Are you a conservative? Do you belong to a group that has criticized the government or sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution? Do you belong to an organization that is concerned about government spending, debt, or taxes? How about one that has lobbied to make America a better place to live? Are you now or have you ever been affiliated with a “Tea Party?” If so, then the IRS has a higher than usual interest in your tax forms.
In a move reminiscent of Richard Nixon’s “Political Enemies Project,” the IRS now admits that it used the power of its office to apply “additional scrutiny” to conservative groups.
This is a huge foul. In a country where freedom of speech and freedom of association are specifically called out in the Bill of Rights as something that any American is free to engage in, the idea that any government agency, particularly one as powerful as the IRS would be giving you “special scrutiny” for engaging in such activity is not only pernicious, but down-right chilling. Anyone involved in such activity should be fired immediately. Anyone who ordered such activity should not only be fired, but should go directly to jail, not passing Go and not collecting $200. (Or their government retirement pension either).
Records show that senior agency official Lois Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, was briefed on 29 Jun 2011 that the agency was giving “special attention” to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” At the time she objected, and ordered the agents to immediately change the criteria for flagging groups.
Good for Ms. Lerner! She did not however, when responding to inquiries from the House oversight committee at a later date, disclose the fact that Tea Party and other conservative groups had ever been targeted. Nor did she do so after meeting twice with staff from the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee to discuss the issue in March and May of 2012. Cover up?
Ms. Lerner’s directive didn’t last for long. On 15 Jan 2012, the IRS once again decided to apply a political litmus test to organizations it intended to audit, looking at groups applying for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organizations. Specifically, they decided to target “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the social economic reform movement.” This was, of course, during the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections.
Apparently though, IRS scrutiny of conservative groups began well before that. During March 2010, the IRS began searching on the phrases “Tea Party”, “patriots”, and “9/12” (Glenn Beck’s grass roots organizations) to search for applications from groups requesting tax exempt status that “warranted additional scrutiny.” By June 2011, over 100 Tea Party-related applications had been flagged and the dragnet widened, now including groups concerned about “government debt”, “taxes”, and groups “criticizing how the government is being run.”
The IRS initial response has been that the breaches were caused by “low level employees” employed in a single office in Cincinnati; no high level officials were aware. This is eerily similar to claims made by the Nixon administration regarding the activities of the “White House Plumbers” which lead to the Watergate investigation. And it is becoming “perfectly clear” that their initial responses have been no more truthful than those lies of the Nixon administration forty years ago to the week.
It is also becoming clear that whether or not higher-ups in the IRS ordered the investigations, they certainly knew about them and failed not only to stop them, but to report them to congress when specifically asked. It is also becoming clear that officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved, not just the branch in Cincinnati that they have been trying blame in an effort at damage control. The operation is beginning to look systemic. (Note: as the number of groups affected has now topped 500, perhaps I should change “systemic” to “chronic”.) This smacks of a cover up at the very least.
According to the IG report, on 4 August 2011, after Ms. Lerner had directed the criteria be changed, and before the IRS once more decided that political litmus tests were to be used, the IRS chief counsel held a meeting with the IRS Rulings and Agreements unit “so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”
On 3 May 2012, the acting chief of the IRS, Steven Miller, was briefed that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were being inappropriately singled out increased scrutiny. And yet, he failed to inform Congress of this breach, even when asked about it in testimony before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee on 25 July of that same year.
Far from being an isolated incident perpetrated by some over-zealous employees, this appears to be an orchestrated application of IRS policy aimed at squelching groups opposed to administration policy and Barack Obama’s re-election. These accusations are not new; they were made by the groups in question during the last presidential campaign. At the time the President and the press dismissed them out of hand as “whacko,” tin-foil hat complaints by right-wing fringe groups. This administration, according to left wing pundits one of the most ethical in the history of the country, would never use the IRS to silence its opposition.
Is there anyone reading this who does not fear an IRS audit? Even if you have “nothing to hide”, the idea of an IRS audit is enough to send chills down the back of most Americans. I remember when my grandfather was audited. He went in full of confidence that he had all his bases covered – receipts for everything. He came back with his tail between his legs. The IRS had disallowed most of his medical exemptions because he didn’t have them in proper order and they didn’t have the time to go through them all. After that, he didn’t even bother again, finding it easier and safer to not claim deductions and stay off the IRS radar screen. How many other Americans do the same thing, rather than risk an audit?
So now, concern over government debt puts you on an IRS “hit list”? Educating people on the U.S. Constitution, one of our founding documents and the guarantor of our freedom, or “criticizing how the government is being run” earns you “additional scrutiny” by the nation’s taxing entity? I mean, it was perfectly OK to criticize the government when George Bush was in office. It was even "patriotic." No less a personage than Hillary Clinton assured us of that. But now that Barack Obama is the pontiff, apparently such criticism is “subversive” and worthy of additional scrutiny by the 2,000 pound gorilla that is the IRS.
