Government Watch

Strassel: All the President’s IRS Agents

The targeting of groups opposed to the Democratic agenda has not ended—it’s gotten worse.

From – The Wall Street Journal Online

Few presidents understand the power of speech better than Barack Obama, and even fewer the power of denying it to others. That’s the context for understanding the White House’s unprecedented co-option of the Internal Revenue Service to implement a political campaign to shut up its critics and its opponents.

Perhaps the biggest fiction of this past year was that the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups has been confronted, addressed and fixed. The opposite is true. The White House has used the scandal as an excuse to expand and formalize the abuse.

About a month after the IRS inspector general released his bombshell report about IRS targeting of conservative groups last May, Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel unveiled a “plan of action” for correcting the mess. One highlight was that targeted groups would be offered a new optional “expedited” process for getting 501(c)(4) status.

The deal, which received little public attention, boiled down to this: We’ll do our job, the IRS said, if you give up your rights. Those taking part in the “expedited” process had to agree to limit to 40% the amount of spending and time (calculated by employee and volunteers hours) they spend on political activity. Current 501(c)(4) rules allow political spending up to 49%, and have no “time” component. The clear point of the “deal” was to use the lure of 501(c)(4) approval to significantly reduce the political activity of targeted conservative groups going forward.

Some groups, desperate to get their tax exemption, took the deal. Others refused to be victimized twice. One of them is the Tea Party Patriots, run by Jenny Beth Martin, who told me that she didn’t feel it was right that”every other 501(c)(4) would get to live under a different standard than those of us who had been targeted, and had been waiting for a determination for years.” She let the deadline for using the expedited process pass.

Not long after, the IRS was back hounding the Tea Party Patriots with new requirements. In addition to re-demanding information that Ms. Martin’s group had already supplied, the IRS insisted on new details, like the groups’ fundraising letters from 2012. Cleta Mitchell, an attorney representing targeted groups, tells me one of her clients suffered the same fate. The IRS called to ask if the group would take part in its expedited process. When it turned down the IRS, the government agency hit the group with new questions about its activities. This all happened last summer.

Ms. Martin’s group had been waiting three years and three months for its 501(c)(4) letter. (Before Mr. Obama was president, the average time was three weeks.) The targeting has had its intended effect: Ms. Martin notes that supporters of her group have asked to be dissociated, for fear of their own IRS audit.

Now comes the fitting end to this spectacle. Late last week Ms. Martin’s name appeared among those scheduled to testify before the House Oversight Committee this Thursday. On Wednesday, she got a call from the supposedly apolitical IRS. Her group’s application for 501(c)(4) status? Suddenly, miraculously approved.

Politics is also guiding the Justice Department’s alleged investigation of IRS abuses. The Oversight Committee held a separate hearing, at which legal experts laid out the ludicrously partisan nature of Justice’s probe—including the choice of Barbara Bosserman, an Obama donor in the liberal civil-rights division, to handle it.

Ms. Mitchell, the attorney, was due to testify before the Oversight Committee Feb. 6. On Feb. 4, she filed her written testimony, which explained that nine months after this scandal broke, neither she nor her clients had yet to receive a phone call from the FBI or Justice. Three hours after filing, she told me, a Justice representative called, wanting to check on this targeting thing.

And now we have new IRS regulations, which will formalize the crackdown on 501(c)(4) political speech. The IRS has no business here—there is a bipartisan Federal Election Commission to enforce laws about political speech. But the FEC can’t be controlled by the White House, and Democrats have been unable to pass new speech restrictions through Congress.

Democrats are instead fully vested now in using the IRS to shut down criticism by outside groups of ObamaCare, overspending or (ironically) the IRS targeting. Even liberal groups are howling about the White House’s use of the IRS to silence political speech, and the House on Wednesday passed a bill to delay the regulations. The White House’s response? A veto threat.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee markup Thursday morning, Texas’s Ted Cruz offered an amendment to prohibit IRS employees from deliberately targeting individuals or groups based on political views. It was unanimously rejected by every member of the Democratic majority.

The IRS targeting was shocking because Americans expect that agency to be free of politics. In the age of Obama, that era is over. Only when Washington recognizes the IRS for the political tool it has become can it start to fix the problem.

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David Smart III


Nancy Livingston

They should be prosecuted for bullying!!!


raycvs: You might want to read D.A.’s comment again. He is stating facts. Liberals ARE NOT encumbered by principles and DO believe “the end justifies the means” and since it is an election year, the Democrats up for election, are NOW fearing the consequences of their actions. If they are re-elected, it will be “business as usual”.


