It looks like any other slick political ad on your TV. There’s ominous music, a dramatic voice-over, a grainy picture of President Obama. But this isn’t just another campaign commercial.
The news broke recently that a Republican mega-donor plans to spend about $1 million a week on ads calling on Congress to impeach John Koskinen, the commissioner of the IRS. It seems like an odd way to spend your millions. While it’s true that the IRS is the right’s favorite whipping boy, why the campaign-style ad blitz?
Well, in my years as a prosecutor, it’s become a habit to consider motive. So it got me thinking: What motive do the Republicans have to impeach the IRS commissioner? Maybe it’s just emotional acting-out against an agency they hate because it collects the taxes they hate. Maybe it’s an outbreak of political madness.
Or maybe there is method to their madness.
Let’s look at the Republican Party and how it is funded. While it raises a healthy amount for its campaign committees, Republicans and their allies depend increasingly on the super PACs and shadowy outside spending groups made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. ...
An under-funded and harried IRS has been unwilling to police the activities of powerful social welfare groups after an effort to separate out new applicants blew up in its face. In 2013, the IRS signaled it would begin the process of drafting a rule to better enforce our laws limiting dark money in elections. It later put the rulemaking process on hold after an especially loud outcry from conservative groups. The agency also came under heavy fire in the press from conservatives and Republicans in Congress who feared having the hose to their political oxygen crimped. And since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, they’ve worked to slash the IRS budget. Funding in 2016 was $11.2 billion, or 17 percent below 2010 levels, adjusted for inflation.
So the dark-money floodgates remain wide open, deluging our politics in special-interest slime.
The GOP’s crusade against Commissioner Koskinen may seem overblown, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider motive: Republicans need dark money, and dark money needs a cowering IRS.