IRS

Beware the IRS

The long, disturbing history of using the Internal Revenue Service to target political opponents.

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President Obama has a sharp comedic delivery for a politician, but sometimes you wish he'd joke a little less about abuses of federal power.

He, er, slayed them in the aisles at the 2010 White House Correspondents' Dinner, warning the Jonas Brothers to steer clear of his daughters: "Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming."

The year before, giving a commencement address at Arizona State University, Obama dryly noted that since ASU officials hadn't offered him an honorary degree, they'd "soon learn all about being audited by the IRS."

After the IRS scandal that broke last week, the president ought to stay away from that kind of material. Mindful of the impending release of a Treasury Department inspector general's report on improper targeting of Tea Party groups, the IRS offered a Friday news-dump "apology" for unlawful behavior that agency leadership has known about for at least two years.

A draft of the IG's report obtained by the Associated Press notes that in June 2011, senior IRS official Lois G. Lerner learned that agency employees had targeted applicants for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status for having "Tea Party" or "Patriot" in their names—demanding confidential donor lists, and the like.

Lerner objected, but the modified criteria adopted as a result, flagged suspect groups for, among other things, "Educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights"—hardly less troubling.

My colleague John Samples notes that "the long delays of approving tax status," which began in the run-up to the 2010 midterms, may have chilled political speech: "Do any sitting members owe their offices to the IRS?" he asks.
More than one commentator saw "shades of Richard Nixon" in the burgeoning scandal, recalling our 37th president's expletive-laden demands for IRS targeting of Democratic contributors.

White House Counsel John Dean employed slightly cleaner language in an infamous 1971 memo on "how we can use the available political machinery to screw our political enemies."

Past presidents have found the IRS an extremely useful piece of federal machinery for that purpose. A lot of what we know about that sordid history comes from the Senate Select Committee on intelligence abuses, chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) in the mid-'70s.

As Chris Hayes wrote in the Nation in 2006, "Church and many Democrats had every reason to believe they would be chiefly unmasking the full depths of Nixon's perfidy," but soon found that presidents of both parties were culpable: "Secret documents obtained by the committee even revealed that the sainted FDR had ordered IRS audits of his political enemies."

In The Lawless State, his account of the Church Committee revelations, Morton Halperin noted that "the first organized political 'strike force' was formed within the IRS in 1961, and was directed against right-wing political groups."

In this case, I doubt there was ever a JFK or Nixon-style direct command from on high to harass the Tea Party. It's more likely to be a case of "proactive" bureaucrats inspired by presidential railing against the Tea Party and Citizens United: "Will no one rid me of these meddlesome right-wing freaks?" We'll know more as congressional investigations unfold.

Meanwhile, Obama's recent commencement address at Ohio State University looks even more brazen. Recall that the president warned the graduates that their ability to think clearly had been undermined because "you've grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that's at the root of all our problems … that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices."

Not so fast.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Examiner.

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  1. Gene Healy just bought himself an audit.

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  2. the president ought to stay away from that kind of material

    The president is a tone-deaf blundering buffoon. He should stay away from any material.

    1. I bet other, more savvy tyrant wannabes are continually going, “Shhhh, dude, shut up.” Because they wanted the power with the ersatz trappings of limited government, to quell the masses. This idiot seems hell bent on revealing his tyranny for all to see.

      Maybe he’s a closet libertarian?

      1. How long until we start hearing that argument being offered seriously by some of the more blinkered contributors?

    2. He just can’t resist walking into the rotating knives, can he?

      1. Yes, well, of course, this is just the sort blinkered philistine pig ignorance I’ve come to expect from you non-creative garbage. You sit there on your loathsome, spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker’s cuss about the struggling artist. You excrement! You lousy hypocritical whining toadies with your lousy color TV sets and your Tony Jacklin golf clubs and your bleeding masonic handshakes! You wouldn’t let me join, would you, you blackballing bastards. Well I wouldn’t become a Freemason now if you went down on your lousy, stinking, purulent knees and begged me!

