No Scrutiny for the Tax Man
by L. Brent Bozell III
February 13, 1997
In 1170, King Henry II asked of his followers "Will no
one rid me of this turbulent priest?" They responded by murdering Thomas
Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Last November, Bill Clinton sounded a
similar note in election-night remarks in Little Rock, as quoted in the
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: "I'm going to devote a lot of my time in the
next four years trying to cut the cancer out of American politics" to put
an end to "the kind of systematic abuse so many people here have
Have his followers heeded the call, too? It has come to
light that a dozen different conservative organizations have been targeted for
IRS audits, including the Heritage Foundation, the National Rifle Association,
Citizens Against Government Waste, Oliver North's Freedom Alliance, the
Gingrich-connected Progress and Freedom Foundation and Abraham Lincoln
Opportunity Foundation, the National Center for Public Policy Research, the
Western Journalism Center, and the conservative magazines National Review and
The American Spectator. To dismiss this as sheer coincidence is to stretch the
bounds of credulity. A story, for the mainstream "objective" news to
investigate, then? Hardly.
Over the years, we've seen countless reports about Richard
Nixon's abuse of the IRS to torment his enemies. Of lesser interest is the
emerging documentation of JFK's similar proclivities. And now that a dozen
anti-Clinton conservative groups find themselves on the receiving end of an
IRS jihad, no one in the press even cares to ask if there's a political
vendetta at work again. No one except Washington Times reporter Rowan
Scarborough, that is, who's filed a series of interesting reports yet to be
seen in prime time, but which deserve top billing on the evening news.
Scarborough's reports shed light on how the IRS targets its
victims for scrutiny. In a letter to Rep. Charles Rangel, IRS Deputy
Commissioner Michael Dolan said an audit "is based largely on issues
raised in media reports and third-party communications."
What third-party communications? Heritage vice president
Phil Truluck claims IRS agents began their audit after Democrats complained
that Dole signed a Heritage fundraising letter. Citizens Against
Government Waste also secured Dole's signature, also got the call from the
IRS. The NRA came under investigation in June 1995, after Clinton and other
liberals attacked them in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombings.
Others heard whispers of politics. Amy Moritz Ridenour of
the National Center for Public Policy Research said the agent investigating
her group suggested it could be a "political complaint." The Western
Journalism Center's Joseph Farah quoted an agent: "Look, this is a
political case, and the decision about your tax-exempt status will made at the
Scarborough uncovered how intimately congressional Democrats
are informed about IRS audits of the opposition. He discovered that Rep.
Rangel, the ranking Democrat overseeing the IRS, issued a press release
inferring an audit of the Gingrich-connected Abraham Lincoln Opportunity
Foundation -- weeks before the foundation's officials were notified of the
audit. That's a potential felony of releasing confidential tax information.
Is the IRS trying to "cut out" Clinton's
"cancer" of conservative groups? Certainly they don't need to revoke
organizations' tax-exempt status to cause them pain: the NRA says the IRS
audits are costing $1 million a year to handle. When asked about the
allegations, oily Clinton flack Mike McCurry could only sneer the non-answer
that "no credible news organization" had reported on the audits.
That sort of shame-your-fellow-liberals approach has largely worked so far.
The suspicion of intentional targeting was best underlined
when Scarborough surveyed comparable liberal nonprofits to count how many were
being audited by the IRS. He could not find a single one. And that's not
because liberal groups never cross the line into electioneering. The Los
Angeles Times and Newsweek have revealed that White House heavy Harold Ickes
and others were directing Democratic donors to 501(c)(3) nonprofit
"nonpartisan" voter registration groups.
Vote Now '96 was run by Democratic money men in Miami.
The National Coalition on Black Voter Participation's director, James
Ferguson, told the Baltimore Sun last January his group "has targeted 83
House districts that African American voters can help elect Democrats --
enough to wrest control of the House away from the GOP." Wait a minute.
Isn't that exactly what the Democrats were accusing Newt Gingrich of
doing? Oughtn't the pundits be asking: Where's Harold Ickes' $300,000 fine?
So let's get this straight. Conservative groups are being
overrun by IRS auditors without any explanation of any charges of wrongdoing
being levied, or where they may have originated, and that's not news.
"Nonpartisan" liberal groups are ignoring IRS electioneering
restrictions without fear, even bragging about it to the press, and the
networks are speechless. Maybe it's that our network journalists don't have
time for such trite matters since they're working on far more important
issues. Like Food Lion, for example.
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