(Photo: AP Images / Jon Elswick)
The controversy surrounding the Department of Justice in collusion with the non-profit, liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America shows few signs of slowing down as the list of reporters and conservative activists targeted by employees of both organizations continues to grow.
The saga began in December 2011 when The Daily Caller requested under the Freedom of Information Act emails between the DOJ and Media Matters. Federal law dictates that a government agency has 20 days to comply with a request, but information was not delivered until August 30, 2012.
One of those who was mentioned in email exchanges between DOJ Public Affairs Director Tracy Schmaler and Media Matter staffers was Judson Phillips, who heads up Tea Party Nation. Like other Tea Party leaders, Phillips has been critical of the department's handling of Fast and Furious, the gun running program that gained notoriety after a U.S. Border Agent was killed by one of the guns allowed to cross the border.
In an interview with The Daily Caller, Phillips initially said he wasn't shocked that his name was a point of discussion at the DOJ, but in an interview with The Christian Post on Wednesday, Phillips said on further reflection he is shocked he or others would be mentioned by such as powerful government agency.
"I found out my name was mentioned when Matthew Boyle (a Daily Caller reporter) sent me a tweet," Phillips told CP. "At first it was 'Holy Cow' moment and then I had to laugh. But in some ways it was alarming that as a private citizen a senior DOJ employee would conspire with a media watchdog group to suppress or target our freedom to speak out."
Other journalist mentioned in the emails include Fox News Channel's Bill Hemmer, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megan Kelly and Judge Andrew Napolitano, Breitbart.com writers Joel Pollak and Ken Klukowski, Matthew Boyle of The Daily Caller, DirectorBlue blogger Doug Ross and others.
Phillips also said the two organizations may have opened another can of worms by mentioning his and other's names since the Fast and Furious uproar had just started to settle down. When asked if he thought the DOJ efforts to silent or intimidate detractors of the president worked, he said no.
"It was not effective at all in my opinion," said Phillips. "But if anything, it has now back-fired on them and brought Fast and Furious back into the headlines."
"Can you imagine if George Bush got some goofy, freaky group like Media Matters to target liberal reporters who wrote stories critical of the war in Iraq? They would have called for his impeachment."
The other issue now being discussed is the non-profit status of Media Matters, who has a 501(c)(3) designation.
One such advantage is that non-profits do not pay any federal income tax since the assumption is they perform services that benefit the public. Another advantage is donors who contribute to non-profits are allowed to deduct their contributions from their federal tax return.
In addition, the IRS code says non-profits cannot attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of their activities.
Now a Texas Republican says that he expects the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate the charge of collusion between the DOJ and Media Matters. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) was also the first member of Congress to demand Attorney General Eric Holder resign over the Fast and Furious program.