All Americans, no matter what their political persuasion should be appalled at this. This is a case of the government sticking its nose where it has no business and engaging in activities well beyond its charter. Taxes are taxes – political litmus tests have no place in the process. While it might amuse liberals to think that their conservative “foes” are having the hammer dropped on them, they should consider that pendulums swing, and the same could happen to them in the future. What place does freedom of speech, freedom of the press, or freedom of any kind have in a country where the IRS or any other government agency can swoop down on you and pound you into the ground for expressing an opinion counter to the political Pravda of the day as expressed by the party in power?
The IRS can make your life an absolute hell. They can freeze your bank accounts, dun your paycheck, and put liens on your property. In a country where you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the IRS operates under the Napoleonic code; you are guilty until you can prove yourself innocent. What the IRS says, goes, unless you can hire yourself legal counsel and prove they are wrong. They have their own separate court system, and good luck convincing them otherwise if they want your head on a pike. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to make the attempt and most of us find it easier to avoid the situation all together – which is exactly what they want. It’s bad enough when the IRS takes a “special interest” in your tax form; taking a “special interest” in your political views is downright chilling from an organization that is the closest thing to the Gestapo we currently have in this country. (Although DHS may be closing fast.)
Keep in mind too, that this is the key government agency empowered with enforcement of Obamacare; they will be administering 47 different tax provisions under the act with broad, sweeping powers to write new tax law and regulations affecting all Americans. If you think that the IRS was in your knickers before, “you ain’t seen nothing yet”.
And did the IRS do more than simply investigate? Did they take a more active role as well? Did they illegally leak confidential donor information during the president’s reelection campaign and target Romney supporters for audits too? These claims too, were made during the last election campaign, and again, roundly poo-pooed by the administration and the mainstream media. Now they are coming back as well.
So now, as always, the question now becomes “who knew and when did they know?” How high did the rot go? Who authorized this? Whose idea was it? And of course, “did the President know?”
If it turns out that the President knew or, heavens forbid, ordered or condoned such behavior by an agency under his direction, he should be impeached and removed from office. Is there anyone out there that doesn’t image that this “rises” to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors”? It did for President Nixon.
Article 2 section 1 of the Articles of Impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon reads as follows:
“He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”After Watergate, laws were enacted that specifically prohibit the White House from contacting the IRS about tax matters. It can contact the Treasury Department about such issues, but both Treasury and the IRS are barred from disclosing specific taxpayer information, and the IRS is specifically prohibited from releasing information regarding a petition for tax-exempt status until after such status has been approved.
The President claims that he first learned of the issue from news reports. “If,” the President stated on Monday at a press conference, “in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that had been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it.”
IF? This accusation didn’t come out of the blue. It came in the form of a report to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which had been conducting an audit of the IRS’s handling of the applications process and was released in a report. That the President was not briefed on this prior to the press releasing the information is simply not creditable. One if the cardinal rules in any organization is to never let your boss be blindsided, and this is not the first time that the President has claimed to have been blindsided by the press on issues that he should have known about. If that turns out to be the case yet again, then the President had best fire his staff for gross incompetence.
Far from being a national scandal, Nancy Pelosi sees the IRS controversy as an “opportunity” to investigate 501(c)(4)s and, in particular, groups she doesn’t approve of, such as Citizens United.
Maybe she can start by investigating herself and her fellow democrats. Back in 2010, Max Baucus, (D-MT), head of the Finance Committee, called upon the IRS to do exactly what they now stand accused of. Today he is leading the charge for an investigation of the IRS for engaging in the activity that he recommended. But that was then and this is now, I guess.
I wonder if she would be as keen on investigating groups such as MoveOn.org, or the President’s personal 501(c)(4), “Organizing for Action?”
One has to wonder if the groups comprising the “Occupy Wall Street” movement had to undergo the same level of scrutiny to obtain their tax-exempt status, and if Ms. Pelosi would be amenable to reinvestigating them. Of course, this was a movement condoned and praised by the left and the administration, so one doubts that they had to submit to things such as the 55-questions asked by the IRS of at least one tea party group before they could receive theirs. This included lists of their membership, resumes of their top officers, descriptions of interviews with the media, minutes of all board meetings since their creation, web pages, blog posts, and social media postings, transcripts of radio shows where the group had mentioned political candidates by name, summaries or copies of all materials passed out at meetings, even their private thoughts. Apparently to the IRS, die gedanken sind nicht frei. They also requested a list of all donors. Why? So they could target them for “additional scrutiny” as well?
