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.”
When the story broke this spring about the IRS targeting conservatives, officials blamed “rogue” employees in the IRS’ Cincinnati office. It was an outright lie. Employees told investigators that Washington called the shots.
Then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman made numerous visits to the White House between 2009 and 2011, according to The Daily Caller. The Atlantic, a reflexively liberal magazine, counters that just because Mr. Shulman was cleared 157 times to meet with dozens of administration personnel, mostly about Obamacare, does not mean that he actually attended. He signed in only 11 times, but it stretches credulity to suggest that he may have skipped lots of meetings.
Sarah Hall Ingram, now in charge of Obamacare enforcement, directed the IRS’ Tax-Exempt and Government Entities division, under which Ms. Lerner was director of exempt organizations before taking Ms. Ingram’s place. According to The Daily Caller, logs show that Ms. Ingram was cleared to visit the White House 165 times. Again, maybe she never actually went. Maybe.
By contrast, during George W. Bush’s tenure, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson officially visited the White House — once. However, the Bush White House kept lousy records, the Atlantic insists.
Well, even if that’s so, here’s the question: With the kind of power the IRS wields, don’t all those visits presumably about Obamacare make you a little nervous?
There’s more. Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, visited the White House on March 31, 2010, to meet with President Obama. The very next day, “the new Acting Manager, Technical Unit, suggested the need for a Sensitive Case Report on the Tea Party cases,” according to the inspector general, as reported in The American Spectator, which also noted: “The union’s PAC endorsed President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles to anti-Tea Party candidates.”
With all the evidence of lying, wrongdoing and possible wrongdoing, it’s time to ask Congress when the indictments will come.
As the scandals pile up, exposing a massive government power grab, where is the Tom Paine for our time?
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.