Ten years ago yesterday was a big date in the history of my life, the history of WorldNetDaily and, whether anyone else recognizes it or not, the history of the United States of America.
On Oct. 22, 1996, with the help of the Wall Street Journal, I broke a story that, for the first time in a publication of national significance, explained how President Bill Clinton was using the Internal Revenue Service as a political attack dog against his adversaries – people like me and a host of organizations critical of his policies.
Within days, there was a chorus of condemnation of Clinton’s actions – from liberals, conservatives, Republicans and Democrats. But, with so many scandals swirling around the Clinton administration, it was hard for people to digest the breath-taking significance of a president targeting his enemies with political audits.
Despite a series of blistering editorials following up the revelations and the subsequent resignation of IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson, most of my colleagues in the press never bothered to report the essence of the story. Like so many other Clinton scandals, the real perpetrator, sitting in Oval Office, was never held to account for this high crime and abuse of power.
Years later, the Treasury Department reviewed the matter and found, just as I had suspected all along, that the audit of my non-profit organization began when the White House forwarded a complaint to the IRS for investigation.
A decade later, it’s worth a second look.
In our case, there was never any question about the motives of the audit. IRS field agent Thomas Cederquist told our accountant in announcing the audit that this was “a political case” and the disposition of it would be made “at the national level.”
Later he would tell us that the justification for the audit was our critical investigative reporting into the president “in an election year.” That’s how much the Clinton administration valued the First Amendment when it was used to expose its wrongdoing.
Two years before the IRS knocked on our door, my non-profit investigative reporting center, the predecessor of WorldNetDaily, was the only news organization targeted in a White House Counsel’s Office memo on how to deal with administration scandals. That memo, written by Jane Sherburne, was “Clinton’s enemies list.” The audits against me and dozens of other individuals and organizations critical of Clinton represented retribution.
Later, the White House’s long-time preoccupation with my work became even clearer with the disclosure, again by the Wall Street Journal, of the administration’s 331-page “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” report, which placed me and my tiny news agency at the beginning of what it called a “media food chain” that nourished scandal stories beginning to appear in the establishment press. If the Sherburne memo represented the “enemies list,” this report was the complete dossier. It contained a five-page biography of me – the only journalist in the country so targeted.
While it may have been hard for the Clinton White House to find many enemies in the press, it had no trouble identifying them elsewhere. Dozens and dozens of organizations and individuals were hit with political audits during the Clinton reign of terror – from institutions like the Heritage Foundation to fired White House travel director Billy Dale to Paula Jones.
And when Judicial Watch helped me prepare a suit against the White House, that group, too, was hit with an audit.
Clinton politicized every agency of the federal government – not just the feared IRS. One financial supporter of mine was told by Clinton Department of Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary that he could kiss his government contracts goodbye if he gave any more money to support my work.
In retrospect, I’ve had many serious beefs with President Bush and his administration. We’ve challenged his administration on the border, on the Harriet Miers nomination, on his reckless spending, on countless other aspects of his leadership. Yet, to his credit, never once have we faced retribution of this kind – where the awesome power of the federal government is turned loose on dissenting citizens.
As we look toward Election Day next month and again in 2008, we must not forget the real high crimes committed by Bill Clinton and his entourage – about which most of the American people, unfortunately, know little or nothing.
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