The Internal Revenue Service has been targeting conservative groups but the powerful federal agency was not content with abuse of groups with “tea party” and “patriot” in their names. As the Wall Street Journal noted, the IRS was acting in a highly inclusive manner, giving extra scrutiny to groups seeking to “make America a better place to live” and even groups concerned about government spending.
The IRS knew about this in 2011, a year before IRS boss Douglas Shulman denied that any such targeting was going on. So he compounded the abuse and harassment with lies. The IRS was reportedly “apologetic” about the campaign but blamed it on low-level employees, claimed it was not politically motivated, and denied that anyone outside the IRS was involved in development of the criteria for harassment. That is a telling sign. Citizens should never believe anything until it is officially denied.
Legislators have called on president Obama to make it clear that the situation is unacceptable and issue a formal apology. That is unlikely because the IRS campaign conforms with federal policies to marginalize and malign those at odds with intrusive government. For example, a recent report from the U.S. Military Academy’s Combatting Terrorism Center includes groups that believe the federal government intrudes on individuals’ civil and constitutional rights, and even groups that support civil activism, individual freedoms, and self-government. That sounds a lot like the groups the IRS has been targeting and lying about, compounding their campaign with a half-baked attempt at an apology.
Deploying the IRS as a political weapon is a dangerous abuse of power. That past presidents have done likewise is no justification for the conduct of the Obama administration. If anything, the current IRS campaign confirms that the federal government is too big and intrusive, prone to deception, and essentially unreformable.