IRS misconduct must be punished

IRS misconduct must be punished

Congress and the attorney general's office must fully investigate the decision of IRS officials to target some conservative groups and punish those responsible.

President Barack Obama has called it "outrageous," members of Congress have promised to hold oversight investigations and Attorney General Eric Holder has signed off on a criminal investigation.

What's all the fuss about? Another disturbing case of highly powerful and politicized bureaucrats abusing their legal authority to target groups whose views they do not share with highly intrusive and illegal government scrutiny.

Specifically, it involves a decision by Internal Revenue Services officials to target groups perceived to be at odds with the Obama administration.

It's essentially an enemies list, like that from the days of former President Richard Nixon. One of the impeachment charges filed against him by a U.S. House impeachment committee alleged that the Nixon administration used the IRS to target and punish its political foes. Obviously, this is serious business.

Anticipating an embarrassing report by the IRS inspector general's office, officials attempted to get out in front of the scandal last week. Speaking at a public meeting, the IRS's Lois Lerner stated that a handful of rogue IRS employees at its Cincinnati office had engaged in this improper behavior, apologizing for the conduct and saying with a straight face that it was not motivated by political bias.

She was fibbing big time, as later events proved. The motivation in fact was highly political, with the only groups targeted having the words "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names, and the Cincinnati review was overseen by top IRS officials in Washington, D.C., and California. Further, there are indications that other organizations, including Jewish groups perceived to be at odds with the Obama administration's policy on the Middle East, also were targeted.

This is not a new story, although its confirmation is new. Various tea party-related groups have been complaining for months about inordinate delays caused by IRS scrutiny, to the point that former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was asked about it at a congressional hearing and flatly denied any such thing. The Washington Post now reports that the commissioner already had been briefed on the harassment issue when he issued his strong denial to Congress.

Those conflicting facts prompted U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch to say that "the IRS was at best being far from forthcoming, or at worst, being deliberately dishonest with Congress."

Although using the IRS to target political opponents has been an intermittent problem for decades, it is no small thing. Indeed, it's the stuff of which authoritarian governments are made. Appointed or elected political leaders cannot be allowed to use taxing agencies, police agencies or regulatory bureaucracies to harass and silence their political opponents, and that's what was going on here.

It is reassuring that Democrats as well as Republicans are expressing outrage over what has occurred. But it remains stunning that high-ranking members of a large and powerful government bureaucracy would engage in the kind of behavior that's been admitted. Heads must roll, no matter whether that be through job discipline or criminal investigation.

Congress and the attorney general's office must conduct a full-scale investigation into what occurred, how it occurred, who carried it out and why. The punishment must be so severe that every bureaucrat, no matter how well hidden within the bowels of big government, will know the behavior at issue is not only inappropriate, but illegal and intolerable in a democratic society.

This is really a disgrace, the only saving grace being that it serves as a welcome reminder that trust in government to do the right things for the right reasons often is misplaced.

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STM wrote on May 15, 2013 at 7:05 am

Tea Party 501c "non-profit" groups are outraged for being flagged for audits by the IRS.  Because auditing "non-profits" that are blatantly political, provide no social services, and are overtly anti-tax is "outrageous."

The Tea Pary might has well put up billboards begging for this. They'll get no sympathy from me.

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 15, 2013 at 9:05 am

They will not get any sympathy from me as well. This absurd aimless crowd wanted to challenge the constitutionality of having to pay taxes and plagiarized their name from an unrelated movement of colonial times that only wanted their only duly elected representation to determine tax rates. Well we have that now, it's called congress.

What's next? The national organization for reform of marijuana laws complaining they are being surveilled by the DEA. Well I say you wanted the attention of the government and YOU GOT IT tea party. Enjoy.

The tea party is always good for a few laughs though, like when they make statements such as "Keep government hands off my Medicare" LOL 

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 15, 2013 at 1:05 pm

ALL organizations requesting tax exemption while they are doing political work rather than public service should be scrutinized, and denied tax exemption.  Wheather it is a right wing, or left wing organization; it should be denied tax exemption status.  How much money is flowing from Israel, or China into political organization coffers?  How much transparency of who is giving money is being hidden?  The NRA, ACLU, and the AARP have tax exemption as "public service" organizations.  Any political affilliations by an organization should result in loss of tax exempt status.

