FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe says the IRS scandal is twice as bad as Watergate because of the breathtaking extent the agency was used to target conservative organizations filing for tax-exempt status as well as their donors.
"Watergate was an example of abuse of power by a few very powerful people, including the chief executive and the specific targeting of a few specific enemies," Kibbe told WND. "In this case, you have an institution-wide bias, a widely known understanding that the IRS was targeting people based on their politics and their political philosophy. It was known for several years and yet it continued and it continued, and so you have one of the most powerful agencies of the federal government, as policy, going after the citizens, the mom-and-pop community leaders. They weren't powerful. They weren't in a position to fight back. It was a widely known thing among tea partiers for years, and now the rest of America is finding out about it."
Kibbe said the details emerging about this scandal suggest far more high-ranking officials were aware of the IRS policy toward conservative groups than the Obama administration is willing to admit.
"The story coming out of the White House and the trail back to the top of the executive branch continues to grow and the story continues to change, and we still don't know who knew what," Kibbe said. "The path of authority is quite clear here. The IRS is part of the Treasury Department. The head of the Treasury Department reports directly to the president of the United States. For the Obama White House or even the Treasury Department to claim that they knew nothing about that, either they're grossly incompetent or they're not being honest and that's what we need to get to the bottom of."
What may lead to a very different conclusion than Watergate is the lack of a paper trail. Kibbe said he would be surprised if there is an actual email or voicemail suggesting Obama was personally involved in developing this policy, but he said all anyone needs to see are Obama's public statements on tea-party groups.
"I think this was broadcast right on the evening news when Obama questioned the right and the motives of tea partiers and conservative donors who were out there fighting for what they believed in," said Kibbe, who noted that administration officials kept the story from going public before the 2012 elections. He believes Obama likely would have lost to Mitt Romney if the story had come to light before Election Day.
FreedomWorks received its tax-exempt status years before the dawn of the tea-party movement and played a critical role in coordinating promoting the tea party. The group has not been audited as part of the IRS scrutiny of conservatives. But Kibbe said FreedomWorks donors were targeted, and that aspect of the story might be an even bigger scandal.
"That is probably the bigger scandal when we work our way down the food chain, that individuals are being targeted, and not just by the IRS but by various agencies of the federal government, for their political beliefs, for who they've decided to give money to," Kibbe said. "It gets to our First Amendment rights, and I do think that we need to understand that the institutional difference today is that the most powerful institutions of he federal government now have the ability to go after citizens that they disagree with. And that's the definition of tyranny."
Kibbe said donors have not been intimidated by the IRS and news of the scandal. He believes forced government transparency is emboldening activists and the actions of the IRS only fuel the desire for smaller, more open government.