Like a creek gushing in springtime, the trickle of Internal Revenue Service corruption is becoming a steady current.
The media are finding it harder to cover up the IRS’ abuses of power, but they keep trying. They did their best to downplay the House Ways and Means Committee’s vote last Wednesday to endorse committee Chairman Dave Camp’s request to the U.S. Justice Department for a criminal investigation into former IRS official Lois Lerner’s persecution of the Tea Parties.
The Washington Post, for example, buried the story in its print edition. There’s nothing to see here.
A powerful House committee accuses a top IRS official of breaking the law, lying and targeting an administration’s political enemies. Yawn.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, unveiled evidence that staffers for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s ranking Democrat, asked the IRS for information on True the Vote, a group harassed repeatedly by the IRS. You’d think this would be newsworthy.
New evidence also surfaced that two “watchdog” groups — Democracy 21 and the Campaign Legal Center — urged Ms. Lerner in 2010 to investigate Republican-leaning groups, including Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. In January 2013, Ms. Lerner sicced her staff on five conservative organizations that left-leaning ProPublica had identified as “controversial dark money groups.”
Most revealing is Ms. Lerner’s telling the Treasury inspector general for tax information that she didn’t learn about the use of Tea Party keywords to target groups until June 2011. However, emails “show Ms. Lerner was told about the Tea Party cases under review in April and May 2010, only weeks after the process started,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
No wonder she took the Fifth Amendment repeatedly, refusing to testify. No wonder IRS General Counsel William Wilkins told Congress 80 times that he could not recall what occurred during that period.
No wonder Hillary Clinton continues to stick to the script of lies surrounding the Benghazi attack. No wonder Harry Reid makes up stuff about the Koch brothers. Sorry. We’re getting off track from the IRS scandal. There are so many scandals, it’s easy to get distracted. If lying were a sport, the Obama administration and its allies would be the political equivalent of Babe Ruth’s 1927 New York Yankees.
Perhaps Ms. Lerner learned from watching Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. during a May 3, 2011, hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
To Mr. Issa’s question about when he had first been informed about the Operation Fast and Furious gunrunning scheme, Mr. Holder said, under oath: “I’m not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks.” Memos to Mr. Holder later surfaced from July and October the previous year informing him about the operation. Oops. The IRS-Cummings cabal is just the latest development that fits President Obama’s famous calls to “punish our enemies” and to “bring a gun” to a knife fight.
The IRS has repeatedly subjected True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht to multiple audits, inquiries and investigations after she became active in the movement to clean up the nation’s voter rolls. Other federal agencies have piled on.
The agency also targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups with delays, intrusive inquiries and audits while green-lighting liberal groups. It’s still happening.
New tax rules were proposed that would allow the IRS to persecute the Tea Parties legally, though they were recently shelved after a public outcry.
The National Organization for Marriage was targeted, its confidential tax information leaked to a homosexual-activist group, the Human Rights Campaign.
Frank L. VanderSloot, co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s campaign-finance committee, was subjected to two audits (in addition to a Labor Department audit) after the Obama campaign in 2012 described him as one of eight “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.”
There’s much more, but let’s conclude with a brief reference to Democracy 21, which helped trigger the IRS’ jihad against conservatives. It’s headed by Fred Wertheimer, a former Common Cause executive who was a major force behind the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance statute. That 2002 law barred nonprofits from running broadcast ads about candidates within 30 days of a primary or caucus and 60 days before a general election.
Sold as a “good government” measure, McCain-Feingold was aimed at preventing groups such as the National Rifle Association or right-to-life organizations from informing the public about candidates’ records when it matters most — just before elections. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law in Citizens United v FEC.
Mr. Wertheimer is not happy about the court’s latest First Amendment-friendly ruling on April 2 in the McCutcheon case, which struck down more campaign-finance restrictions. Here’s his take for the Scotusblog:
“The five Justices who make up a majority on the Supreme Court are imposing their ideology and politics on the country. In the process, they are issuing radical, not conservative, opinions.”
That depends on what you’re trying to conserve.
Robert Knight is senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a columnist for The Washington Times.