The White House will not be pushing for a special prosecutor to handle the IRS scandal involving the targeting of conservative groups, even as three-fourths of Americans are calling for one.
Asked aboard Air Force One about a Quinnipiac University poll that showed 76 percent of Americans want a special prosecutor to handle the case, White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration isn’t looking at that option
“We’re not,” Earnest said, according to a transcript. “And the reason for that simply is that there is a new IRS commissioner in place, Danny Werfel, who is a career civil servant, who represented — who served in administrations led by Republican presidents and Democratic presidents. He’s conducting a 30-day review.”
Our case was particularly egregious because the IRS leak of confidential information fed directly into an ongoing political battle. For months before March 2012, the pro-gay marriage HRC had been demanding that my group, NOM, publicly identify its major donors, something that NOM and many other non-profits refuse to do. The reason is simple. In the past, gay marriage advocates have used such information to launch campaigns of intimidation against traditional marriage supporters.
Just as gay marriage proponents were demanding the information, the IRS appears to have illegally given them exactly what they were looking for. The tax return released by the HRC contained the names and addresses of dozens of major donors to NOM. And there’s little doubt where the documents came from. The tax returns contained internal coding added by the IRS after the returns were originally submitted.
For the IRS to leak any organization’s tax return to its political opponents is an outrageous breach of ethics and, if proven, constitutes a felony. Every organization — liberal and conservative — should shudder at the idea of the IRS playing politics with its confidential tax return information. But the situation here is even more egregious because the head of the HRC was at the time serving as a national co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign.
It is appropriate that the worst scandal of the Obama administration— the IRS targeting of conservatives — is a scandal of administrators and bureaucrats, of otherwise faceless people endowed with immense power over their fellow citizens and running free of serious oversight from elected officials.
They are the shock troops of the vast bureaucratic apparatus of the federal government. Its growth has been one of President Obama’s chief goals, and the one he has had the most success in achieving. He has greatly enhanced the reach and power of regulatory agencies that are an inherent offense against self-government, even when they aren’t enforcing the law in a biased way…
In Washington, the power of the administrative state always grows. It needs one, two, many Lois Lerners. The IRS official has already taken a fall, and may be headed for an even steeper one. But there are many more like her. They are indispensable to government by and for the regulators.
[W]hen a scandal is systemic, ideological and focused on political ends, it will not just magically end. Agencies such as the IRS are part of what Jonathan Turley this week called a “massive administrative state,” one built with many protections and much autonomy.
If it is not forced to change, it will not.
Which gets us to the part about imagination. What does it mean when half the country—literally half the country—understands that the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government is politically corrupt, sees them as targets, and will shoot at them if they try to raise their heads? That is the kind of thing that can kill a country, letting half its citizens believe that they no longer have full political rights.
Those who think this is just business as usual are ahistorical, and those who think nothing can be done, or nothing serious should be done, are suffering from Cynicism Poisoning.
In previous IRS scandals it was the powerful abusing the powerful—a White House moving against prominent financial or journalistic figures who, because of their own particular status or the machineries at their disposal, could pretty much take care of themselves. A scandal erupts, there are headlines, and then people go on their way. The dreadful thing about this scandal, what makes it ominous, is that this is the elites versus regular citizens. It’s the mighty versus normal people. It’s the all-powerful directors of the administrative state training their eyes and moving on uppity and relatively undefended Americans.
That’s what makes this scandal different, and why if it’s not stopped now it will never stop. Because every four years you can get yourself a new president and a new White House, but you won’t easily get yourself a whole new administrative state. It’s there, it’s not going away, not anytime soon. If it isn’t forced back into its cage now, and definitively, it will prowl the land hungrily forever.
I am an immigrant to this great land, and I love it, but I will make a small observation from my years in the United States which I hope won’t be taken the wrong way: Like citizens of almost all Western democracies in the 21st century, Americans are overly deferential to bureaucracy, but, in my observation, they are uniquely fearful of the state’s tax collectors to a degree I have never seen with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs in London or equivalent agencies in Paris, Ottawa, Rome, Canberra. The IRS has, in American terms, extraordinary powers. It was, for example, amusing to see Lois Lerner plead the Fifth Amendment and exercise her constitutional right not to put herself at risk of self-incrimination. As the great Walter Williams pointed out the other day, every single American waives his Fifth Amendment rights every time he signs that tax return on April 15. Americans are fearless if some guy pulls some stunt in a shopping mall, but an IRS assault is brutal and unending. Many activists faded away, and the media began writing stories about how the Tea Party had peaked; they were over; they wouldn’t be a factor in 2012. And so it proved. As Rush Limbaugh pointed out the other day, the plan worked.
But, of course, there was no plan, was there? So let’s take Obama at his word that he had no idea all this was going on. In that case, he might like to take the lead in calling for the abolition of a corrupt agency and its grotesque tax code, and their replacement by a bureaucracy with more limited powers commensurate with a free society and a simplified tax regime with lower rates and thus fewer bewildering, mercurial “exemptions” that make the citizenry dependent on the caprices of Ms. Lerner and her colleagues. That’s a prize worth fighting for. In the meantime, the next time the IRS call you up with demands for this and demands for that, simply tell them, “I am filing the Lois Lerner defense,” and then say as she did to Congress “I have not done anything wrong. And I will not answer any questions.” Every man his own Lois Lerner!
The video of the IRS workers practicing their dance moves, which lasts just under three minutes, comes weeks after it was revealed that agency workers produced two other videos parodying the “Star Trek” and “Gilligan’s Island” TV shows…
The latest recording cost about $1,600 and was produced to be shown at the end of a 2010 training and leadership conference held in Anaheim, Calif., said IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge. At a time when most government agencies are coping with across-the-board spending cuts by furloughing workers and finding other savings, that conference has become the target of a report a Treasury inspector general plans to release next week.
The report, called “Collected and Wasted: The IRS Spending Culture and Conference Abuses,” will be the subject of a hearing Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, that panel said Friday.
Powers told O’Reilly that he shouldn’t be trying to pin this on the White House where there’s “not a shred of evidence.” O’Reilly shot back, “I can’t believe I’m hearing this from you!” Powers said she just found it a considerable leap to imagine Shulman was “scheming against the tea party” with all his White House visits.
This Sunday on Fox News, Chris Wallace asked the senator why he urged the IRS to investigate a conservative group operating as a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Mr. Durbin not only acknowledged that he sent a letter asking the IRS to investigate the group in October 2010, but he defended his request, saying the group he wanted investigated was raising “millions of dollars.”…
What was going on is obvious: Mr. Durbin wanted the IRS to silence conservatives. So did every other congressional Democrat who wrote similar letters to the IRS, from Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer to Vermont Rep. Peter Welch. But in the glare of public attention, using the IRS to cripple or destroy opponents looks corrupt. Abuse of power always is.