11

Collusion and Corruption at the IRS

tax forms[1]They say there are only two sure things in life: death and taxes. Try as we might, it’s virtually impossible to escape the clutches of the Grim Reaper or the Tax Man. Both will get you eventually.

And as anyone who has been through an IRS audit or suffered a tax penalty can attest, the power that the Internal Revenue Service wields is enormous. As John Marshall famously concluded, “the power to tax is the power to destroy.” Indeed it is, and because of this it is imperative that the IRS conducts itself in a sterling manner. The American people should be able to trust that an entity with so much power is completely ethical, fair, and impartial. Anything less would be a grievous betrayal of the public trust and the Constitution.

Sadly, we’re discovering that the IRS has been less than scrupulous in its treatment of conservative non-profits in recent years. According to the admissions of Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, “about 75 groups with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names received extra IRS screening between 2010 and 2012.” Specifically, conservative groups applying for non-profit status in TN, TX, KY, and OH were subjected to intrusive questions about their donors and subject to long delays. In some cases, letters were sent to big donors to these groups suggesting that their contributions could be retroactively taxed under the gift tax.

All of this occurred in the run-up to the 2012 elections, but of course officials representing the Obama administration have flatly rejected the notion that politics are behind the IRS’ antics. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the Administration doesn’t have the facts on its side. From a piece in the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s important to understand that the timing of these requests, in the middle of the 2012 campaign, had the effect of stifling political activity. The targeted groups had tax-exempt status that allowed them to participate in certain kinds of political messaging. But any such group receiving IRS missives is immediately going to become cautious, lest it risk the arbitrary wrath of some tax official. The speech-squelching effects may have been especially important in Ohio, which was ground zero in the battle for the White House.

Ms. Lerner’s apology on Friday was unexpected but we’re doubtful that it came as a sudden bolt of conscience. The mea culpa lands ahead of an official report on the tax-fishing incidents by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. That report was requested by House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa and Ohio Republican Representative Jim Jordan in June 2012, and the IG is expected to issue its findings soon.

The incident is particularly rich in light of recent efforts by campaign finance reformers to broaden the powers of the IRS and other non-expert agencies to regulate politics, especially nonprofits. The latest campaign finance disclosure bill sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), would force trade organizations and 527 and 501(c) groups to disclose their donors, institute real-time reporting requirements and impose draconian penalties for noncompliance.

The bill modifies the tax code to cover political nonprofits, so it also hands more power to regulate politics to the IRS. The bill is a terrible idea on its face, but after Ms. Lerner’s disclosure it looks positively dangerous.”

As the facts clearly indicate, the desired effect of the IRS’s targeting activities was to impose a chilling effect on conservative political speech in 2012 election battle. Unscrupulous bureaucrats engaged in a condemnable abuse of power in order to stifle the free exchange of ideas and thus protect their favored candidate.

Despite what Ms. Lerner would have the American people think, the admitted wrongdoing is much more than merely “regrettable.” It is extremely serious. A government that misuses its power in order to suppress the speech of one to the benefit of another cannot claim to be a protector of freedom. This is the behavior of dictatorships, not free societies. The principle at stake here is one that should transcend party. Today it might be conservatives in Uncle Sam’s crosshairs, but tomorrow it could just as easily be liberals, or Christians, or feminists or environmentalists – name your interest group. The potential for abuse is endless.

The public should be outraged. The ACLU should be in a lather. Congress should aggressively intervene in its oversight role and demand answers. Any abuse of power by one branch of government should be checked by the other branches. Any individuals involved should be fired immediately, and criminal charges should be filed. If the government fails to send a clear message that such abuses will not be tolerated, bureaucrats who feel insulated from accountability will continue to view government as a means to advance personal political views at the expense of the Constitution.

Given its many recent fumbles and the growing impression that the Administration believes itself to be above reproach, a vigorous and public response by the President would be welcomed on this matter. If Mr. Obama truly cherishes the Constitution and embraces America’s culture of free speech then he should be first in line demanding answers. His response, or lack thereof, will speak volumes.


Kenneth L. Connor is the Chairman of the Center for a Just Society, 1220 L St. NW, Suite 100-371, Washington, DC 20005. Email: info@centerforajustsociety.org and website: http://www.centerforajustsociety.org.
  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    I read here about more corruption in the US.
    I would love to get some hope encouragement and consolation from CL.
    Is there any good news anywhere? Did the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ bring any love, hope, joy or peace?

