Ron Strom is commentary editor of WND, a post he took after serving as a news editor since 2000. Prior to coming on board with WND, Strom worked in politics in California. Married and the father of two homeschool graduates, he has served in leadership positions in his church, local nonprofit boards and in county government.More ↓Less ↑
A former IRS criminal-investigation special agent who left the agency and became a whistleblower exposing government fraud and abuse says the agency, in its attempt to prevent him from serving as an official representative of taxpayers, is illegally using “enforcers” to monitor his political activities and build its case against him.
On his website, Freedom Above Fortune, former IRS employee Joe Banister explains his journey from special agent to a member of the “tax honesty movement” – activists working to expose what they consider is a fraudulent income-tax system. He says when he quit his job at the IRS, he committed himself to “raising awareness about the dirty little secrets the IRS keeps from the American people,” even if it caused him “personal and professional hardship.”
The IRS filed a complaint against Banister on March 19, 2003, and began what he calls the agency’s “mission to silence and discredit me.” The agency claims Banister advised two taxpayers they were not required to file income tax because the 16th Amendment to the Constitution establishing the tax was not properly ratified and that the tax code defines “income” in a way that exempted the taxpayers’ pay. The agency further seeks punishment for Banister because he did not file a tax return himself for the years 1999 to 2002.
Banister told WND he was an exemplary employee of the agency from November 1993 to February 1999, when he left to become a taxpayer advocate.
“I really did good work there,” he explained. “I’ve got plenty of written documentation that I wasn’t disgruntled or a troublemaker or anything like that. I received lots of awards and promotions.”
In December, an administrative law judge made an initial decision to disbar Banister from practicing before the IRS. Banister subsequently filed an appeal Jan. 23 with the Secretary of the Treasury.
The IRS claims Banister’s situation is “a simple case involving a … former Internal Revenue Service employee who advanced frivolous arguments on behalf of taxpayers and failed to file his own returns for a number of years.”
Banister and his attorneys, however, are convinced the agency is illegally monitoring his political activities in its attempt to win the case.
In the latest action, on Feb. 27 the IRS filed a response to the former agent’s appeal that cites as justification for its action a Nixon-era tactic the agency used to punish war protesters.
“What Nixon did is he put together a committee (the Activist Organization Committee) within the IRS to monitor Vietnam War protesters,” one of Banister’s attorneys, Bob Barnes, told WND. “They used IRS financial databases to check on protesters’ financial income, audit them and then if possible try to create criminal or financial or tax problems for them purely based on their political position.”
Continued Barnes, “The IRS cites that case heavily in their opinion as to why its completely permissible to do what they are currently doing” to Banister.
Barnes says the IRS had not cited the Nixon-era tactic previously in any case he has seen – “for evident reasons,” he said.
“What they’re saying is there really are no restraints” on politically motivated monitoring by the agency.
In its response to Banister’s appeal, the IRS argues: “[In Teague v. Alexander] the court considered allegations by the plaintiff that his selection for audit by the IRS was directly related to, and resulted from, his dissident views on the Vietnam War in violation of his First Amendment right to freedom of speech. …
“The court … stated that: ‘the exercise of some selectivity in enforcement of the laws is not in itself and always a constitutional violation.’”
Banister responded to the IRS justification with a comparison to Orwell.
“Based on the brazenly presented argument in the IRS brief, the agency believes it would be justified even if a committee or division as Orwellian as ‘Silence Client Advocates’ or ‘Discredit Fearless Client Advocates’ existed,” he told WND.
“Is there an American alive who does not recognize the self-serving nature of the IRS being able to police client advocates, especially client advocates who can actually help their clients expose fraudulent IRS practices and fraudulently derived income tax assessments?”
Here’s how Banister explained the IRS’ intentions in a letter to supporters:
“The IRS wants to use the ‘DOP’ (Director of Practice) as a secret police force to monitor and punish political advocacy. … Is it any surprise that the agency fought so hard to limit all discovery (my right to learn details about the government’s evidence and witnesses) in the case against me? Is it any surprise that the IRS is desperately fighting my appeal?”
Continued Banister: “First, these enforcers monitored my political appearances, then admitted that the referral of the IRS complaint against me resulted from my talk-radio appearances. Apparently, IRS officials simply cannot tolerate one of their former criminal investigators telling America the truth about the agency’s deceitful and illegal practices.”
Like Barnes, Banister claims the IRS has no authority to engage in such “enforcing,” but that it does so anyway, saying, “All the political rallies a person attends or speaks at and all private political strategies and efforts are subject to IRS scrutiny. Can you believe this?”
The former IRS agent asked supporters to help him financially in his fight.
“With your prayers and financial support,” wrote Banister, “you have helped me to force these IRS officials out from the dark recesses of their bureaucracy into the bright light of truth, opening the eyes of the American public to the fact that the IRS Emperor has no clothes. At every stage of this process, we can sense IRS officials salivating at the opportunity to discredit and silence me, but each and every time they have to step into the light and expose themselves and their true objectives.”
On his website, Banister includes each document relevant to his case as a .pdf link.
Banister says if Treasury Secretary John Snow rejects his appeal, he then would turn to federal district court, bringing the matter from the executive to the judicial branch. In the meantime, Banister is still serving as an advocate on behalf of his clients dealing with the IRS.