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KNIGHT: The IRS scandal’s inconvenient facts
It’s time to move on — to indictments
Question of the Day
As part of his powerful screeds against English rule, Founding Father Tom Paine had this to say about the king’s appetite for his subjects’ tax money: “There is scarcely a necessary of life that you can eat, drink, wear or enjoy, that is not there loaded with a tax. Even the light from heaven is only permitted to shine into their dwellings by paying eighteen pence sterling per window annually.”
The now-deceased author John Armor, who compiled Paine’s best writings into a remarkable book, “These Are the Times That Try Men’s Souls,” noted that Americans might wonder today whether our situation more closely conforms to that of Britain’s hapless taxpayers under King George than to the freedoms won by America’s revolutionaries.
Insisting that everyone does it, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, has declared the IRS scandal “solved” and has urged us to “move on.”
Let’s connect some dots to a few things that Mr. Cummings thinks are not newsworthy.
About 300 organizations between May 2010 and May 2102 were targeted by the IRS for special scrutiny, according to the Treasury Department’s inspector general.
Of these, only six had the word “progressive,” and all six had their applications approved. A foundation run by President Obama’s brother got quick approval and retroactive tax-exemption status. An additional 14 groups with “progressive” in their names received no extra scrutiny.
By contrast, 100 percent of the groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12” in their names received special scrutiny and endless information requests. True the Vote’s Catherine Engelbrecht and her husband were subjected to 17 investigations by federal agencies.
In February 2010, according to USA Today, “the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked. There wouldn’t be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months. In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups .”
It’s not over yet. Dozens of conservative and Tea Party groups still have not received nonprofit status, according to lawyer Cleta Mitchell.
Lois Lerner, who headed the IRS nonprofit division, spilled the beans about the IRS targeting the Tea Party on May 10 in an answer to a planted question. What looked like commendable candor turns out to have been an attempt to get out in front of a damning inspector general report.
On May 22, in front of Rep. Darrell E. Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Ms. Lerner declared that she had done nothing wrong and then took the Fifth Amendment. During the Clinton administration, Ms. Lerner ran the enforcement arm of the Federal Election Commission. Among other things, she conducted a witch hunt against the Christian Coalition.
“The Coalition was required to produce tens of thousands of pages of documents, many of them containing sensitive and proprietary information,” James Bopp Jr., the coalition’s lead counsel, testified before a House committee in 2003. This cost the organization “hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours in lost work,” Mr. Bopp told The Weekly Standard.
In 1996, Illinois Republican Senate candidate Al Salvi was hounded by Federal Election Commission allegations of campaign-finance violations. Columnist George Will relates this chilling incident: “Salvi spoke by telephone with the head of the FEC’s Enforcement Division, who he remembers saying, ‘Promise me you will never run for office again, and we’ll drop this case.’ He was speaking to Lois Lerner.”
Mr. Will also writes: “After losing to [Dick] Durbin, Salvi spent four years and $100,000 fighting the FEC, on whose behalf FBI agents visited his elderly mother demanding to know, concerning her $2,000 contribution to her son’s campaign, where she got ‘that kind of money.’ When the second of two federal courts decided that the charges against Salvi were spurious, the lawyer arguing for the FEC was Lois Lerner.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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