The News Gazette evidently does not follow the news in depth; or it purposely beats the conservative drum on this matter.  The PBS News Hour has covered both sides of the issue for the past two nights.  The News Gazette editorial staff evidently does not watch the PBS News Hour.  It must be too liberal in their view to be creditable news.

bluegrass wrote on May 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Bulldog and STM say, "Hey, as long as it happens to their guys, with whom I disagree politically, I'm good."  Sid talks about Israel and China and the AARP, and what "should" happen, instead of what actually did occur.  All perfectly happy with, and in effect cheering on the federal leviathan using it's power to stifle free political speech.  Classy.


Sid Saltfork wrote on May 15, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The problem is monetary influence on politics.  A few contributors like the Koch brothers, Sheldon (the Vegas Billionaire), and the Hollywood donors pushed the campaign donations to an all time high.  Israelis, also, contributed big time.  The IRS was following new legislation trying to verify that the front groups were entitled to tax free status, and secret membership lists.  The US Congress passed the legislation previously.  The IRS is under staffed.  They are trying to process the tremendous increase of requests which are mostly from the right wing.  Their protocol in interviewing was flawed; but they were doing their job.

It is not a conspiracy.  It was passed by Congress.  If you think that you are entitled to disregard the government which is elected by the citizens; maybe, you should seek another country.  Try watching a creditable unbiased news program for a change. 

bluegrass wrote on May 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

Ok, so let me get this straight.  First, IRS workers intentionally discriminate against a group of people based only on ther political positions.  Second, I don't approve of their actions, nor do I like it that people like you defend their actions.  Third, because of that I should seek another country.  That chain of logic makes it difficult to have a reasonable discussion.

I don't know whether or not some of these organizations should have tax exempt status, but the facts are that liberal organizations were getting fast-tracked, and applications for Tea Party organizations were placed in limbo by IRS employees, through the use of tactics that would make McCarthy proud.  That is the cold, hard, unadulterated, unmitigated truth of the situation, no matter which unbiased news program one cares to take in.  It has naught to do with the Koch brothers or Israel.  The dirty little not-so-secret-secret is, that left wingers simply love the fact that like minded individuals wormed their way into a position of power, and abused that power to further the cause.


Sid Saltfork wrote on May 17, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The legislation required the IRS to determine wheather an organization is primarily political in it's role versus the organization being a public service regardless of politics.  The political organizations that were created in the recent past jumped on the band wagon to get tax exempt status, and secrecy.  It happens that the majority of the organizations were primarily political in their purposes.  

Now, you feel that there was a conspiracy by "left wingers" to pick on right wingers.  Maybe, the IRS should have developed their questions better.  As much as you want the conservative philosophy to be the political destiny of this country; your willing to have secret donors, and donations tax free? 

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 15, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Bluegrass...When you use quotation marks it should be an actual quote and not to falsely validate your spin on what I or anyone else actually said.

While you are sitting in your bunker the rest of us who live above ground can report on how things actually work. The IRS' job is to collect every tax dollar allowed by law and as organizations spring up they must be checked to see if they meet the standards of tax exemption.

I seriously doubt that a few IRS agents are going to shut up people like you or your leaders Sarah Palin or whoever the leadership of the week is at the Tea Party headquarters. (Wherever that is)

Real oppression of the last decade has come under the ham-fisted Bush administration who implemented the preemption doctrine of Wolfowitz, the Patriot Act which is far from patriotic and the bypass of Habeas Corpus where we get to throw brown people into a dungeon to torture indefinately without trial or charge. Where is your constitutional concern for that?

J Edgar hoover illegally used the IRS to spy on people for his entire career without warrant and free speech still survived. I doubt your Tea Party is going to fold up shop because they paid a higher tax rate and had to buy one less used RV to do business out of. 

bluegrass wrote on May 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

I will say, it is fun to watch citizens defend blatant abuse of power.  Even more so when one reads the well thought out arguments they come up with to defend said abuse, like, "Bush," and "J Edgar hoover," and "indefinately."

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

Yes, don't concern yourself with reading comprehension and historical context in the writing just pull out a few nouns and rant. Your Tea Party organization was irrelevant and had no traction before this scandal and it will remain that way after it gets it's "Non-Profit" designation.

bluegrass wrote on May 16, 2013 at 11:05 am

Ohhhh.  Historical context.  Makes total sense now.

