Back in the day, leaders of the Mafia were known for invoking their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination before congressional hearings.

But now it’s gangsters of a different kind who are doing it – top officials of the Internal Revenue Service.

Pleading the Fifth means one thing. You can only do it for one reason – to avoid making criminal admissions that can come back to haunt you in the courts.

So, by definition, it is an admission of wrongdoing but one that cannot be used against you in a court of law.

I strongly suspect the Founding Fathers who enshrined into the Bill of Rights this special protection had in mind ordinary citizens rather than public officials. But that’s another story for another day.

The point is this: Lois Lerner, the former director of the tax-exempt office of the IRS, admits she would be subject to criminal charges if she testified before Congress on what she knows about the IRS targeting nonprofit organizations for political reasons.

Did you catch that? Let’s say it the way it is: She has admitted she may have broken the law with respect to the political targeting of tax-exempt groups. Now it’s time for Congress to get serious about exposing all the ugly tentacles of this wholly un-American scandal. Too much time has been wasted already. House Speaker John Boehner needs to unleash his best attack dogs to get to the truth in a hurry. And the American press better wake up to the reality of the Gestapo nature of this administration.

If Barack Obama gets away with this, it will happen again and again – in this administration and future ones. That’s not theory. It’s a fact backed up with history.

What do I mean?

It happened in the 1990s. You forgot, right? Or perhaps you were too young to remember. Or maybe you missed the fleeting press reports about Bill Clinton’s extensive abuse of the IRS as his own personal political attack dog.

I haven’t.

I was one of many victims of it. And I was also the guy who blew the whistle on it.

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What happened back then is a matter of historical record, though, sadly, you’d have to work hard to find it.

Even though Richard Nixon was brought up on impeachment charges for abusing the IRS, he never actually did it. All he did was talk about it – which is bad enough. Clinton didn’t talk about it. He went after his enemies using the most feared government agency in Washington – the one that has the most intimate and private financial records on every American taxpayer.

Clinton went after tax-exempt groups – from the Heritage Foundation to Concerned Women for America to the National Rifle Association to Citizens Against Government Waste to the National Review to American Spectator and many, many more.

He went after individuals, too – from inconvenient women like Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick (who accused Clinton of raping her), Kathleen Willey, Liz Ward Gracen and dozens of other prominent critics and others he wanted to shut up.

WND recently revisited this history in a refresher news story that should be required reading for every member of Congress. Yet it hardly scratches the surface of Clinton’s systematic political and personal abuse of the IRS.

In my case, it began with a knock on my accountant’s door.

IRS agent Thomas Cederquist announced my nonprofit organization at the time, the Western Journalism Center, was going to be audited. Surprised by the announcement, my accountant asked why. Cedarquist explained ominously and tellingly, “It’s a political case and the decision will be made at the national level.”

That was just the start. In the nine-month ordeal in which Cederquist made my office his home away from home, rifling through documents at will, another IRS official announced in a meeting with me, my accountant and my corporate counsel: “What do you expect to happen when you criticize the president in an election year?”

Assuming I was not alone, I began checking in with other groups and individuals who had crossed the Clinton administration. While many were not eager to talk, I was able to identify dozens and dozens of organizations, publications and individuals who were under audit, too. The pattern was shocking – shocking enough for the Wall Street Journal to publish an unprecedented 11 editorials exposing it.

Dozens of members of Congress from both parties, believe it or not, wrote letters demanding answers from the IRS. On the talking-head shows of the time, no one defended Clinton or doubted the accusations. The evidence was too overwhelming.

But the public focus shifted to Monica Lewinsky. And the press was only too willing to forget the political scandal for the sex scandal. IRS abuse was never considered as an impeachment charge against Clinton.

Years later, in July 1999, a Freedom of Information Act request produced a report of a Treasury Department investigation into my own case. It’s results were shocking, given that the IRS is part of the Treasury Department: It found that the audit of my organization, which, by that time, included WND, was triggered when Bill Clinton received a letter of complaint from one of his supporters about our work, initialed it and passed it along to the head of the IRS exempt office – the same position later held by Lois Lerner.

He didn’t have to plead the Fifth. He was never called to testify. The stonewalling by Clinton was successful.

That his wife today is taken seriously as a presidential candidate is proof that crime pays – when the government commits it.

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