DENVER – Back in May, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) was battling criticism for what Republicans have described as his role in pressuring the Internal Revenue Service to investigate non-profit groups with conservative-sounding words like “Patriot” in their names. But last week, Bennet was using the word in a different context.
“[Political ads are] always paid for by groups with names like ‘American Patriots for a Patriotic America,’” read a recent email campaign solicitation from the Colorado Democrat lamenting the influence of campaign spending. “But what they really want is to get their allies elected to office.”
Bennet’s use of the term “Patriots” in the donation pitch comes as the IRS scandal is still simmering in Washington, and with Bennet still facing scrutiny for publicly pressuring the tax agency to investigate non-profit groups – singling out a center-right group founded by a well-known Republican in a statement.
Bennet, who also serves as Chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, blasted “long-time partisan operative Karl Rove” in a February statement for his involvement with the group, which Bennet and handful of other Democrat Senators suggested was engaged in improper conduct.
IRS officials have since admitted that groups perceived to be politically conservative were improperly targeted for additional scrutiny.
The embattled tax agency has also come under fire in recent weeks for inappropriately awarding federal contracts, and lavish spending on employee bonuses and conferences. At least two IRS officials – Lois Lerner and Greg Roseman – have refused to address questions from Congressional investigators. Both remain employed.
In May, Colorado Republicans suggested that Bennet’s pressure on the tax agency to investigate non-profit groups helped trigger the IRS scandal, a charge a GOP spokesman reiterated this week.
“It’s stunning that Sen. Bennet has not recused himself from investigating the very scandal he instigated,” said Colorado Republican Party Communications Director Owen Loftus. “The thousands of patriotic Americans who have been subjected to intimidation by the IRS deserve to receive a full hearing, but they can’t have that as long as Sen. Bennet is playing judge.”