- - Friday, January 24, 2014

Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat, thinks the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t done enough to silence the Tea Party. He wants the White House and the IRS to “immediately redouble” efforts to shut down conservative political-action groups through tougher government oversight and enforcement.

The Tea Party opposes much of President Obama’s agenda, and to Mr. Schumer, that’s both a sin and a crime.

In a speech last week to the liberal Center for American Progress, the senior senator from New York said, “There are many things that can be done administratively by the IRS and other government agencies” to silence groups that obstruct Democratic policies.

When several dozen conservative organizations applied to the IRS for nonprofit status in the run-up to the 2012 elections, they had to struggle through bureaucratic roadblocks and obstacles while the applications of liberal groups sailed through without a hitch. The government insisted this was mere coincidence, but Mr. Schumer’s remarks revealed the fire under the smoke.

In late November, the Treasury Department introduced a new rule to “redefine and restrict” the political activities of nonprofits. The administration says the revised regulations are needed to improve the way such organizations are regulated, but it’s obvious the rules were changed to thwart the legitimate politicking of the Tea Party.

Liberals just can’t get over the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that guaranteed the free speech of everyone. They can’t get over the plain and unambiguous language of the First Amendment that citizens have the right of free speech and the right to petition the government, even harass the government, whether the government likes it or not.

What they despise most of all is that the Supreme Court leveled the playing field, enabling conservative billionaires to spend their money as freely as liberal billionaires such as George Soros spend theirs to win friends and influence as many voters as they can.

“The fundamental weakness in the Tea Party machine,” Mr. Schumer said, “is the stark difference between what the leaders of the Tea Party elite, plutocrats like the Koch Brothers, want and what the average grass-roots Tea Party follower wants … . Obviously, the Tea Party elites gained extraordinary influence by being able to funnel millions of dollars into campaigns with ads that distort the truth and attack government.” His solution to a level playing field is IRS harassment.

The latest group harassed by the IRS might be the smallest in America; namely, conservatives in Hollywood. An organization known as Friends of Abe, named for Abraham Lincoln, is trying to get tax-exempt status. The IRS is doing what it can to scuttle the application and wants to see the organization’s membership list.

The actors, directors and writers who are Friends of Abe are wary of coming out of the closet where traditional values are often hidden in Hollywood. Nothing threatens a promising career in Tinseltown faster than exposure as a Republican or other conservative.

In a just world, the Center for American Progress, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that hosted Mr. Schumer’s call for government harassment of conservatives groups, would get similar scrutiny.

In the negotiations over the budget, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to stop the IRS chicanery. Politico, the Capitol Hill daily, reported that Mr. McConnell submitted language to scuttle the revised IRS rules. Democrats blocked the attempt, even after Republicans agreed to a sweetener of more money for the International Monetary Fund, a Democratic favorite.

Strengthening the IRS’ ability to make trouble for conservatives in politics is a priority for Mr. Obama and Harry Reid, the leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate. They regard the IRS scandal not as a scandal, but as a starting point for suppressing enemies.

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