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 16, 2013 at 12:05 pm

and your sky is falling nonsense does? The government doesn't know or care who you are.

bluegrass wrote on May 16, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Congratulations, you're wrong again.  The government does know who I am, because they keep mailing me bills every April for my property taxes.  And the State of Illinois and the United State Treasury always cash the checks I send them on a regular basis.   I bet the County Collector and the IL Dept of Revenue and the IRS would notice (care) if I just stopped sending them in.  They also send me out a Social Security statement every now and then telling me about all the make believe money I will be eligible for at some point 30 years from now.  So they do know who I am.  They do care Bulldog, they reallly care.

Keep trying though.

Bulldogmojo wrote on May 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm

OOHHHH The Humanity!

Maybe I was wrong maybe its no one else cares, but keep up your end of the E-Harmony relationship you think you have with the government. I'm sure if you folded up shop the economic shockwave would be felt from your living room all the way to your kitchen you titan of industry. You're still posting so the IRS hasn't taken away your free speech yet or whatever that, teachers unions are keeping me down so I better buy another gun, themed rant it is you're always on.

This will have to be my last response so I will have to let you have the least and last word, otherwise I will be getting into Mark Taylor's ghost, territory and I always feel like I am copyright infringing on him when I have to bring it down so far for you to get it, that I start typing truncated words like "Guvmint gon' a git us".

Go ahead oh ye protector of freedom...have at it. Enthral us with your patriotic wisdom on the global conspiracy that holds you up as it's primary target and how you will lead us all to democracy.

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 17, 2013 at 5:05 pm

I am getting the opinion that bluegrass wants to live in the United States of America; but he does not want his elected government to interact with him.  Seems like bluegrass wants the benefits of being a member; but not having to pay the dues.

If only Texas would give them all amnesty, and relocation expenses...................

alabaster jones 71 wrote on May 18, 2013 at 2:05 pm
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bulldogmojo:  "Real oppression of the last decade has come under the ham-fisted Bush administration who implemented the preemption doctrine of Wolfowitz, the Patriot Act which is far from patriotic and the bypass of Habeas Corpus where we get to throw brown people into a dungeon to torture indefinately without trial or charge. Where is your constitutional concern for that?"

All truthful points, although pretty much a complete red herring in relation to what bluegrass was talking about.

Question is though, why do you conveniently neglect to mention the fact that Obama has continued, and in many instances expanded, most of those and other deplorable "war on terror" Bush-era policies?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on May 17, 2013 at 11:05 pm
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To all those posting except bluegrass...

You'd be just as dismissive of this controversy if it had happened to anti-war groups during the Bush administration, right???

Speaking of those anti-war groups, what happened to them anyway?  Seems you mostly stopped hearing from them when Obama got elected, even when Obama kept soldiering on with most of Bush's war on terror policies...

An extremely powerful agency of the government targeting people for their political views is unacceptable...yes, even if it happens to people you disagree with. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on May 18, 2013 at 10:05 am

The more that comes out on the "IRS misconduct" the more it appears that individuals in lower administrative positions allowed their personal political views to impair their jobs.  There was recent legislation that prompted scruntiny of political organizations rushing to receive tax exemption; and the IRS was to decide which organizations were political, or public service.  Were the Tea Party organizations political primarily?  This was no conspriacy on the part of the US government.  It is being played politically to the maximum by the right wing.  If Bush were still president, it would have been the left wing hollering.

How about no tax exemptions for any organization? 

This mania about government conspiracies grew out of Water Gate.  It has been used in thousands of novels, and movies as a theme.  It is preached by every left winger, and right winger.  Every action by every administration in now suspect of being an evil government conspiracy.  The citizens are becoming a paranoid, two cult society.  Why not just require people to wear a blue, or red shirt everyday?

alabaster jones 71 wrote on May 18, 2013 at 3:05 pm
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"How about no tax exemptions for any organization?"

Sounds like a great idea to me.

As for where government conspiracies grow out's not really novels or movies.  They grow out of an increased awareness of just how thoroughly corrupt, self-serving, and exploitative that the government and those in power too often are.  It's not just an American problem, or a modern problem.  Power and influence can and do pollute anyone's best intentions.

Watergate wasn't some isolated moment of corruption in the otherwise noble, well-intentioned history of the federal government.  It was just kind of the awakening moment (well, the co-moment, along with the Vietnam debacle) where the public at large suddenly got their clearest look yet of just how undignified, heartless and manipulative that their leaders could be towards the people they were supposed to be serving. 

News came out a few days ago that the Justice Department secretly seized two months worth of AP's phone records.  That's the sort of thing that makes people start to question the motives of those in power and to explore conspiracies...not Hollywood blockbusters.