A Tale of Two Crooks and the IRS
Two cases in which the agency was a tool for political revenge and harassment.
With her roots in Roman mythology, Lady Justice represents morality and virtue through three symbols. First, she holds a set of scales in her left hand, to weigh evidence with reason and in light of the law. Second, she wields a double-edged sword in her right hand, representing the remedy impartially provided after the facts are laid bare before her. And third, she wears a blindfold, signifying that the law must be applied with objectivity and equality.
Yet too often politicians seek to lift this blindfold, wanting to redefine justice based on the year’s election cycle or to subvert it through delays, denials and tactics that advance their agenda.
Let’s examine two cases in which the Internal Revenue Service has been used as a tool for political revenge and harassment, and how they reflect an assault on justice that should offend all.
Consider the identical approaches of Richard Nixon and Barack Obama. One a Republican and the other a Democrat, both illustrate power’s ability to corrupt to the extreme, instituting a false democracy where disagreement and disloyalty are silenced by heavy-handed tactics.
Nixon’s legacy as the 37th president is often defined by his impeachment. Posterity’s view of Obama is still being penned, but both will be remembered for their unconstitutional misuse of government and for the tenured bureaucrats who willingly complied.
In the Articles of Impeachment adopted by the U.S. House Judiciary Committee in 1974, most remember Article I, which declared Nixon “impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors” committed surrounding the break-in at the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel on June 17, 1972.
The charges leveled by Congress state, “Subsequent thereto, Richard M. Nixon, using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.”
The break-in and burglary were indeed illegal and brought disgrace to the office of the president. But the obstruction, delays and attempts to conceal the covert activities all demonstrated an egregiously deliberate abuse of the power afforded the president of the United States.
Yet those same Articles of Impeachment issue a second damning charge, accusing Nixon of “using the powers of the office of President of the United States … in violation of his constitutional oath.” Nixon “repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposes of these agencies.”
Specifically, Nixon, “acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavored to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service” information of citizens he had on his “enemies list” whom he deemed politically dangerous to his ambitions.
Today’s ongoing IRS scandal involves conservative political groups whose applications for tax-exempt status were deliberately slowed. This similar flagrant abuse of authority commenced during Obama’s first term, helping him win a second, and it features the Nixonian ingredients of willing participants who delay, obstruct and lie to protect the crimes against innocent citizens.
Last week, Mary Howard, the head Freedom of Information Act officer at the IRS, testified to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the agency set up a secret “special project team” comprised of “hundreds of attorneys,” including the IRS Chief Counsel (one of only two positions at the IRS politically appointed by the president himself). She said her “understanding was that it started soon after the request came from Congress and other investigators asking for documents around this whole issue,” which she surmised meant around spring 2013.
Not only were law-abiding citizens targeted by an agency of the U.S. government for their political and religious views, but Obama’s henchmen implemented a plan to cover up this activity and delay information from getting into the hands of investigators. Key to this malfeasance is IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins — appointed by Obama — whose office has been directly connected in this harassment and abuse, which includes illegal requests and access to donor information.
Ironically, this unquestionable presidential corruption — the same as the misuse of power that ended in impeachment for Nixon — now leaves Republicans in fear of the political consequences for seeking justice. Democrats simply protect themselves through vindictive attacks and accusations of racism.
There was a day when the law was equally applied regardless of partisan stripe. And history has shown that both Republicans and Democrats can pursue justice for the honor and sake of our nation and Constitution. It’s only a matter of time before future generations declare Obama and his administration as lawless, dishonorable deceivers of the American public, corrupt for the sake of ambition and political power.
Justice may be blind, but she’s not stupid.