        1. Well, we’re sorry you feel like that, but we, er, did want a block of flats. Nice though the abattoir is.

  3. “…warning the Jonas Brothers to steer clear of his daughters: “Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

    “…Obama dryly noted that since ASU officials hadn’t offered him an honorary degree, they’d “soon learn all about being audited by the IRS.”

    Considering the thuggish, third world Banana Republic Dictator nature of this shitweasel, I am not entirely sure he is joking.

    1. He’s a Chicago machine politician elevated way beyond his level of incompetence. He’s not joking, just laughing as he says it.

    2. Yeah, when all your jokes involve intimidation, thuggery, and direct references to how much power you have, I’d say that’s a dead giveaway.

      DEAD GIVEAWAY

      1. We see this dude EVERY DAY.

        1. We had ribs with this dude!

          1. and listened to salsa music!

      2. Thats a DEADDDDDD GIVEAWAY

    3. But he’s also into self-depracatory humor, remember when he joked that he can’t actually walk on water?

  4. But who is going to tell Caligula that his jokes aren’t funny?

    1. At the moment, he doesn’t have that kind of power, so we can. So long as we’re willing to endure an audit.

  5. You haven’t really dealt with the IRS until they show up on your doorstep. Armed.

    1. With calculators?

    2. Some of them really are armed. I had a friend in the IRS just after college who had an IRS-issued pistol.

      1. The Not-So-Obvious Federal Law Enforcement Agencies

        In 2008, another 16 federal agencies not so typically associated with police powers employed fewer than 250 full-time personnel with firearm and arrest authority. These included:
        Bureau of Engraving and Printing (207 officers)
        Environmental Protection Agency (202)
        Food and Drug Administration (183)
        National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (149)
        Tennessee Valley Authority (145)
        Federal Reserve Board (141)
        U.S. Supreme Court (139)
        Bureau of Industry and Security (103)
        National Institutes of Health (94)
        Library of Congress (85)*
        Federal Emergency Management Agency (84)
        National Aeronautics and Space Administration (62)
        Government Printing Office (41)
        National Institute of Standards & Technology (28)
        Smithsonian National Zoological Park (26)
        Bureau of Reclamation (21)

        http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/…..encies.htm

        1. Crack troops from NOAA?

          1. NOAA is one of the two Uniformed Services.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U…..ted_States

            1. two noncombatant Uniformed Services

        2. Let us not forget the Department of Education’s SWAT team. The DoEd’s non-denial denial that they have a SWAT team is hilarious in itself.

          The older I get, the more I think that with Brazil, Terry Gilliam was one of our most far-seeing seers.

  6. Every move you make
    Every vow you break
    Every smile you fake
    Every claim you stake
    I’ll be watching you

  7. President Obama has a sharp comedic delivery for a politician

    Gene flaunts his sharp comedic wit.

  8. I dont get it man, who comes up with all that crazy stuff?

    http://www.Proxy-Anon.tk

  9. Let me see if I understand the White House’s story.

    The President had no idea his Attorney General was running guns to the Zetas.

    The President had no idea that our embassy in Libya was under attack by terrorists.

    The President had no idea his head of DHS was strong-arming companies to finance a promotion of Obamacare.

    The President had no idea Attorney General was collecting phone records for reporters.

    It sounds to me, like even if there wasn’t any malfeasance, Mr. Obama is guilty of gross negligence.

    1. It’s beyond hysterical watching the same people who simultaneously told us that George W. Bush was the embodiment of the most sinister, twisted, evil genius mind in the history of villainy, yet also as stupid, naive, and mindless as a chimp with a missing chromosome, ardently defend Obama against charges that he’s corrupt and mendacious by citing his total and complete ignorance of the goings-on of the entire executive branch of government. Speaking of which, where is Tony?

      1. Tony is lurking and writing a list of Reason Bloggers he’d like to have receive an IRS audit. It will be submitted through the usual channels.

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    2. He didn’t approve the break in, either!

  10. He is thuggish and has expressed his frustration that he cannot rule the country entirely by executive fiat. But it is not fair to Chicago politicians to label him one of them – he’s a ridiculously over promoted panty-waist not some Daley-level operator with moves.

    Oh sure he’s got his kill list and he uses the constitution as his toilet paper but still.

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