Liberals and Conservatives Agree that the IRS Engages in Political Witch Hunts
Liberal website Mediaite and conservative Ron Paul agree on one thing …
The IRS targets political opponents under virtually every administration.
The indispensable libertarian journalist James Bovard pointed out in the Wall Street Journal this morning that since its inception, the IRS has often used its enormous power and information-gathering skills for explicitly political ends.
Bovard explained how President Franklin D. Roosevelt, often revered as a hero by political progressives, used the tax collecting agency to pester those who opposed his enormous expansion of the federal government under the New Deal. During his three-and-a-half terms as president, the Roosevelt IRS took swings at anti-New Deal publishers like William Randolph Hearst and political rivals like prominent Republican Andrew Mellon and radical populist Huey Long.
Naturally, the fun didn’t end there. Another beloved president, John F. Kennedy later “raised the political exploitation of the IRS to an art form,” Bovard wrote, by launching an Organizations Audit Project that specifically targeted right-leaning groups like the American Enterprise Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education.
Bovard notes how Republican President Richard Nixon later picked up where Kennedy left off: “More than 10,000 individuals and groups were targeted because of their political activism or slant between 1969 and 1973, including Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling (a left-wing critic of the Vietnam War) and the far-right John Birch Society.” In the 1990s, Bill Clinton‘s IRS was found to have audited many conservative groups that were named in a White House report on groups and individuals critical of the Democratic president.
Was this current administration the next big culprit in line? Nope. Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald points out that Obama’s predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, oversaw a great deal of IRS political harassment of left-leaning groups that criticized the administration. Progressive churches were targeted for their “political” sermons against the Iraq War while conservative pro-Bush churches were left alone under the same rules. Bush’s IRS also deliberately targeted Greenpeace, the NAACP, and other progressive NGOs.
During the Bush era, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) was one of the very few Republicans to call for an investigation into the fishy auditing practices of the IRS ….
Ron Paul writes:
“What do you expect when you target the President?” This is what an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent allegedly said to the head of a conservative organization that was being audited after calling for the impeachment of then-President Clinton. Recent revelations that IRS agents gave “special scrutiny” to organizations opposed to the current administration’s policies suggest that many in the IRS still believe harassing the President’s opponents is part of their job.
As troubling as these recent reports are, it would be a grave mistake to think that IRS harassment of opponents of the incumbent President is a modern, or a partisan, phenomenon. As scholar Burton Folsom pointed out in his book New Deal or Raw Deal, IRS agents in the 1930s where essentially “hit squads” against opponents of the New Deal. It is well-known that the administrations of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson used the IRS to silence their critics. One of the articles of impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon dealt with his use of the IRS to harass his political enemies. Allegations of IRS abuses were common during the Clinton administration, and just this week some of the current administration’s defenders recalled that antiwar and progressive groups alleged harassment by the IRS during the Bush presidency.
The bipartisan tradition of using the IRS as a tool to harass political opponents suggests that the problem is deeper than just a few “rogue” IRS agents—or even corruption within one, two, three or many administrations. Instead, the problem lays in the extraordinary power the tax system grants the IRS.
The IRS routinely obtains information about how we earn a living, what investments we make, what we spend on ourselves and our families, and even what charitable and religious organizations we support. Starting next year, the IRS will be collecting personally identifiable health insurance information in order to ensure we are complying with Obamacare’s mandates. [For background, see this and this.]
The current tax laws even give the IRS power to marginalize any educational, political, or even religious organizations whose goals, beliefs, and values are not favored by the current regime by denying those organizations “tax-free” status. This is the root of the latest scandal involving the IRS.
Obviously, the fact that “everyone does it” is no defense. No one should do it … And anyone who does should be prosecuted.