involvement in decisions about how to allocate funds provided in the administration’s massive spending legislation – specifically the America Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the Inflation Reduction Act – has been an ongoing concern for outside watchdogs over the past year and a half.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“Trillions of taxpayer dollars have been doled out over the past 20 months with little to show for it but higher inflation and a drained strategic petroleum reserve. Whether it’s the pandemic, crumbling infrastructure, or runaway inflation, it’s unclear how Americans’ tax dollars are being spent or whether they are being used consistent with the promises made while attempting to sell the legislation to the nation and during the public relations celebrations following passage. Americans deserve to know who on the inside is making these decisions and why they are opting to spend taxpayer dollars towards the goals of special interest groups rather than investing in what Americans need.”

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DHS failure to release records on delayed implementation of anti-fentanyl legislation draws lawsuit

DHS is keeping records from the public regarding their failures to put 2018 law to work

October 3, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to release records regarding the Synthetics Trafficking Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act and its implementation.

In October 2018, the bipartisan STOP Act was signed into law to reduce the flow of opioids and other illegal drugs into the United States through the U.S. Postal Service, which had become an easy target for traffickers seeking to evade law enforcement. As America’s opioid epidemic harms millions of American families and remains a leading cause of overdoses in the United States, implementation of the STOP Act has appeared to stall. Bureaucratic delays and missing deadlines for almost four years has raised questions about the commitment by DHS to prioritizing the fight against fentanyl trafficking and the opioid crisis afflicting a growing number of Americans.

Elected officials from both sides of the aisle have called the opioid crisis a public health emergency, yet DHS has taken little action to implement the law meant to fight it. Along with slow walking implementation of the STOP Act, DHS’ lax illegal immigration policies have created another crisis at the southern border that has likely exacerbated the opioid crisis. The wishes of Special interest groups pushing for open borders appear to trump concerns over a years-long opioid crisis devastating American families. It’s clear from the agency’s response that taking DHS to court is the only way FGI will be able to pry loose records shedding light on the failure to act on this important issue.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“The inability of DHS to finalize regulations and fully implement a bill that would help stop the flow of illegal opioids into the United States is astonishing and frankly disappointing. With each passing day, more and more Americans lose their battle with addiction while Secretary Mayorkas and his senior leadership prioritize the open border and censorship of Americans. This is the epitome of dysfunctional government. The public deserves answers on why implementation of the STOP Act is not a priority and when we can expect them to start recognizing the importance of fighting the opioid crisis.”

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IRS Brings Back Former Lerner Boss and Tea Party Targeting Team Member

Nikole Flax will be head of IRS office that will hire 87,000 new agents

September 2, 2022

(Washington, DC) – The Functional Government Initiative (FGI) expressed its concern over the assignment of an individual associated with an IRS targeting scandal to head the office overseeing the office in charge of the 87,000 new IRS agents. Reports that Nikole Flax, who was chief of staff to the IRS commissioner who was fired in the wake of the Tea Party targeting scandal, are sure to stoke fears that these new agents may be used to harass low- and middle-income taxpayers and those identified for political reasons. Contrary to the promises that no one who earns less than $400,000 a year will pay more taxes, the Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates at least $20 billion of the $124 billion in increased tax revenues projected to be gained from these additional agents will come from low- and middle-income Americans.

During the Tea Party targeting scandal, the IRS was forced to pay millions in settlements for improperly denying and slow-walking applications for nonprofit status from conservative groups. Flax was part of the group of IRS employees whose emails inexplicably disappeared due to hard drive crashes as Congress investigated. FGI has submitted numerous requests to obtain information regarding the previous IRS targeting scandal, as well as the proposal to beef up the IRS. In the case of one Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the IRS bizarrely responded that it had “no records” discussing the proposal to add 87,000 new agents to its workforce and $80 billion to its budget.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“It’s fascinating, and indicative of the level of dysfunction in government, that the same folks who were part of the Tea Party targeting 10 years ago would be tasked with managing a controversial program with such a tremendous potential for abuse. At the very least, this move is tone-deaf. Most certainly, it serves to heighten the fears that the amping up of the IRS may result in a repeat of the earlier scandal.”

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Watchdog investigating whether student loan forgiveness order driven by politics

With the midterms quickly approaching, student loan forgiveness could have been a move to influence polling or court voters

August 25, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) is opening an investigation into whether the student loan forgiveness executive order was driven by politics rather than sound policy or a defensible economic evaluation.

Yesterday, President Biden signed an executive order which would cancel student loans up to $10,000 for individuals who make under $125,000 a year annually or less than $250,000 annually per household. While some celebrated this announcement, the vast majority of Americans scorned at it. The presidential handout is projected to cost at least $570 billion according to some estimates and may yet contribute to already record inflation levels. The handout will only be available for the one-third of Americans who have college degrees while the two-thirds without a college degree will foot the bill.

Americans are stuck asking why now? Blue collar workers and those individuals who have already paid off their debts appear to be left holding the bag for paying someone else’s college tuition. Canceling student debt has been a long-time progressive goal of the Biden Administration. Huge spending decisions like this should be based on economic analyses and evaluations, not politics and opinion polling that the timing suggests may be the real drivers.

