It’s official. President Obama is worse than Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon’s White House had Chuck Colson compile an “enemies list” of people it believed were opposing the Nixon administration’s politics. The purpose of the list was to encourage the IRS to audit and harass those listed. The IRS refused.
Fast forward 30 years. President Obama rails against the tea party movement. His Department of Homeland Security suggested early in his administration that groups that oppose big-government spending should be looked into as possible terrorist threats. And, surprise, the IRS set up a special unit to harass tea party groups that oppose big government. Obama’s White House claims not to have sent a memo asking the bureaucrats to do this. It didn’t have to.
Obama and his political advisors have been as clear about what their orders were as King Henry II when he roared in anger about Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury who opposed the king’s attacks on the Catholic Church. Henry II famously shouted, “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?” His men knew what to do.
The Internal Revenue Service now admits what it denied for two years: that it targeted political groups that opposed President Obama’s tax-and-spend policies. Specifically, those groups with troubling words in their titles like “tea party” and “patriot.”
Those targeted have found it difficult or impossible to get a 501(c)(4) non-profit tax status, which they need in order to raise money. Although contributions to a 501(c)(4) aren’t tax deductible, many Americans would hesitate to contribute to a political group that didn’t have a non-profit tax status, and those running the group would fear that all their revenue would be subject to taxation if they didn’t have non-profit status.
So the Obama administration now admits its IRS did target conservative groups for special treatment. Their applications were delayed — it took the IRS a year to respond to one group’s application. Applicants were asked all sorts of harassing questions of dubious legality. They were asked for a list of donors. Why? It doesn’t matter to the IRS who is supporting a group if the donors aren’t claiming a tax deduction. That request could only be meant to harass donors.
On Friday, the ACLU stated, “Even the appearance of playing partisan politics with the tax code is about as constitutionally troubling as it gets. With the recent push to grant federal agencies broad new powers to mandate donor disclosure for advocacy groups on both the left and the right, there must be clear checks in place to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Now the IRS is engaged in a string of admissions, apologies and unsubstantiated assertions that this wasn’t a political act. We are asked to believe that low-ranking, non-political IRS employees took it upon themselves to secretly organize some 200 IRS agents to target conservatives but their supervisors didn’t know what was going on — and that even after the newspapers were filled with claims of harassment and 12 senators wrote the IRS commissioner demanding an investigation, the White House remained ignorant of what was happening.
This is an unprecedented level of corruption. Didn’t anyone in the IRS object to these attacks? It seems like everyone involved was a willing participant in this abuse of power on the president’s behalf. This isn’t one corrupt politician wishing the IRS would annoy his “enemies.” This is a good chunk of the federal government willingly bending to the will of one politician. This is how the city of Chicago works. Everyone knows what to do without telltale memos.
This must never happen again. All e-mails and correspondence must be made public. Every IRS agent involved must be questioned by Congress. Those who abused the IRS for political purposes — and there is no doubt now that this crime was committed — should be fired. Those who failed to stop this should be fired.
And we need to find out what the White House knew about this, and when.
Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform. His Twitter handle is @GroverNorquist