The Note: A Scandal's Second Wind

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )

NOTABLES

  • PFEIFFER CALLS IRS ACTIVITY 'INEXCUSABLE': White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS yesterday that the legality surrounding the targeting of conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service is "irrelevant," but called the behavior "outrageous and inexcusable." "I can't speak to the law here. The law is irrelevant. The activity was outrageous and inexcusable, and it was stopped and it needs to be fixed so we ensure it never happens again," Pfeiffer said on "This Week." Stephanopoulos asked Pfeiffer if he really thought the law is "irrelevant." "What I mean is, whether it's legal or illegal is not important to the fact that the conduct doesn't matter. The Department of Justice has said they're looking into the legality of this. The president is not going to wait for that. We have to make sure it doesn't happen again, regardless of how that turns out," Pfeiffer said. (Following the interview, Pfeiffer tweeted "Before folks quoting me out of context get too far ahead of themselves, of course the law matters, IRS conduct is wrong even if legal.") http://abcn.ws/111CxkG WATCH JONATHAN KARL's "Good Morning America" report about what the White House knew about the IRS inquiry and when: http://abcn.ws/10g7wrL
  • PORTMAN CALLS FOR A SPECIAL COUNSEL: Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who also appeared on "This Week", said that in addition to Congressional committee investigations, he believes a special counsel will be needed to look into the actions of the IRS, ABC's BENJAMIN BELL reports. "I also think a special counsel is going to end up being necessary here, because it has to be independent of the White House. What we do know is that politics was put ahead of the public interest," Portman said. "I just find it very hard to believe that lower-level employees here in Cincinnati, Ohio took this on themselves. And that it went on for a couple of years without anybody knowing about it." http://abcn.ws/111CxkG
  • TEA PARTY GROUPS LAWYER UP: Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, said his group will be bringing a lawsuit on behalf of many of Tea Party groups wronged in the IRS scandal this week, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. "The admission and apology by the IRS that the criteria used [in tea party applications] was not correct and inappropriate" is grounds for a suit, Sekulow said in an interview with ABC News because groups he represents are "still getting letters requesting information," and he believes, "if we don't file suit we won't bring an end to this." ACLJ represents 27 tea party organizations that feel they were unfairly targeted by the IRS. Ten of the groups ACLJ represents still have pending applications to get tax-exempt status, while 15 did receive tax-exempt status. ACLJ is preparing a lawsuit against the Department of Treasury and the IRS on behalf of at least 17 of those groups, Sekulow said - and more groups, possibly even potential new clients beyond the 27 the ACLJ currently represents, could be added. More details about the planned lawsuit: http://abcn.ws/13FAjqD
  • IMPEACHMENT TALK? GEORGE WILL SAYS, 'THAT'S SILLY': "And it is possible to go too far," Will said on "This Week." "But Republicans perhaps cannot be blamed for saying a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. And there's a crisis of confidence and they are the political party that exists to say that government is necessary but always is a danger." http://abcn.ws/15Z9IZk

THE ROUNDTABLE

ABC's RICK KLEIN: People still don't like Congress, but Congress has found something to do that people like it to be doing: investigating. If there was any chance GOP leaders would back off any of the spate of recent scandals, a new poll to start off the week puts that thought to bed. The CNN/ORC International survey finds that voters view the IRS, AP, and Benghazi storylines individually as "very important." Well more than half feel that congressional Republicans have "reacted appropriately" in probing Benghazi and the IRS matter. (Nearly 6 in 10 now think the US government could have prevented the killing of four Americans in Benghazi, a big jump since the election - and since the GOP-led investigations gained momentum.) President Obama's own approval rating remains strong in that same poll, at 53 percent. But more importantly, Republicans are finding a way to define themselves in this three-headed Washington scandal season. Over to you, Chairman Issa. http://bit.ly/10NHfOc

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: There's a long way to go until 2016, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes another stop on the pre-presidential circuit today, traveling to New Hampshire to address a state Republican Party fundraiser. Earlier this month, Paul made a stop at a Lincoln Day Dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where the top target of his speech was Hillary Clinton and her handling of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. Tonight, with the unfolding IRS scandal as a backdrop, Paul will address a GOP gathering in Concord, N.H. and hold a listening session with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. And Paul's nationwide rollout is just getting started: Over the next couple of months, he'll travel to South Carolina, Nevada and California (Reagan Library) for a series of high-profile public speeches.

ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie along with his wife and children are starring in television commercials that are part of a publicly-funded $25 million tourism campaign to encourage people to visit the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy. The 30-second ads, first reported by the New Jersey Star-Ledger, began airing last week. Democrats are crying foul saying the ads are just campaign commercials paid for by the state. But, Christie supporters point out that the ads will run out of state, as well as in New Jersey. In the ad, Christie's wife, Mary Pat, says, "The Jersey Shore is open." Christie's son Andrew adds: "The word is spreading" before Christie, himself, says "We're stronger than the storm," followed by his daughter Bridget: "You bet we are!" The campaign of Christie's gubernatorial challenger, Democratic State Sen. Barbara Buono, expressed displeasure, but, Christie himself fired back at a campaign event saying, "I'm happy and proud to have me and my family in those ads and I hope that what they do is they bring people to the Jersey Shore. There's nothing political about the ads." The Star-Ledger also reported the money is part of the $60 billion emergency Sandy relief package pushed through Congress, which has the spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association, Danny Kanner saying, "Chris Christie loves to promote a 'New Jersey Comeback' that never happened, but his use of Sandy recovery dollars to promote his own re-election campaign is nothing short of shameless." Could trip Christie up in his gubernatorial campaign? Probably not. The latest polls still have him crushing Buono by wide margins. WATCH the ad: http://bit.ly/10PGHqZ

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

MICHELE BACHMANN: THE IRS TARGETING OF TEA PARTY GROUPS TIED TO OBAMA'S 'POLITICAL AGENDA'. As the chair of the Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R - Minn.) is railing against the IRS's targeting of Tea Party groups, saying: "clearly, this had political implications…that would benefit President Obama." "Over and over and over, the common thread is the Obama administration was too willing to use the government to advance their agenda, their political agenda," Bachmann told ABC's JEFF ZELENY, host of "The Fine Print." Bachmann says individuals in the Tea Party have been voicing concerns to her about getting "ridiculous questions" from the IRS for quite some time and asserts that other groups, in addition to the Tea Party, were also targeted. "The IRS couldn't do enough to part the waters to make sure that every progressive, left-wing leaning organization got their new tax-exempt status," she says. "So they were able to get a favorable tax treatment, while Christians, pro Israel, conservative, Tea Partiers, pro-growth, pro-job, pro-business, they were hurt." Watch the entire interview with Bachmann, including whether she is interested in another presidential bid: http://yhoo.it/18XTr5t

BUZZ

OBAMA OPTIMISTIC DESPITE 'SHORTAGE OF COMMON SENSE' IN DC. President Obama said yesterday he remains optimistic about the prospects for his second term agenda despite what he called a "shortage of common sense" in the nation's capital, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. "We've got good, common-sense solutions that we can implement right now. The bad news is, is that there's a shortage of common sense in Washington," he said at a fundraiser for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Atlanta. "What's holding us back is a tendency in Washington to put politics ahead of policy, to put the next election ahead of the next generation. And that mind-set is what we need to change. "Despite sometimes the doom and gloom of what you hear emanating out of Washington, you should be optimistic about this country. I sure am," he said. The president did not mention any of the political scandals his administration is currently dealing with, but he joked about the state of his hair as he acknowledged that the "rough and tumble" of politics has taken its toll on his hair color. http://abcn.ws/14lpb1x

MONEY MATTERS: Yesterday's was the first of six DSCC fundraisers he's expected to attend this year, the president spoke to approximately 100 people at the Arthur M. Blank Family Office, and attendees paid $10,000 per couple while hosts paid $32,400 per couple, according to a DSCC official.