  • goral

    The good news here is that this is another scandal that may get inside the immunity bubble that the feckless press put around this corrupt regime.
    If the birth and life and death and Resurrection of our Savior taught us anything it’s that “Cesar” is not our god. We owe Cesar taxes and allegiance as far as our physical and social interests: Our spiritual allegiance is to our Lord.

    The fact that Gosnell is on his way to prison and people in the regime may soon follow him is the victory of good over evil.

    That’s great news!

  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    Goral, many thanks for your sound reply. I appreciate it.

  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    Tonight I
    have been reading Paul and note that he supports loyalty and obedience to the civil
    authorities.

    Sometimes it seems to me that some Americans, because they disagree with Obama and the administration in the US, which they consider corrupt and anti-Christian, think that they do not owe loyalty to their government of their country.

    A lack of support for their country is also shown by some libertarians, who are
    essentially anarchists, and resist the rules and regulations of the government.

    Where do you stand?

    *****************************************

    Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God (NRSV, Rom 13:1).

    First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and
    thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior (NRSV, 1 Tim 2:1-3).

    Remind them to be under the control of magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise (NRSV, Tit 3:1).

  • Bob Struble

    Noel. Romans 13 was not written to discourage populist resistance to tyranny. Consider how St. Thomas Aquinas put it:
    “A tyrannical regime is not just because it is not directed to the common good…. Consequently there is no sedition in disconcerting such a regime, unless … (the cure should be worse than the malady). Indeed it is the tyrant rather that is guilty of sedition, since he provokes discord and sedition among his subjects even as he seeks to assure his dominance.
    Thus is tyranny, being conducive to the private good of the ruler, and to the
    injury of the multitude.

  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    Bob,
    many thanks for your reply to me. I appreciate hearing from you, as your views are always well-thought out and considered. However is the current US administration tyrannical?

    We live in liberal democracies, and hence opposition and participation, with disagreements, are appropriate. One does not have to agree with everything the State does to be a patriotic and committed citizen. But there is a balance. When does opposition become treason?

    • GuitarGramma

      When does opposition become treason? When it breaks the law.

      No one here on CL has advocated illegal activity. But time after time, contributors to CL have pointed out the scandals of the current US leadership. Bush? The liberals called him stupid, but there was little to no talk of tyrannical actions (except perhaps from the pro-abortion lobby). But our current administration? Gun running to Mexican drug gangs, government control of our health care, jailing of US Border Patrol agents, IRS persecution of conservative groups, forced payment for contraceptives and sterilization; the list goes on and on. For goodness sake, when first elected, President Obama sat down with conservative members of the media and asked them to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh and to listen to him instead. Did he miss that part of our Constitution that grants freedom of the press?

      The feeling amongst conservative Americans is one of being oppressed. There is a sense of fear. I hope you’ll understand that many of us are downright scared.

  • Bob Struble

    Noel. It is not just the current Administration which is tyrannical, but the postmodern regime that governs the polity, economy and culture of the USA. There are so many examples; I’ll cite just one from the economic sphere. The multinational corporations that run the economy in cooperation with the government outsource jobs, and allocate as much work as possible to robots (automation) so as to deprive working people of a decent standard of living and create a permanent underclass of chronically unemployed and underemployed people. In short, they reverse Pope John Paul II’s maxim that the economy is for people, not people for the economy (Laborem Exercens).

    This is tyranny, as per Pope Francis today:

    Pope Francis has called on world leaders to put an end to the “cult
    of money” and to do more to help the poor, warning that insecurity was
    rising in many regions of the world and the “joy of life” was
    diminishing in developed countries.

    “The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless
    image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is
    faceless and lacking any truly human goal,” Francis said in an address
    to ambassadors to the Vatican on Thursday.

    Francis said that radical free-market ideologies had created “a new,
    invisible, and at times virtual, tyranny” and human beings “considered
    as consumer goods” and called for global financial reform that would
    benefit everyone.

    “Solidarity, which is the treasure of the poor, is often considered
    counterproductive, opposed to the logic of finance and the economy.
    While the income of a majority is increasing exponentially, that of the
    majority is crumbling,” he said.

    “I encourage the financial exports and the political leaders of your
    countries to consider the words of St John Chrysostom “Not to share
    one’s goods with the poor is to rob them”, he said.

  • Bob Struble

    Pope condemns economic tyranny & the cult of money

  • Noel Fitzpatrick

    Bob, many thanks for all your sound contributions. I agree that both extreme, left and right, cause problems.