TaxProf Blog

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

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Death of Former IRS Commissioner Johnnie Walters, Refused President's Request to Audit His Enemies

WaltersNew York Times, Johnnie M. Walters, Ex-IRS Chief, Dies at 94:

Johnnie M. Walters, a commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard M. Nixon who left office after refusing to prosecute people on Nixon’s notorious “enemies list,” died on Tuesday at his home in Greenville, S.C. He was 94. ...

Nixon had fired his first IRS commissioner, Randolph W. Thrower, for resisting White House pressure to punish political opponents. Mr. Thrower, who served from 1969 to 1971, died at 100 in March. ...

Mr. Walters had not been told of Nixon’s other job requirements, as revealed in a White House conversation recorded on May 13, 1971. “I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he’s told, that every income-tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends,” the president said.

Mr. Walters failed to follow this script — which was unknown to him — when John W. Dean III, the White House counsel, summoned him to his office on Sept. 11, 1972. Mr. Dean handed him the “enemies list” of 200 people, most prominent Democrats, whom he wanted investigated.

"I was shocked,” Mr. Walters said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “John, do you realize what you’re doing?” he remembered saying. “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.” ...

Several days later, Mr. Walters went to his immediate boss, Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, showed him the list and recommended that the IRS do nothing. Mr. Shultz told him to lock the list in his safe.

By Sept. 15, Nixon had been told of Mr. Walters’s reluctance to follow instructions. “Why the hell did we promote him?” H. R. Haldeman, the White House chief of staff said, according to a tape. Nixon told Mr. Dean, “You’ve got to kick Walters’s ass out first and get a man in there.” The president added that Mr. Shultz needed to make sure that Mr. Walters left if he wanted to keep his own job.

Mr. Walters gave the list to Laurence N. Woodworth, chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. He wrote in his 2011 book, “Our Journey,” that this was the most important thing he did, “because then we could say with absolute certainty that IRS never began any audit or investigation of any name on that list because of the list.”

Mr. Walters testified to various committees investigating alleged Nixon misdeeds. He left office in April 1973.

USA Today, Former IRS Chief Recalls Defying Nixon:

At his home near Furman University, Johnnie Mac Walters remembers being pressured more than 40 years ago to do what he considered unthinkable. ... In the early 1970s, when embattled President Richard Nixon sought to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon to investigate his enemies, the administration turned to Walters, a Hartsville, S.C., native and head of the tax agency, to do the dirty work.

Walters, now 93, said he refused.

The IRS controversy currently dogging President Barack Obama has raised new allegations that the agency has been engaged in political meddling and bias. Obama has denounced as "outrageous" the targeting of conservative political groups by the IRS.

Walters walks with a cane now and is soft-spoken. But the recent IRS developments prompted him to sit down for an interview and resume his personal quest, not for vindication, but to validate his rejection of Nixon's tactics while he was commissioner of Internal Revenue. ...

Some Republicans have tried to link Obama to what the IRS has acknowledged was improper scrutiny of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. "I'm distressed at what's happening and particularly with IRS," said Walters, a lifelong Republican. "IRS must be run nonpolitical. Our tax system otherwise will fail and we can't afford that."

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/06/death-of-former-irs-commissioner-.html

IRS News, Tax | Permalink

Comments

It must be tough to run the IRS. The truth is that most employees that work for the IRS are Democrats and it is tough to completely leave your bias at the door. Not sure what should be done as we do need a tax administrative agency but kicking out the unions and reducing job security seem like two "no-brainers."

Posted by: Jeff Boyd | Jun 26, 2014 11:29:34 AM

It just goes to show that G-d does reward the righteous with long life and clear conscience!

Posted by: werewife | Jun 26, 2014 12:08:50 PM

the smug arrogant smirk on the face of Koskinen will resonate throughout this process, indicative of a man who knows his a$$ is protected by his dear leader...

Posted by: ThewlynOh | Jun 26, 2014 12:13:37 PM

Remember when the IRS had "a courageous and ethical man" as its commissioner? Remember when Robert Bork of the Justice Department appointed special prosecutor Leon Jaworski, to investigate White House scandals? Yeah, we don't have IRS Commissioners or Attorney Generals like that today.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 26, 2014 12:40:23 PM

Come on Woody. Bork was the Acting AG at the time. AG Elliott Richardson resigned rather than fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. DAG Wm Ruckelshaus also resigned rather than fire Cox. Bork, however, had no such scruples. In his posthumously published memoir, Bork admitted that Nixon promised him the next seat on the SCOTUS for his action in firing Cox. Bork was not one of the good guys.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 26, 2014 1:32:15 PM

At least Bork had more integrity than to "Bork" a special prosecutor.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 26, 2014 2:43:39 PM

The truth is that most employees that work for the IRS are Democrats and it is tough to completely leave your bias at the door.

Especially when there's no expectation to do so. These people are party apartchiks who can't wait to terrorize their supposed enemies

Posted by: bandit | Jun 27, 2014 5:38:19 AM

So, bye-bye Miss American Pie.... I must be fate that government integrity died on the same day.

SO TWO WATERGATE-ERA HEROES DIED TODAY. Howard Baker, who famously asked “what did the President know and when did he know it?” and Johnnie Walters, the IRS Commissioner who refused to go along with Nixon’s efforts to target his enemies. Both were Republicans who stood up for the rule of law.

Where are the Democrats willing to stand up for it under this Administration?

Posted by: Woody | Jun 27, 2014 11:40:40 AM