I will be in the U.S. federal courthouse in Sacramento this morning at 9 a.m. in support of my attorney, Larry Klayman of Judicial Watch, as we press our case against officials and former officials of the White House and Internal Revenue Service for targeting my organization for a political audit in 1996.
Last month, we had our first procedural hearing before Judge Milton Schwartz in a $10 million lawsuit against those we believe conspired to use their government power to harass and intimidate the Western Journalism Center, for exposing Clinton administration scandals for the last four years.
Today, Janet Reno’s finest minds from the Justice Department will be on hand in Sacramento contending that the suit should be dismissed.
The government is trying to abort this trial on the kind of familiar technical grounds we have come to expect from this administration. 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.
What do they say? 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 another argument you’ve heard before from the administration — essentially 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.
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.
In 1994, the center, the parent company of WorldNetDaily.com, 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 1996, 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.
I believe that this case, taking place far from Washington’s media glare, will tell us much about whether the U.S. justice system still works to protect our constitutional rights.