For the acting IRS commissioner at the heart of questions regarding the organization’s attack campaign on conservative and Christian groups there should be a sense of déjà vu, since he did much the same during the Clinton administration.
Steven Miller, the outgoing IRS commissioner who headed the agency’s Services and Enforcement Division since 2009 until the end of last year, reassured Congress on Friday that the agency would never again target conservative groups.
But Americans have reason to be skeptical over his statement, which came as part of intense grilling by Republican lawmakers over an inspector’s general report that revealed the IRS targeted tea party and other conservative groups with inappropriate questions as part of their non-profit application.
In one case, the IRS responded to the Christian Voices for Life non-profit application by asking officials for the content of their prayers and activities around abortion facilities. The Coalition for Life of Iowa was told it would need to certify under penalty of law that members would not picket or protest Planned Parenthood and that their application would not be approved until they did.
Members of the administration and the IRS have attempted to spin the issue as simply being the work of two “rogue agents” who went “off the reservation.” However, WND has long reported on IRS abuses that involved targeting groups opposed to the president.
Many of the WND stories involve not Obama, but rather his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton. During Clinton’s term in office, a audits were conducted against individuals and groups who caused problems for the administration.
Miller was a part of at least one of these cases during the Clinton years. In a brief filed by Judicial Watch over its audit by the IRS during the administration, the group specifically named Miller.
An agent told representatives from Judicial Watch, “What do you expect when you sue the president?” Miller noted that the IRS’ failure to respond to Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act requests “had created at least the appearance of a problem.”
The Judicial Watch audit was not an isolated incident. During Clinton’s term of office several prominent conservative groups found themselves facing IRS audits following their criticism of the president and his policies.
Among the conservative groups targeted for audits were the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association, Concerned Women of America, Citizens Against Government Waste, National Review, American Spectator, David Horowitz’s Center for the Study of Popular Culture and the Western Journalism Center,
The Western Journalism Center was a nonprofit organization founded in 1991 by WND founder Joseph Farah, who was, at the time, editor in chief of the Sacramento Union. Its purpose was to encourage independent investigative reporting. After the New York Post pulled the plug on an investigation by Christopher Ruddy involving the death of former Deputy White House Counsel Vincent Foster, Farah funded a major ad campaign to keep Ruddy’s work in the public eye. In doing so, Farah deeply offended the White House.
In order to raise funds for Ruddy’s investigation, Farah had taken out full-page advertisements, first in the Washington Times, then subsequently in the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Farah’s ads laid out the evidence of a cover-up and appealed for donations to keep the probe going.
In April 1996, IRS Field Agent Thomas Cederquist submitted to Farah’s Center an IRS “Information Document Request” which demanded, among other things, “Copies of all documents relating to the selection of Christopher Ruddy as an investigative reporter and how the topic was selected. Who was on the review committee?” In July, 1996, Cederquist formally began auditing the WJC.
During the targeting of WJC, Cederquist admitted officials were targeting the organization for political reasons.
During a meeting with WJC accountant John Roux, Cederquist said, “Look, this is a political case and the decision is going to be made at the national level.”
Asked for clarification as to what was meant by the statement, Cederquist doubled down, repeating, “This is a political case, and the decision is going to be made at the national level.”
When Farah later retained the services of civil liberties attorney Larry Klayman in 1998, his organization, Judicial Watch was immediately audited.
“As someone whose organization was a victim of this kind of illegal harassment and intimidation and political retribution during the Clinton administration – and who blew the whistle on it – my question is, ‘Who is going to be fired and prosecuted as a result of this admission?’” Farah said, referencing the latest attacks by the IRS.
“Apologies are nice. But they don’t excuse people of crimes. When government officials abuse their power and break laws, they need to be punished as certainly and severely as ordinary citizens. In fact, to maintain trust in government, we need to ensure they are held to a higher standard. So what happens now? Who’s going to take the rap? Which law-enforcement agency is going to investigate? It would seem that an independent prosecutor is necessary unless the Congress is willing to take the lead.”
