Flashback: Mitch McConnell was mocked for warning about IRS targeting

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is out with a new ad, which demonstrates he was ahead of the curve regarding the IRS scandals.

Much of the footage was culled from speeches McConnell gave at CPAC and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) last year. At CPAC, McConnell warned, “This White House and its lieutenants have made an art form out of the orchestrated attack. They’ve shown they’ll go after anybody or any organization they think is standing in their way.” And at AEI, McConnell noted that dozens of tea party groups had already “received a lengthy questionnaire from the IRS demanding attendance lists, meeting transcripts, and donor information.”

A year later, McConnell looks prescient. But let’s not forget that, at the time, he was widely criticized for what were then considered to be wild and outlandish accusations and warnings about what might happen if conservative groups were forced to disclose donor lists.

Slate’s Dave Weigel, for example, dismissed McConnell’s comments, writing, “there’s no evidence that Obama is using the tools of government—as opposed to PR and speeches—to attack his enemies.”

Weigel went on to mock McConnell’s concerns, observing,

“Nixing a tax break, or checking whether or not a group deserves the tax break, or asking who funds it—it’s all a ‘thuggish’ threat to free speech. Apparently, the difference between an ad that says ‘paid for by Sheldon Adelson’ and an ad that keeps it quiet is a jackboot stomping on a human face.”

He wasn’t alone. Also at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and Raymond Vasvari averred: “Overheated rhetoric about violent protest and ‘enemies lists’ is supported by no factual showing. It’s a fantasy used to obscure the truth about who is buying and selling our candidates and state referendums.”

In short, McConnell was just being paranoid.

Heck, even the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt got in on the act, dismissing McConnell’s warnings merely as, “red herrings.”

But my favorite line probably belongs to RollCall contributor Norman Ornstein, who alleged that, “In complaining that this is Nixonian, McConnell was trying to intimidate the IRS…”

That’s right, the IRS were the victims.

Matt K. Lewis