TaxProf Blog

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

Monday, April 25, 2005

WSJ: An IRS Cover Up?

Interesting editorial in Friday's Wall Street Journal, An IRS Cover-Up?:

Perhaps you remember Henry Cisneros. He's the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who pleaded guilty in 1999 to lying to FBI investigators during his pre-appointment background check about hush payments to a former mistress, on which it also happens he hadn't paid the requisite taxes.

Well, the special counsel report investigating all this still hasn't been made public, thanks largely to procedural roadblocks by Mr. Cisneros's attorneys. And now, all of a sudden, a rash of news stories and editorials are urging Independent Counsel David Barrett to wrap up his investigation forthwith, without releasing his findings.

Then there's the amendment that North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan and co-sponsors John Kerry and Richard Durbin are trying to attach to the latest supplemental war appropriations bill that would de-fund Mr. Barrett immediately. This would have the practical effect of making sure that Mr. Barrett's report never sees the light of day. After 10 long years and $21 million, don't they think taxpayers deserve to see what the special counsel has learned?...

Abuse of the taxing power is about as serious as corruption can get in our democracy, and it should be of bipartisan concern. In the 1990s, conservative critics of the Clinton Administration such as the Heritage Foundation had to endure suspicious audits. And of course the Nixon Tapes reveal that the former Republican President ordered tax investigations of Democratic opponents and donors. These columns recently raised doubts about an IRS probe of the tax status of the NAACP.

Yet now three highly partisan Democrats want to de-fund this probe and prevent publication of the report. "There is no other way to characterize this but as obstruction of justice," a source tells us, noting that Congress has never before tried to step on an Independent Counsel investigation like this. Surely given the ethical history of the Clinton years, the public deserves to see the report and judge for itself whether the IRS and Justice Department were misused for political purposes.

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