The IRS abuse of power scandal started from the top

This Wall Street Journal article argues that the IRS was simply following the overall public tone set by Obama.

Excerpt:

In April 2012, an Obama campaign website named and slurred eight Romney donors. It tarred Mr. VanderSloot as a “wealthy individual” with a “less-than-reputable record.” Other donors were described as having been “on the wrong side of the law.”

This was the Obama version of the phone call—put out to every government investigator (and liberal activist) in the land.

Twelve days later, a man working for a political opposition-research firm called an Idaho courthouse for Mr. VanderSloot’s divorce records. In June, the IRS informed Mr. VanderSloot and his wife of an audit of two years of their taxes. In July, the Department of Labor informed him of an audit of the guest workers on his Idaho cattle ranch. In September, the IRS informed him of a second audit, of one of his businesses. Mr. VanderSloot, who had never been audited before, was subject to three in the four months after Mr. Obama teed him up for such scrutiny.

The last of these audits was only concluded in recent weeks. Not one resulted in a fine or penalty. But Mr. VanderSloot has been waiting more than 20 months for a sizable refund and estimates his legal bills are $80,000. That figure doesn’t account for what the president’s vilification has done to his business and reputation.

The Obama call for scrutiny wasn’t a mistake; it was the president’s strategy—one pursued throughout 2012. The way to limit Romney money was to intimidate donors from giving. Donate, and the president would at best tie you to Big Oil or Wall Street, at worst put your name in bold, and flag you as “less than reputable” to everyone who worked for him: the IRS, the SEC, the Justice Department. The president didn’t need a telephone; he had a megaphone.

The same threat was made to conservative groups that might dare play in the election. As early as January 2010, Mr. Obama would, in his state of the union address, cast aspersions on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, claiming that it “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests” (read conservative groups).

The president derided “tea baggers.” Vice President Joe Biden compared them to “terrorists.” In more than a dozen speeches Mr. Obama raised the specter that these groups represented nefarious interests that were perverting elections. “Nobody knows who’s paying for these ads,” he warned. “We don’t know where this money is coming from,” he intoned.

In case the IRS missed his point, he raised the threat of illegality: “All around this country there are groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity, who are running millions of dollars of ads against Democratic candidates . . . And they don’t have to say who exactly the Americans for Prosperity are. You don’t know if it’s a foreign-controlled corporation.”

Short of directly asking federal agencies to investigate these groups, this is as close as it gets. Especially as top congressional Democrats were putting in their own versions of phone calls, sending letters to the IRS that accused it of having “failed to address” the “problem” of groups that were “improperly engaged” in campaigns. Because guess who controls that “independent” agency’s budget?

The Daily Caller explains Obama’s allies in the Senate also called for harsher treatment of conservatives.

Excerpt:

Long before the Internal Revenue Service revealed it had improperly targeted conservative 501(c)(4) groups, a group of Democratic senators led by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer urged the IRS to do just that.

The IRS’s admission last Friday that it had singled out tea party and other groups for extra audits and delays has raised concerns that President Barack Obama’s administration quietly attempted to stymy opponents through intimidation. But many prominent Democrats — including Montana Sen.Max Baucus, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and the New York Times editorial board — had been publicly calling for tighter restrictions on 501(c)(4) groups affiliated with the tea party and conservatives.

Last year, Schumer, along with Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet, Sheldon Whitehouse, Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall, Jeanne Shaheen and Al Franken, penned a letter calling on the agency to cap the amount of the political spending by groups masquerading as “social welfare organizations.”

So, the IRS was merely following the lead of the President and his powerful allies in the Senate. It wasn’t just a few “low-level employees”.

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