Farah was not the only journalist to incur the ire of the IRS under Clinton’s watch. The Wall Street Journal reported how other dissident journalists were targeted such as Fox News Bill O’Reilly, who found himself audited for three years in a row.
Earlier this week, following intense media coverage over the IRS’s targeting of tea party groups and criticism by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, it was announced that Miller would be resigning a few weeks early.
Even that bears a similarity to the Clinton years. During that time, news of the IRS targeting of conservative groups began to spill over to where even left of center journalists began to ask questions, Then, just as now, a similar resignation took place when IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson, a friend of Hillary Clinton’s, quietly resigned in February 1997. However, despite her resignation the abuses continued.
While the targeting of conservative organizations was bad enough, the IRS also went after private citizens who had the misfortune of running afoul of the Clinton White House.
One of the first individuals to experience this was Billy Dale, a long-time White House Travel Office Director. Shortly after the Clintons assumed office, Dale was summarily fired by Hillary Clinton in favor of friends and relations from Arkansas. While the sacking was bad enough, Dale subsequently found himself the subject of an IRS audit.
While Clinton’s sexual indiscretions are well-known and have even been the subject of multiple jokes, for the women involved, the affairs were no laughing matter.
Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee said that in 1991 she was propositioned by then-Gov. Clinton in a Little Rock Hotel. In 1994, Jones came forward with the story, which subsequently led to a lawsuit against the president for sexual harassment.
Just five days after Jones rejected a settlement offer from Clinton attorneys over her sexual harassment claims, she found herself targeted for an audit by an IRS agent.
Another woman with ties to the Clinton administration, Elizabeth Ward Gracen also had the misfortune to receive an audit notice. Gracen had a fatal attraction to Bill Clinton prior to him becoming president. After she went public with news of her affair she received threats warning her not to talk about it before she too ended up receiving an audit notice.
Other citizens were targeted with notices from the IRS following their making statements that were critical of Clinton.
In 1997, California resident Margie Gray sent a simple e-mail to Clinton that politely lamented the moral example the president was setting for young children in America.
“It wasn’t “threatening,” she explained to WND, “I just told him how sad it was that parents today are not able to say to their children, ‘Maybe someday you can be president.’” Her reason for making the statement was “Because he was immoral, unethical and dishonest.” He had dishonored the office, she believed.
In just a few weeks, Gray was told in a letter by the IRS that she owed $3,500 in interest since 1991 due to a “mistake” made on her personal income tax return for that year. The letter was even more interesting when one considers that the Grays do not file separate returns.
Gray was also involved in contacting public officials, urging them to oppose Clinton policies, including stopping the giveaway of the Long Beach Naval Shipyard to China’s COSCO company.
A similar event happened to a couple who insulted Clinton during a campaign stop in Chicago, Patricia Mendoza and her husband were attending a food festival when the president arrived.
Mrs. Mendoza shouted, “You suck, and those boys died,” referring to the 1997 truck-bombing at a U.S. barracks in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 servicemen.
Mendoza and her husband were subsequently escorted away from the area by Secret Service agents and charges were filed against them for unruly behavior. A month after Mrs. Mendoza’s shout, her husband, Glenn Mendoza received an IRS notice stating they owed $200 in back taxes and if the amount was not paid immediately, their property would be seized.
Following a call by Mendoza’s attorney, the IRS quickly dropped the case claiming the issue was due to a “computer error.”
Attorney Kent Masterson Brown represented the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons in their lawsuit attempting to force the administration to open up records related to Hillary Clinton’s health care task force, the precursor to Obamacare.
Within a month of filing the suit, Brown received an audit notice from the IRS. Additionally, Brown charged that the White House pressured the National Park Service into refusing to reappoint him to a second term on the Gettysburg National Military Park Advisory Commission, an honorary post. Brown, a Civil War buff, was the commission’s first chairman.
It has been revealed that under the Obama administration that while conservative groups have been targeted with extra scrutiny, there are no reports of progressive groups such as Media Matters being singled out. A similar pattern occurred during the Clinton administration when there were no reports from that time of left wing groups such as Planned Parenthood of the Brookings Institute being singled out for audits.