FGI’s inquiry seeks to find whether things such as polling, approval ratings, and midterm elections were factored into the decisions related to student loans and how student loan forgiveness decisions were communicated, including within the Department of Education, with outside special interests, with the White House, and with others. The Americans who are footing this bill deserve answers, and FGI is conducting this investigation to uncover them.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“The administration gave a handout to Americans with the highest earning potential while telling the two-thirds of Americans without college degrees or student debt they have to pay for it. Against the backdrop of the midterm elections and out of control inflation, the move appears directed at giving officials a talking point that they are putting money back in people’s pockets and relieving clear economic pain from the recession. All indications are that politics played a leading role in this massive subsidy, which appears to benefit a demographic being courted by the President’s party. The Americans who never went to college and those who saved and already paid off their loans deserve to know if they’re paying for someone else’s college due to inappropriate political considerations.”

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IRS claims it can find “no records” on an $80 billion increase in its budget

Agency that can’t find who leaked private taxpayer info also asserts no one in the agency discussed additional funds and 87,000 new employees provided in “Inflation Reduction Act.”

August 9, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) after the agency amazingly declared it had no records regarding an $80 billion proposed funding increase and an additional 87,000 employees included in the economic package referred to by its proponents as the “Inflation Reduction Act.” The proposals for drastically increased funding and staffing for the IRS were originally included in the Biden Administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request.

Earlier this year, FGI began investigating the administration’s plan to flood the IRS with more taxpayer dollars for more agents and other things supposedly to increase compliance. The massive influx to the IRS would come amidst ongoing controversies of alleged political targeting and leaking of sensitive financial data. The original proposals also included a controversial attempt to monitor private transactions of more than $600, which would have affected nearly every taxpayer.

The IRS recently replied to FGI’s request for information by stating they have “no records” regarding any economic analysis, request for new agents, or resources, and they closed our case. With this response, the IRS is astonishingly claiming that it performed no analysis, there were no internal discussions and not a single mention by agency officials of these proposals, and there were no communications between IRS officials and the White House and Treasury officials regarding a plan to nearly double its budget and personnel. This would also indicate the agency has absolutely no plan for what to do with the additional funds, personnel, or resources.

After careful consideration, FGI is filing suit against the IRS to reveal what is really going on with these controversial proposals. We seek to uncover records if they do, in fact, exist. If it is true that the IRS has no records on this proposal, then Americans deserve answers regarding the dysfunction involved in keeping the IRS completely in the dark about a massive increase in the agency’s funding, staff, and resources.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“Not conducting an economic analysis or having any communications, not even a single email regarding one of the largest budget increases in agency history is hard to believe. If true, then it only goes to show that government spending has become so reckless that agencies are being handed billions of taxpayer dollars without first consulting with them about how those dollars will be spent. With all of the incredible dysfunction at the IRS – targeting organizations for political views, releasing taxpayer data they had promised to keep private – it is not surprising they would report they knew nothing about this proposal, but it should disturb every American.”

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HHS refuses to provide records revealing if cloth masks work or not

Watchdog sues after agency sits on findings of cloth masks studies

August 16, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Functional Government Initiative (FGI) announced transparency litigation against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seeking records surrounding studies about the efficacy of cloth masks.

In January of this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revealed that their internal studies have shown that wearing cloth masks is not an effective way to prevent the spread of COVID. This revelation came after almost two years of HHS, along with its subsidiaries the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), recommending the use of cloth masks to stop the spread of COVID-19. During this time, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who leads NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) along with his role as an advisor to the White House, and other government leaders went on regular media tours encouraging mask mandates and dismissing those who questioned whether cloth masks were effective in stopping the spread of COVID-19. They quite possibly continued doing so after having access to the studies.

For more than two years, many Americans were subjected to mask mandates in most public places. Even months after reports were available calling into question the efficacy of cloth masks, numerous school districts across the United States continued to require children, the least susceptible demographic to COVID-19, to wear cloth masks in the classroom with the apparent backing of HHS. Even today, districts such as San Diego Unified require student masking. Americans deserve to know when HHS discovered that cloth masks were ineffective, why the results of these studies were kept from the public, and why HHS continued to recommend cloth masks when the data showed they were largely ineffective.

After this information was reported, FGI began seeking records surrounding internal studies on the efficacy of cloth masks and whether the agencies funded randomized control trials related to masks. While FGI has been willing to work with HHS and its subsidiaries, the agencies have not been forthcoming. The only way to now retrieve these records and make them accessible to the American public is through the courts. FGI has been forced to resort to litigation with HHS, NIH, and NIAID over their ongoing withholding of the requested records.

Peter McGinnis, spokesman for FGI, issued the following statement:

“When the CDC revealed that cloth masks were ineffective, they were stating what the American public already knew for months. Unfortunately, those who publicly questioned the efficacy of cloth masks prior to their announcement were dismissed or branded purveyors of misinformation, and worse by Dr. Fauci and other government officials. The American people deserve to know how long HHS was sitting on this data, if they even reviewed studies before making their recommendations for mandated masks, and why they continued to promote cloth masks after they knew they didn’t work to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

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