IRS officials abused their powers like Third World bureaucrats

Do you recall the smoke spewing in front of the fake giant head of the Wizard of Oz? The whole thing looked intimidating until Toto pulled back the nearby curtain.

I was reminded of that while reading Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, explaining away the persecution of the tea parties from 2010 to 2013 by Lois Lerner and her fellow Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operatives.

The ranking minority member of the Senate Finance Committee seems to think his puffs of smoke will obscure a mountain of evidence, including a more than 400-page report released Wednesday by his committee that shows Democratic IRS officials abused their powers like Third World bureaucrats against political opponents.

Listen to Mr. Wyden's spin: "The results of this in-depth, bipartisan investigation showcase pure bureaucratic mismanagement without any evidence of political interference. Groups on both sides of the political spectrum were treated equally in their efforts to secure tax-exempt status."

He told reporters that it was just "vast bureaucratic bumbling . There is not a single shred of political interference."

Really? And Al Capone fudged a bit on his taxes and got caught jaywalking.

A June 2013 letter from the IRS inspector general to congressional Democrats found that six out of 20 "progressive" organizations had their applications scrutinized as potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012.

"In comparison," the letter said, "our audit found that 100 percent of the [292] tax-exempt applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed as potential political cases during the time frame of our audit."

As President Obama might say, that's not even a "smidgeon" of evidence. On July 21, Mr. Obama told fake news interviewer Jon Stewart that the tea parties were not targeted and that in any case, it was Congress' fault for enacting a "crummy law." Plus, the IRS is "poorly funded."

The Republican staff portion of the committee report includes four pages detailing how Texas businesswoman Catherine Engelbrecht was targeted as soon as she founded True the Vote and the King Street Patriots.

She had testified earlier before a House committee, but, "I was never asked to speak with Sen. Wyden or the Committee, which leaves me to wonder, how many leaders of targeted organizations did they question? Since filing for our organization's nonprofit status in 2010, I have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies. That wasn't 'bureaucratic bumbling;' it was an intentional effort to intimidate me into silence."

Perhaps the best clue as to why the tea parties were harassed unmercifully is an email exchange between Lois Lerner and her husband Michael Miles in November 2012:

Miles: Well, you should hear the whacko wing of the GOP. The US is through; too many foreigners sucking the teat; time to hunker down, buy ammo and food, and prepare for the end. The right wing radio shows are scary to listen to.

Lerner: Great. Maybe we are through if there are that many a—holes.

Miles: And I'm talking about the hosts of the shows. The callers are rabid.

Lerner: So we don't need to worry about alien terrorists. It's our own crazies that will take us down.

She also called Abraham Lincoln "our worst president ever," lamenting that he kept the South, which she apparently loathes, in the Union.

In his portion of the report, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, blamed "gross mismanagement at the highest levels of the IRS," and that "the administration's political agenda guided the IRS's actions with respect to their treatment of conservative groups. Personal politics of IRS employees, such as Lois Lerner, also impacted how the IRS conducted its business."

Ms. Lerner, whose computer allegedly crashed in 2011, has since retired with full benefits. The IRS took a year trying to find her "lost" e-mails, thus delaying the report.

This is the agency that punishes taxpayers for even the slightest errors and can destroy people and businesses at a whim — and has.

Meanwhile, progressives continue to attack the Tea Party. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on Wednesday lamented that Republicans are not supporting a carbon tax or raising the federal gasoline tax.

He blamed the Tea Party for that and everything from cold sores to falling bridges, and said the GOP's "base of their party and so many of its billionaire donors reflect the angry anti-science, anti-tax, anti-government, anti-minorities, anti-gay rights and anti-immigration views of the Tea Party and its media enforcer, Fox News."

It sounds like something that Mr. Obama's IRS might want to look into — if only they had a bigger budget.

• Robert Knight is a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union and a Washington Times contributor.


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