The IRS even ordered one conservative educational group to turn over a list of high school and college students it had ever trained or planned to train. (Not sure exactly how you comply with the latter; does the IRS think that maybe this organization has some kind of crystal ball that lets them see into the future?)
On the other hand, tax-exempt status for the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a “charity” headed by the president’s half-brother was granted within a month of filing with no intrusive questions asked, by the same office that was grilling conservative organizations like a tuna. Not only was the status speedily granted, but it was granted retroactively back to December 2008, because the organization had illegally been soliciting tax-deductible contributions without an IRS determination for over 27 months. Nor is this an isolated instance. In fact, liberal groups seemed to have little to no problem getting their applications approved while those of conservative groups were stuck in the mire.
But this is all OK because, as everyone knows, the Tea Party is a racist, violent, anti-government organization orchestrated by Karl Rove (who actually has little or no use for the Tea Party or those who support it) and the National Republican Party (ditto); you never know what those folks are up to. At least that is what the Left, the mainstream media, the Democrat Party, and the President of the United States has told us. Any time there is an act of terror in the United States, the media begins speculating that this time it was a “disgruntled tea party member.” So far it hasn’t been, not even once. But the press seems to live for that first occurrence.
Law enforcement agencies around the country have been told to put a special watch on tea party members as potential domestic terrorists. In fact, the list of people to watch as potential domestic terrorists is eerily similar to the criteria the IRS was using to screen groups for additional scrutiny. According to the FBI, you might be a domestic terrorist if you meet these criteria.
In a country where the DHS is purchasing 1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammunition, buying between 2500 and 3000 MRAPs, and purchasing drones galore for the ostensible purpose of “fighting terrorism” here at home, where CCTV cameras are becoming ubiquitous, where law enforcement shuts down a major U.S. city in the search for a single individual (and fails to find him) while carrying out warrantless searches of citizens homes at gunpoint, and now where it is revealed that the IRS has used its big stick to target specific groups based on a political agenda, is it any wonder that some of the citizens of this nation are becoming alarmed?
It is ironic, is it not, that a nation which fought and won a revolution against its parent country, in large part over taxes, and which considers itself the bastion of free speech in the world would itself be targeting members of its citizenry, by a taxing entity none the less, over their concern about taxes and their expressed political views?
The House Ways and Means Committee has demanded that the IRS turn over copies of all internal communications containing the words “tea party”, “patriot”, or “conservative” and the names of all IRS officials involved in discriminating against tea party and conservative groups who submitted applications for tax exempt status. So far, the IRS has not responded. That’s odd; as the chief tax-writing committee of the federal government; I thought that the IRS sort of worked for them. And I thought that Congress was in charge of the plethora of government agencies that have popped up like mushrooms everywhere. I also thought that congressional demands for information carried the force of law. Aren’t you required to respond to requests for information from the committee that has oversight over you? Apparently not if you are the IRS. Funny, they seem to be able to demand all sorts of intrusive information from we the taxpayers and we had darned well better produce it – but when it comes to them providing information to Congress – not so much I guess.
But the IRS apologized, so it’s all good, right? And Mr. Obama said he’ll get to the bottom of it, right?
Well, he has apparently fired the head of the IRS. This could be interpreted as Mr. Obama taking action – except that apparently Mr. Miller, the acting Commissioner, was leaving anyway, and in any event had only held the position since Nov 2012, after the events in question had taken place. Likewise, Joseph Grant, the commissioner of the office in charge of tax-exempt organizations is stepping down as well. However, Mr. Grant has only held that office since May 8, one week ago, when he replaced Sarah Hall Ingram who served as commissioner since 2009 which, you will note, was during the period when the abuses took place. You will be happy to know that Ms. Ingram is now serving as the director of the IRS’ Affordable Care Act office – the office in charge of enforcing Obamacare; no doubt due to the good work she did while in charge of tax-exempt organizations. She must have done something to make her bosses happy; she reportedly received over $100,000 in bonuses during this time. I had no idea federal officials could get bonus's like that - and I work for the federal government. If I get a $600 bonus, I done good!
This appears to be just another attempt at obfuscation and damage control by the Obama administration.
The IRS is an organization run amok; a chilling picture of just what can happen when government grows too large. Not only do the people who perpetrated these outrages have to go, but the entire organization has to as well. It is simply too powerful. There are multiple proposals on the table for simplifying tax code, among them the Fair Tax (national sales tax, NOT a value added tax, which preserves the government’s ability to pick winners and losers via the tax code and would NOT eliminate the IRS), and the Flat Tax. Both have pros and cons; both also have the virtue of drastically shrinking (Flat Tax) or entirely eliminating the IRS (Fair Tax).
It is past time that we start seriously looking at such possibilities if we want to preserve our freedom for the future.