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White House stops just shy of endorsing IRS targeting

By Devin Keehner
On March 6, 2014

Almost a year ago the story broke that the IRS had been engaging in political targeting of conservative political organizations.
Liberals and conservatives alike met that revelation with outrage. Even the President - in an attempt to get in front of the inevitable political scandal - condemned the IRS's actions and vowed to get to the bottom of the scandal.
As of last week, however, that is no longer the case. The White House, including President Obama, has stopped just short of endorsing the IRS's political targeting.
The President's offense is threatening to veto a bill that would have started to level the playing field between conservative and liberal political groups.
The bill, which passed in the House, would have stopped the IRS from changing the rules that govern 501c(4) groups, a rule change that will in effect institutionalize the targeting of conservatives groups. Nothing will have changed to insure that these new rules are not selectively enforced and will only serve to give the IRS more power after it has already caused significant harm to our democracy.
That fact that the President has an ideological opposition to the existence of these political groups is no excuse. If the President is intent on vetoing this legislation then he is duty bound to offer a legislative fix of his own. It's not enough for the IRS to institute a rule change that could be undone in the future, and that has the potential to make it much worse.
It's not too much to ask that regardless of ones beliefs about political contributions that the government's laws should be applied equally across the board. That's what makes the current defense of the IRS's political targeting so infuriating. Conservatives understand that liberals don't believe 501c(4)'s (Super PACs) should exist, but what they don't understand is how that justifies the use of the federal government as a tool to suppress 501c(4)'s selectively based on political affiliations - the key word being selectively.
Notice, also, that missing from this discussion is any mention of unions acting as political groups. Democrats, outraged by the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, are constantly fretting about the effects of corporate money on elections. However, they seem to have no concern for the effect that unions can play in elections. None of the outrage is directed towards 501c(5)'s (the designation that unions fall under). Why is it unacceptable for a corporation to use its profits to engage in politics but okay for a public sector union (which is ultimately taxpayer funded) to be heavily involved in the political process? It is unclear whether this omission is one of political convenience or ideology.
Democrats have gone from opposing the actions of Richard Nixon to enshrining them into law. Except now, the proposed abuse is a hundred times that. Richard Nixon used the government to attack other political elites. Currently, Democrats are using the government against everyday Americans. Note that Karl Rove's political organization Crossroads GPS received no extra scrutiny. Instead, it was locally established Tea Party groups - of which 100 percent received additional years of scrutiny - and Progressive groups - of which only 30 percent received additional scrutiny -bore the brunt of the IRS's assault on free speech.
Worse, after all that, the President still claimed in an interview with Bill O'Reilly that there was, "not even a smidgen of corruption" in the IRS. Really? It's a sad day when a liberal President has to suggest that government is unwieldy and inefficient just to avoid admitting it's corrupt.
More insulting still is the act of surprise. The idea that a few "boneheaded" IRS agents accidently assaulted the First Amendment is ridiculous. The President called the groups a threat to democracy. He can't honestly be surprised that someone under him took the hint.
Currently, a congressional investigation championed by Chairman Darrell Issa is searching emails and interviewing IRS employees in the hopes of finding a smoking gun. But why should we bother looking for a smoking gun when our democracy is burning down around us? We know who poured the gasoline, and we can see them doing it again. The fact that they stood back and let someone else light the fire is no defense.

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