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Back in 2012, Americans who sought smaller government, and believed that they were taxed enough already, geared up for the election. Trouble was, the Internal Revenue Service targeted them for harassment on the basis of their political beliefs. Last week, the Trump administration agreed to pay $3.5 million to the so-called tea party groups, but as Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times observes, there’s more to the story.
The settlement was announced by Attorney General Jeff sessions, who offered an apology to the 450 groups that had sued the IRS, the most powerful and intrusive agency in the federal government. The IRS itself did not issue an apology, and was not talking to reporters. A key player in the harassment was Lois Lerner, who destroyed evidence and endlessly took the Fifth. She was not fired and the government allowed her to resign. The previous administration claimed Lerner was trying to stop the harassment but as Dinan explains, the Justice Department and IRS “now say she failed to stop her employees and hid the bad behavior from her bosses for two years.”
Former IRS helmsman Stephen Miller said nobody had been targeted and that it was all a matter of “horrible customer service,” as though the IRS was a business producing products that people actually wanted. Miller incurred no penalty and the government brought in John Koskinen, a skilled prevaricator and a real piece of work. As we noted, Koskinen obstructed investigators at every turn, misleading Congress about the destruction of Lois Lerner’s emails. Koskinen was not fired then and he is not being fired now. As Dinan notes, he is “due to leave the agency early next month” with no penalty of any kind and no apology, official or otherwise.
The harassed groups may welcome the $3.5 million settlement but it’s too little and too late. Here’s the deal. IRS bosses can deprive Americans of their constitutional rights, subject them to harassment, then walk away unharmed and not even have to say they are sorry. Taxpayers can be forgiven for believing that the Internal Revenue Service is unaccountable to the people and essentially unreformable.