HAPPENING TODAY: President Obama welcomes President Thein Sein of Myanmar to the White House today, ABC's MARY BRUCE reports. "The President looks forward to discussing with President Thein Sein the many remaining challenges to efforts to develop democracy, address communal and ethnic tensions, and bring economic opportunity to the people of his country," according to the White House. The visit "underscores President Obama's commitment to supporting and assisting those governments that make the important decision to embrace reform."

OBAMA TELLS GRADUATES 'NO LONGER ANY ROOM FOR EXCUSES'. President Obama said yesterday that he is motivated by the knowledge that "but for the grace of God … I might have been in prison," in a commencement address at historically black Morehouse College in Georgia, where he spoke frankly about race and young men's responsibilities to 500 male graduates. In his second commencement address of this graduation season, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes, the president called on the graduates to set examples for others and reach out to those who need help, telling them that as a black man he felt a unique connection to assist those in need because he could have faced similar circumstances. "There but for the grace of God go I, I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison," he said at the commencement ceremony at Morehouse College. "I might have been unemployed, I might not have been able to support a family, and that motivates me." The president said that many young black men "make bad choices," but told the graduates, "We've got no time for excuses," because the difficulties they've faced "pale in comparison to the hardships previous generations endured, and if they overcame them, you can too." "Growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing. But one of the things that all of you have learned over the last four years is that there is no longer any room for excuses," he said. http://abcn.ws/14kW7Y0

IN THE NOTES' INBOX

-DEMOCRATS ANNOUNCE STRONG FUNDRAISING MONTH. An aide to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee e-mails The Note: "Despite being in the minority, the DCCC outraised the NRCC again in April and will have $3.9 M cash advantage over the NRCC (cash-on-hand minus debt). The DCCC outraised the NRCC and will show less debt and more cash-on-hand than the NRCC. The DCCC outraised the NRCC ($5.4M to $5.1M), has less debt ($4.1M v. $6.4M) and more cash-on-hand ($10.4M to $8.7M). … The DCCC is paying down debt at a steady pace - retiring $8 million in debt since the beginning of the year. The committee's debt two years ago was nearly twice as much. "

-REPUBLICANS HAUL IN $7.2 MILLION IN APRIL. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the RNC raised $7.2 million in April, bringing the committee's cash on hand total to $9.8 million. According to a committee aide, "The RNC had more active donors at the end of April 2013 than at the end of April 2011, and the committee garnered 24 percent more first time donors in the first four months of 2013 than during the same period of 2011." "Our number one priority at the RNC is taking our message of growth and opportunity to all voters in all states. Our donors are making that possible with their exceptionally strong support," Priebus said in a statement. "Grassroots and major donors alike recognize the need for a comprehensive field operation that engages with all communities and the importance of building out our data, digital, and technology teams."

WHO'S TWEETING?

@jasondhorowitz: Clinton's Team of Rivals - seared, scattered and forged by 2008 crash - aren't coming back for 2016. My story. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/four-key-hillary-clinton-staffers-from-2008-unlikely-to-sign-on-for-2016-bid/2013/05/19/c9e43908-be4a-11e2-89c9-3be8095fe767_story.html …

@markzbarabak: . @LATSeema visits LA's Ohio, the only neighborhood picking the winner in every contested mayoral election last 12 yrs http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-mayor-bellwether-20130521,0,3371170.story …

@HotlineJosh: White House communication director Dan Pfeiffer offered spin over clarity in responding the scandals Sunday http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/obscuring-the-truth-20130520 …

@rubycramer: In new web ad, Barbara Buono teaches NJ voters how to pronounce her name. http://youtu.be/RvG3ngLfW0Q

@brianjameswalsh: Disturbing story in the Post that DOJ was also spying on the personal email account of Fox News reporter James Rosen http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-rare-peek-into-a-justice-department-leak-probe/2013/05/19/0bc473de-be5e-11e2-97d4-a479289a31f9_story.html …

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