May 10 2013

IRS Employees Sought to Abridge Freedom of Speech

Charlotte Hays

The Internal Revenue Service has apologized for the “inappropriate” targeting of conservative organizations during the 2012 presidential election. Inappropriate?  What’s next ? Bills of attainder?

Here is what happened:

The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.

Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.

“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added. …

Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive questionnaires.

The forms, which the groups made available at the time, sought information about group members’ political activities, including details of their postings on social networking websites and about family members.

The Washington Post goes on to report that the targeting was “initiated by low-level workers” in Cincinnati and was “not motivated by political bias.” So I am wondering what it was motivated by? Somebody drank a cup of too hot tea and wants to eradicate all references to the insipid beverage?

It was clearly political bias, and it’s absurd to claim otherwise.

But what about the low-level employees who perpetrated this?

Should we just dismiss this scandal because it didn't originate on high?

I think that it actually is more disturbing that people at a relatively low level decided to make life difficult for conservative groups. It might be an indication that government workers, even at lower levels, regard government workers as privileged people whose sweet deals are threatened by conservatives who want to cut the cost of government.

So it is not at all encouraging that this scheme was carried out by low-level workers—our employees, in other words, are trying to abridge our freedom of speech.

Benjamin Brophy of the American Spectator comments:

It might not be all that surprising that bureaucrats, who trend to the left, took it upon themselves to give conservative groups problems, but it is not any less concerning.

Republicans, including Senators Mitch McConnell and Rob Portman, pressured the IRS to investigate complaints about this during the presidential race.   

I haven’t yet seen reports on whether these people were fired. Oh, I forgot. It’s hard to fire a government worker.

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