Civil Liberties

Conservative Activist Says It's His Turn To Use the IRS as a Political Bludgeon


U.S. Government

Fresh off a year in which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) came under heavy fire for targeting non-profit Tea Party political organizations for extra scrutiny, Bill Wilson of Americans for Limited Government suggests that such politicized use of tax collectors is just swell—so long as they're unleashed on groups that get under his skin. Pointing to tax audits of environmental groups performed by the Canada Revenue Agency under that country's conservative government, Wilson calls for the U.S. to do the same south of the border once Republicans are back in control. And he makes no bones about the fact that this would be tit-for-tat retaliation for the last round of politicized thuggery by the IRS.

Writes Wilson at Investors Business Daily:

[T]he government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently entered a critical policy debate on the right side — directing the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to conduct audits of several radical environmental groups accused of conducting political activity in violation of their tax-exempt status.

Among the groups being audited? The David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Centre, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, the Pembina Foundation, Tides Canada and West Coast Environmental Law.

The far left in Canada is apoplectic, but the real targets of this action are the radical American billionaires funneling money through faux Canadian front groups — hoping to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline by exploiting the country's Aboriginal population. …

Liberal elitist foundations — Rockefeller, Pew, Ford, Heinz, etc. — have hidden for years behind a labyrinth of carved-out rules and special protections, unfair advantages enabling them to pump billions of dollars into a far left agenda while donors claimed untold amounts of tax deductions.

Meanwhile, an IRS bent on protecting Obama and vulnerable Democrats in advance of the 2012 elections has effectively silenced groups with the words "Constitution," "Tea Party" or "Liberty" in their titles. Does that sound like equal protection under the law? Of course not.

Canada has shown it has the courage to stand up to these wealthy eco-radicals. It must be the policy of the next U.S. administration to follow suit.

Same as it ever was. The Democrats got to use the IRS as a political bludgeon, so now it's Republicans' turn to do the same. And so the cycle continues. It's a long and grim cycle of abuse and retaliation, varying over the decades only in the choice of victims.

James Bovard has documented the long, bipartisan history of tax collectors as hit men. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, last spring, he detailed abuses of tax powers to punish opponents of the administration by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton.

"My father," Elliott Roosevelt said of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution."

"In almost every administration since the IRS's inception the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes," noted David Burnham in A Law Unto Itself: Power, Politics and the IRS.

In a 1989 New York Times article, Burnham added, "The history of the I.R.S. is riddled with repeated instances of agents acting out of self-interest or pursuing their own ideological agenda, as well as examples of Presidents, White House staff and Cabinet officials pressuring the tax agency to take political actions."

Wilson would perpetuate this dangerous misuse of the vast powers of the federal tax agency, responding to the targeting of conservative groups not by stripping the IRS of its weaponized authority, but instead by taking hold of the grips and shifting aim.

Presumably, the next Democratic administration could be expected to swivel the IRS cross hairs around once again.

It's true that the IRS resists reform. So long as they get to abuse some targets of their own choosing, tax officials don't seem to mind performing hits for the White House and Congress. But when politicians occasionally try to rein-in the monster they've creatd, it's all too happy to turn on them. Writes Bovard:

The agency also has a long history of seeking to intimidate congressional critics: In 1925, Internal Revenue Commissioner David Blair personally delivered a demand for $10 million in back taxes to Michigan's Republican Sen. James Couzens —who had launched an investigation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue—as he stepped out of the Senate chamber. More recently, after Sen. Joe Montoya of New Mexico announced plans in 1972 to hold hearings on IRS abuses, the agency added his name to a list of tax protesters who were capable of violence against IRS agents.

Is this something that we want to continue? Instead of taking turns at using the IRS to torment political opponents, how about disarming the damned thing instead?