To the stunning admission by Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service that one of the most powerful and feared instruments of the federal government to punish select tax-exempt groups with special scrutiny because of their political opposition to the president’s agenda, I have a few things to say:
Apology not accepted
Which heads are going to roll?
When do congressional hearings on this begin?
When will Barack Obama be apologizing for the demonization of tea-party groups that led directly to this action?
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?” 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.
If I rob a bank and apologize for it later, it doesn’t absolve me of guilt for the crime.
And make no mistake about it, what IRS administrator Lois Lerner admitted to in a conference of the American Bar Association Friday is a crime – a high crime.
Also, keep in mind, it has been more than a year since members of Congress raised concern over the issue of political audits by the IRS. So this is hardly a spontaneous act of contrition.
Take a look at the “red flags” IRS operatives looked for in targeting intrusive and thuggish audits and demands for more information about returns: Groups that used the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their organizational descriptives were targeted. Imagine what Samuel Adams would think about this.
For years, Barack Obama’s defenders have been telling the American people that his patriotism should never be questioned. Yet, what we have in this admission by the IRS suggests those working for him think “patriot” is a dirty word.
Worse yet, these groups were asked for their lists of donors – trampling on the privacy rights of individuals without their knowledge.
For those not old enough to remember, the articles of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon in the 1970s included the allegation that he attempted to abuse the IRS as a political attack dog. History has revealed Nixon didn’t actually do it, he just talked about it, proposed it and was shot down by his Treasury secretary for evening thinking about it.
Yet, the two most recent Democrat administrations have actually permitted this offense deemed by Democrats and Republicans in the 1970s as impeachable.
Bill Clinton not only allowed it, he directed it, as I discovered as a target of his actions. My organization was one of dozens of groups Clinton determined to be adversaries – or, as Nixon would have called them, “enemies.” That’s right. Clinton had an “enemies list” and went after those on it with all the full weight and power of the federal government – the feared IRS.
This is a matter of public record, still ignored by the media for the most part, because years later, in response to the lawsuit filed by me, the Treasury Department released a letter from Bill Clinton himself directing the IRS to look into my organization, then known as the Western Journalism Center.
I was hardly alone. While there was no tea-party movement back in the 1990s, those targeted with audits represented a virtual “who’s who” among conservative organizations as well as individuals who had, in one way or another, crossed Clinton.
And here we are again nearly two decades later, with another Democrat administration doing it again.
Don’t believe for a moment the IRS doesn’t already have in place safeguards against this kind of abuse by low-level functionaries. It does. And that means what we heard about on Friday is just spin. It’s disinformation. It’s deflection from the truth.
Let me close with one last rhetorical question: If Democrats believed it was an impeachable offense for Nixon to fantasize about using the IRS to go after political enemies but never actually doing it, what do they think about a president who, at the very least, created the climate that permitted the IRS to actually do it?