IRS scandal widens
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has always targeted conservative groups, pro-Israel groups, and groups seeking to improve America. Now its activities are a public scandal. But this should surprise no one.
The IG on the IRS
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration told these things to investigators for Congress. The Wall Street Journal’s John McKinnon reports on what he told them.
Lois Lerner runs the division that screens Applications for Recognition of Exemption. At issue are Forms 1023 (for 501(c)(3) charities) and 1024 (for 501(c)(4) social-work organizations). Last Friday, in a conference call with several tax lawyers, Ms. Lerner admitted to problems in the IRS Center in Cincinnati, OH. That is the main office that screens tax exemption applications.
Lerner admitted only that organizations having “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their names, faced stricter reviews. This even included demands for donor lists. (Part of being a social-work organization is getting anonymous gifts.) She then said only a few rogue agents were taking tax law into their own hands.
The IG told Congress this cannot be true. Ms. Lerner herself knew in the middle of 2011 that this was going on. And then in March of 2012, then-Commissioner of Internal Revenue Douglas Shulman lied to Congress. He said the IRS was not targeting anyone. Nothing more serious was happening, he said, than “the usual back and forth” when someone applies for a tax exemption.
The IG went further. “Constitution.” “Bill of rights.” “making America a better place to live.” These phrases also triggered special grief from the Cincinnati office. And not just the Cincinnati office, either.
The IRS and its long history
The IRS has a history even further back, of harassing people for views the President does not like. In 2010, the Jewish pro-Israel group Z Street sued the IRS over this same issue. An IRS agent brazenly bragged to them that they might not get their tax exemption, because:
- They had an indirect connection with Israel, and
- They placed themselves against Obama administration policies.
This is what lawyers call “an explicit admission.” And what did that IRS agent admit? “Viewpoint discrimination.” And as James Pethokoukis at National Review online says, no wonder the American people don’t trust their government anymore.
In fact, Joel Pollak at Breitbart News wondered yesterday whether the IRS played favorites among Jewish groups. Specifically: did the rival group J Street specifically ask (de facto) President Obama for a favor, said favor being giving grief to Z Street? And did Barack Obama oblige?
This is not the first time. In 1980, former IRS Tax Law Specialist Paul Strassels published a blockbuster book, All You Need To Know About the IRS. Strassels sought to tell the secrets about how the IRS handled ordinary tax returns, and especially audits. But to introduce his subject, Strassels recalled listening to then-Commissioner of Internal Revenue Donald Alexander testify before Congress. A Congressman had Mr. Alexander seated at the baize table. This Congressman roared at him about reports of flagrant abuse of taxpayers, especially during audits. “This is a democracy, Mr. Alexander, need I remind you?” And what did Donald Alexander say?
I think you and I understand the realities of this modern world. The fact of the matter is that our manpower is so limited, that the only way to keep the people in line, the only way to keep them honest and paying their taxes, is to make them afraid.
This appalling attitude, of course, impelled Paul Strassels to leave the IRS and write his book. And to call the IRS “the only agency of government that is at war with its own constituency.”
The House Committee on the Judiciary would prefer an Article of Impeachment against then-President Richard M. Nixon for ordering the IRS to shake down groups that he did not like. Will the current House Judiciary Committee write a similar article now?
National Review’s editors this morning called the IRS “an outlaw tax collector.”
The IRS is one of the most powerful agencies in the federal government, with fearsome powers that the Department of Homeland Security can only dream of having. (Does DHS subject Americans to mandatory annual questioning about their personal lives, family arrangements, finances, business practices, travel, etc.?) It has a history of being used as a tool of political retaliation, not only by the Nixon administration but at least as far back as Franklin D. Roosevelt. An agency with that kind of power, with access to sensitive information on every individual, business, church, charity, and school in the country, must conduct itself according to the very highest standards. The IRS does not.
And arguably never has, since President Woodrow Wilson pushed through a Constitutional amendment to authorize it.ARVE Error: need id and provider