TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, May 11, 2018

The IRS Scandal, Day 1826: The Five Year Anniversary

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal op-ed:  The Unresolved IRS Scandal, by Bradley Smith (Capital University Law School; former Chair, Federal Election Commission):

Imagine if liberal groups discovered that President Trump’s Internal Revenue Service was targeting them for heightened scrutiny or harassment. The media and Democrats would decry this assault on the First Amendment and declare the U.S. on the brink of autocracy. The scandal would dominate the midterms, and the legitimacy of the election would be called into question.

Strangely enough, the IRS did target organs of the opposition party during the last administration, but the episode has largely faded from public memory without resolution. May 10 marks the fifth anniversary of the revelation that President Obama’s IRS targeted conservative groups for more than two years prior to the 2012 presidential election.

While some of the faces at the IRS have changed, the law that enabled their misuse of power has not. Congress’s failure to address the problem leaves the U.S. democratic process vulnerable to further abuses. 

Lois Lerner, the career official at the center of the IRS scandal, retired on full pension after invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination before Congress. John Koskinen, appointed IRS commissioner by Mr. Obama to lead the agency “in difficult times,” served his full term, spending the better part of four years stonewalling congressional requests for information. On his watch, the IRS destroyed evidence subject to subpoena.

The response from the political system showed early promise but quickly fizzled. ...

[M]any conservatives seem to think Washington has turned the page on IRS abuse. Meanwhile, too many Democrats seem to think that this could never happen to them. Both are wrong. The IRS scandal was not the result of a few rogue IRS employees; the problem is that the IRS is involved in regulating political activity. ...

The easy fix here would be for Congress simply to scrap restrictions on political activity by social-welfare organizations, thereby stripping the IRS of authority to decide which groups are “political committees” and which aren’t. In a democracy, political activity is part of social welfare. Such a change would not affect federal revenue, as contributions to social-welfare organizations are not tax-deductible. There would be no “subsidizing political activity.”

The Federal Election Commission—a bipartisan agency staffed by experts and created to oversee election-related activities—is the proper authority to determine whether an organization should be subject to regulation under campaign-finance laws. The IRS—an agency under control of the president, with no bipartisan checks, subject to congressional pressure, and tasked with collecting revenue—is not.

There is a long history of presidents from both parties using the IRS to harass political opponents. Democrats and Republicans alike should recognize that, fix the law, and get the IRS out of politics.

Update:  David Cay Johnston, Bradley Smith's WSJ Op-Ed Is A 'Breathtaking' Distortion Of The Facts Of The IRS 'Scandal'

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2018/05/the-irs-scandal-day-1831-the-five-year-anniversary.html

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Comments

Keep up the Good Work! {!-{>

Posted by: Curtis | May 11, 2018 6:27:14 AM

Because the Left relies on short memories and shorter investigative momentum, Mr. Caron's diligence and tenacity will win the day.

We are watching and waiting, silently, while you do yoeman's work to rectify an existential attack on the core of America.

Stay the course, please, Mr. Caron!

Posted by: T Benson | May 12, 2018 8:26:18 AM

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