IMPEACHMENT: To everyone who call for this, please Google this process. It has been explained on this forum several times why it is NOT possible at this time. IF Republicans keep control of the House AND take control of the Senate, MAYBE it will be possible but NOT as long as the Democrats control the Senate. ANOTHER incentive to VOTE OUT Democrats in November.

Gordon Maddox

David Cass (above) has the right idea—-Enact the FairTax! The only groups preparing tax forms(Retailers) would be getting paid for their efforts. And the States would also get to keep a small portion of the FairTax for collecting it from the retailers and sending it on to the Federal Government. Every one of the IRS employees would need to find another job—-hopefully a useful one. Anyone wanting more free information about the FairTax is welcome to send me their questions.


Obama promised transparency. We got the most transparently corrupt administration in this country’s history. The TIRP (Totally Inept Republican Party) can’t investigate their way out of a wet paper bag.


There is no question that this administration is corrupt. The part that I can’t understand is that there must be many working in the government who can see what is going on and is not a part of the corruption. Why don’t they come forward and expose the corruption? There must be some government workers that love America, cherish our freedoms, and yet see it all slipping away – why don’t they come forward?

Francis Nadosy

Remember, I believe it was Herman Cain that proposed the 9-9-9 program? I guess the exact program matters little as long as the IRS is totally replaced with a no exception, simple tax payment program. Why hasn’t this happened? There appears to be not a single person in our so-called representative government with guts enough to bring this change about . Certainly, will not happen with this corrupt, self-serving administration. Are there any republicans that are willing to grow a pair??

Jan Martin

The targeting is about elections and votes. Maybe if enough of the organizations had been able to reach more voters and gotten more members without being targeted unfairly the 2012 election might have been different. This is disturbing to me because it could possibly affect who our elected officials are. I would not like for any party to dishonestly change an election.


Dick Wienecke: Another Liberal with your head in the sand. The IRS targeted 85% of Conservative applications for tax exempt status but only 10% of Liberal organizations and you can bet these were only to cover their a–s and were approved in a much shorter time. There were already many EXISTING Liberal groups who had been previously given this status who were actively campaigning for the Democrats. It was when Conservative groups decided to PLAY BYTHE LIBERAL RULES that the IRS started the targeting. Before Obama came to office, the average length if time to process these applications was 3 weeks. After, it is taking 2-3 years to process “Conservative” applications with intrusive questions way outside the boundary’s if the rules. Big time Liberal George Soros funded several Liberal groups who called for the “investigation” into the Conservatives groups applying for tax exempt status (look them up). Even Lois Lerner… Read more »


It’s time to shut down the IRS completely! Did you notice that when Obamacare was passed, President Obama quickly added 16,000 new IRS employees … not accountants, but attorneys! When I do my taxes every year, I use an accountant … Maybe I should be using an attorney! What’s wrong with America? … We’re being run by the lawyers … Most of our elected politicians are attorneys, most lobbyists are attorneys, our justice and court system run by former attorneys … now the IRS, the government enforcers, are mostly attorneys … any FBI, CIA, NSA scandals being run by attorneys … the EPA, FDA, you name it government agency either run by, or packed with attorney employees! Have you got the message yet? … 1/2 of ALL the attorneys in the world are here in the United States !!! The good old USA, the land of equal opportunity … for… Read more »

Gil Doan

“…nothing new to the table”?

What is new is the brazen and unscrupulous employment
of the service as an armory of partisan warfare!

Dick Wienecke

Your one sided presentation of well worn thoughts brings nothing new to the table. Unfortunately many of the 501 c4 organization applications are no more than attempts to get tax deductions for political contributions. This is needed to prevent big money from purchasing and then abusing political power. It’s the IRSs job to prevent this from taking place. Let the service do their job. Actually, we need to increase IRS budgets so they can do their job!

David Cass

The fix to the IRS problem is to downsize the IRS. With 70 thousand pages of regulations, the IRS is much too complicated for anyone to have a handle on managing it. Simplifying the tax code and eliminating deductions would go a long way toward solving the problem.

Better still, if we could somehow manage to adopt a national sales tax (often referred to as the “Fair Tax”), all those complicated tax forms could be relegated to the trash bin of history. There would be no need to file for a tax-exempt status because nobody would be tax-exempt anymore.