Information leaked to the press about a just-completed congressional
report indicates the House Joint Committee on Taxation found no wrong-doing on the part of the
Internal Revenue Service when the agency audited certain non-profit
organizations deemed “political enemies” of the Clinton administration,
though White House officials are noted to have improperly requested
confidential taxpayer information.
Dozens of organizations were audited during the 1990s, including
Western Journalism Center, founded by WorldNetDaily Editor and CEO
When WJC’s audit began in 1996, Farah blew the whistle on the case
and a pattern of other apparently political audits in October 1996 in
the Wall Street Journal. A
firestorm of protest ensued, resulting in the congressional
investigation, as well as the resignation of IRS Commissioner Margaret
The IRS eventually closed the case against the Western Journalism
Center, finding no evidence of wrongdoing, and extending the center’s
The committee’s investigation met with several delays in the three
years since it began, due, according to Chairman Bill Archer,
R-Texas, “to the investigation’s
complexity, scope and because it involved privileged information about
individual tax returns.”
Rep. Bill Archer, R-Texas
Archer said the investigation became “far more voluminous than was
Finally concluded, the committee’s report details improper requests
made by Clinton officials to the IRS.
One such request was made by staff from Vice President Al Gore’s
office to obtain “the status of certain forms filed by members of a
tax-exempt organization,” according to the report, which is scheduled to
be released tomorrow.
Gore’s staff members first tried to get the information, which
involved a union, from the Treasury Department. The department directed
them to the IRS in violation of the department’s rules, according to the
“The White House officials then, in violation of written White House
policies, contacted directly several IRS employees … and attempted to
secure taxpayer return information,” the report said.
White House officials disputed the report’s characterization, saying
the unidentified officials who made the contacts were authorized by the
counsel’s office as required by White House rules and were not seeking
tax return information.
“It appears it is a straightforward status check that was handled
appropriately by our office,” Gore spokeswoman Melissa Bonney Ratcliffe
told the Associated Press.
A Treasury Department official also made an inquiry in 1995 as to the
status of an examination of a tax-exempt organization to several IRS
officials, according to the report, which did not name the officials
involved nor the organization.
In both cases, IRS officials refused to give the administration
officials the information they sought, according to the report, which
stressed that there was no evidence the IRS targeted enemies for audits
or bent to political pressures.
“The Joint Committee staff found no credible evidence that the IRS
had improperly targeted for examination individuals related to
tax-related organizations,” the report said.
But the report had harsh words for the administration’s efforts to
obtain IRS information.
“These types of contacts lend credence to the allegations that the
administration does intervene in IRS matters pertaining to specific
taxpayers,” the report said. “The fact that these contacts occurred
could raise issues concerning the integrity of the system.”
The committee found that members of Congress and their staffs “have
the potential to influence” IRS activities because they control the
agency’s purse strings.
“Because the funding of IRS operations is depending on the Congress,
the IRS responds more promptly to, and takes more seriously” the
requests of lawmakers over average taxpayers, the report said.
The report found that cases involving “high-profile tax-exempt
organizations and individuals received intense internal review and
scrutiny by the IRS.” But it found “no credible evidence” that
organizations were selected “based on the political views” of the
organizations or of individuals related to them.
Examinations of groups “clearly in opposition to the Clinton
administration” were initiated from media reports, but so were audits of
pro-Clinton groups, the report noted.
“The Joint Committee found no credible evidence of intervention by
Clinton administration officials … in the selection of or the failure
to select tax-exempt organizations for examination,” the report said.
The committee’s findings do not come as a surprise to Farah.
“This investigation began in 1997, and three years later they find
nothing,” Farah said. “I contend to you that what they actually found
is that the IRS has almost routinely been used by politicians of both
parties as an attack dog on political entities. Fearing exposure of
that reality, the Republicans in control of the committee have obviously
chosen to whitewash the problem.”
Farah continued, “If you read the media reports related to this
development, you’ll see a prevailing attitude: ‘Everybody’s doing it.’
And everybody skates when everybody does it.”
Emphasizing the power available to the nation’s chief executive,
Farah noted greater potential for abuse exists in the executive branch.
“Clinton has refined this into a new art form — it’s far more
dangerous when the president does it,” he said. “When power is so
centralized in the executive branch as it is, we’re in danger of an
Deviancy, Farah added, has been redefined.
“In Watergate, it was impeachable for Nixon to even talk about using
the IRS,” he said, noting that standards of leadership and
accountability have reached an all-time low.
See Joseph Farah’s column:
A Congressional whitewash