IRS Employees Don't Just Target Political Enemies, They Also Support Friends, Says Federal Watchdog
We already know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a long history of wielding its awesome clout against political opponents of sitting presidents, powerful members of Congress, and the tax collectors themselves, but who are IRS employees for? Well, President Obama seems to tickle their fancy. According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act limiting political activity by federal employees, IRS employees are "alleged to have engaged in partisan political activity on duty and in the federal workplace."
Under federal law, IRS employees, like most federal workers, are considered "less restricted employees" who still must mind their actions lest they be be seen as using the taxpayers' money and resources to influence who gets to rule over those taxpayers. According to the list of no-nos, such federal workers "May not engage in political activity—i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group— while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle."
Nevertheless, in a press release dated April 9, the Office of Special Counsel reports that not just individual IRS employees but whole offices are openly rooting for the incumbent president of the United States.
OSC received allegations that employees working in the IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in Dallas, Texas, violated the Hatch Act by wearing pro-Obama political stickers, buttons, and clothing to work and displaying pro-Obama screensavers on their IRS computers. It could not be determined whether these materials were displayed prior to the November 2012 election or only afterwards. However, since the information OSC received alleged that these items were commonplace throughout the office, OSC issued cautionary guidance to all IRS employees in the Dallas Taxpayer Assistance Center that they cannot wear or display any items advocating for or against a political party, partisan political group, or partisan candidate in the workplace.
Other IRS employees face discipline for advising taxpayers to vote for President Obama during the course of their duties.
This raises certain concerns given the tax agency's acknowledged ability to peer into and disrupt the lives of individual taxpayers and organizations. Just yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted to refer former IRS official Lois Lerner to the Justice Department over allegations that she led the targeting of conservative political organizations.
Long before the current scandal, presidents of both parties—including Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Richard M. Nixon—used the IRS as a bludgeon against political enemies. "My father," Elliott Roosevelt said of FDR, "may have been the originator of the concept of employing the IRS as a weapon of political retribution."
Further evidence of politicized tax collectors with distinct partisan preferences does the IRS no favors—and should scare the hell out of Americans.