The IRS harassment scandal

Yesterday the Heritage Foundation hosted a forum it titled “Taxing the First Amendment: Using the IRS to censor speech?” Moderator Hans von Spakovsky hosted a panel including superlawyer Cleta Mitchell, former FEC chairman Brad Smith, my daughter Eliana Johnson and the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel. Both Paul Mirengoff and I attended the program.

The title of the program alludes to the IRS’s proposed revision of IRC section 501(c)(4) to accomplish in broad daylight what it has heretofore done surreptitiously under the cover of darkness. Eliana and Kim Strassel put the proposed regulation into the broader context of the IRS’s harassment of conservatives under the Obama administration. Kelsey Drapkin provided an after-action report in “CRAP: Heritage panel discusses proposed IRS regulations speech-chilling potential.” Please check it out along with its links.

Von Spakovsky provides an excellent introduction to the proposed IRS regulation in “Silencing conservatives: The administration’s latest attempt to censor political speech.” Brad Smith and his colleagues at the Center for Competitive Politics have compiled an invaluable, heavily footnoted document setting forth the efforts by the regulatory agencies to police political speech at the behest of the Democratic Party: “The IRS harassment scandal: A timeline of ‘reform.'”

President Obama is now deep into the cover-up phase of the scandal. Obama asserted to Bill O’Reilly in the course of his pre-Super Bowl interview on FOX, for example, that the IRS’s wrongdoing was confined to a few boneheaded decisions coming out of the IRS’s Cincinnati office. This is a demonstrable lie that all by itself demonstrates Obama’s centrality to the scandal.

Von Spakovsky credited Eliana with breaking the story that the IRS targeting of conservative groups applying for 501(c)(4) status was directed from Washington, not Cincinnati, as in her NRO column “Oversight from Washington, all along.” Kim Strassel has explored the IRS scandal in columns including “The president has a list” and Obama’s enemies’ list–part II.”

I left the program more convinced than ever that the administration’s misconduct in the IRS scandal is deep, pervasive and dangerous. I will post video of the panel as soon as it is available online. The media adjunct of the Democratic Party has nonperformed perfectly on behalf of the administration in the cover-up phase of the scandal. The Heritage program struck back against the silence in a constructive and educational style.

Let me leave you with my usual reminder. The charge that Richard Nixon attempted to misuse the IRS for political purposes made its way into the second of the three articles of impeachment against him. Nixon “endeavoured” to misuse the IRS, in the fancy British spelling of the word used in article 2. Nixon’s efforts to misuse the IRS were futile. They went nowhere. Nixon and his henchmen desired the IRS to “screw” their political opponents, but their efforts were a pathetic failure.

Nixon henchman Jack Caulfield astutely complained that the IRS was a “monstrous bureaucracy…dominated and controlled by Democrats.” As we have come to see, Caulfield was on to something. By contrast with Nixon’s failures to misuse the IRS, the IRS have very effectively “screwed” Obama’s political opponents, and we have yet to learn what the president knew and when he knew it.

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