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IRS, White House above the law?

Posted By Joseph Farah On 09/18/1998 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Last week, we had our first court hearing in our $10
million lawsuit against White House and Internal
Revenue Service officials we believe conspired to use their
government power to harass and intimidate my
organization, the Western Journalism Center, for exposing
Clinton administration scandals for the last four years.

This was a procedural hearing in Sacramento before U.S.
Judge Milton Schwartz, a Carter appointee, who seemed to
be preparing the Justice Department attorney from
Washington and our counsel from Larry Klayman’s
Judicial Watch for a major trial.

Nevertheless, the government is trying to abort this trial
on the kind of familiar technical grounds we have come to
expect from this administration. Interestingly, the Justice
Department has yet to dispute the major claims of our case
— that the center was the victim of a politically motivated
audit designed to squelch our First Amendment rights.

  • The Justice Department is claiming the one-year statute
    of limitations expired before we filed the suit. Not true. By
    any standard, we filed in plenty of time. The audit of our
    organization ended in May 1997. We were not officially
    notified until June of 1997. No tax-exempt organization in
    its right mind would sue the IRS during an audit. We filed
    the lawsuit in May of 1998 within one year of the audit
    being closed.
  • The Justice Department is claiming an argument you’ve
    heard before from the administration — that there is “no
    controlling legal authority” and, thus, no legislative
    remedy for organizations victimized by political audits. In
    other words, the president is free to use the IRS to go after
    his “enemies” and there is no punitive action the victim
    can take against him or the agents with whom he
    conspires.

Next week, the Justice Department attorneys will be back in
U.S. District Court in Sacramento to ask Judge Schwartz to
dismiss the case on these specious grounds.

I want to go on record right now as saying that no matter
how the judge rules on this motion, the Western
Journalism Center will not stop in pressing this matter for
adjudication and remedy. This is a case far too important to
the future of this country and the rule of law to allow it to
be dropped.

Let’s review the basic facts. In 1994, the center began
investigating Clinton administration corruption. By
December 1994, memos released to congressional
investigators show that the White House counsel’s office
had begun targeting the center for action of some kind. In
1995, the center was a major focus of a White House
counsel’s office 331-page report called the Communication
Stream of Conspiracy Commerce. I was the only journalist
profiled in this mammoth report alleging a wide-ranging
media conspiracy against the president. In early 1996, I first
began hearing rumors that my organization was being
targeted by the IRS. Months later, we were notified that we
were under audit and that our tax-exempt status was under
scrutiny because of the nature of our investigative work
into Clinton administration corruption during an election
year.

When we questioned the IRS agent about his authority to
interfere in our First Amendment-protected activities, he
said: “Look, this is a political case, and the decision will be
made at the national level.”

We then exposed this blatant abuse of the IRS against our
organization and the pattern of politically motivated audits
against other non-profits in the pages of the Wall Street
Journal. As a result, Congress began an investigation, and
IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson resigned.
Ultimately, the agent in charge was removed from the case,
investigated internally by the IRS and a new agent
assigned. The nine-month audit was then closed within
two days.

We demanded our case file, which the “Taxpayer Bill of
Rights” states is available to any taxpayer following an
audit. It was denied. We then filed a Freedom of
Information Act request for it. Again it was denied. The
IRS stated that the file would be withheld because it had
been through the hands of others within the IRS and
possibly outside of the agency and was, thus, protected by
“governmental privilege.”

Having exhausted every available means to document our
growing conviction that we were targeted for political
reasons, we filed suit.

If you believe, as I do, that this is a monumentally
important case, I ask for your sincere and unceasing
intercessory prayers that justice will be done.


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