New York Post, March 29, 2023
Journalist Matt Taibbi testified March 9 before a congressional committee on the vast federally funded “censorship-industrial complex” the Twitter Files exposed.
That same day, an IRS agent swooped down on his New Jersey home.
Maybe the timing of that IRS visit was a coincidence, like someone who forgets to take off his ski mask before entering a bank.
The IRS agent ordered Taibbi to contact the agency regarding his tax returns from two prior years.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is outraged and sent a letter Tuesday demanding information from the Biden administration since “the IRS’s action could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate a witness before Congress.”
Regardless of whether the untimely IRS visit to Taibbi’s home was moronic or malicious, the power to tax has long conferred the power to destroy political opponents.
As David Burnham noted in his 1990 masterpiece, “A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power,” “In almost every administration since the IRS’s inception the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes.”
President Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS to harass newspaper publishers who opposed the New Deal, including William Randolph Hearst and Moses Annenberg, as well as prominent Republicans such as former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.
President John Kennedy used the IRS to attack the tax-exempt status of conservative organizations.
The Ideological Organizations Audit Project targeted the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, the American Enterprise Institute, the Foundation for Economic Education and many other organizations.
The 1976 Senate Church Committee report noted, “By directing tax audits at individuals and groups solely because of their political beliefs, the Ideological Organizations Audit Project established a precedent for a far more elaborate program of targeting ‘dissidents.’”
The Nixon White House gave the IRS a list of targets to, as White House counsel John Dean said, “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”
More than 10,000 groups and individuals were targeted because of their political activism or slant between 1969 and 1973, including the John Birch Society and many liberal and leftist organizations.
The Clinton White House produced a 331-page 1995 report entitled “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce” that attacked conservative magazines, think tanks and other entities and individuals.
More than 20 of the named organizations, including the Heritage Foundation, the American Spectator as well as Clinton accusers Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers, were subsequently targeted for tax audits.
During the Obama years, IRS officials blocked almost 300 conservative organizations from getting tax-exempt status, targeting groups with names such as “Tea Party” and those that “advocated education about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.” Conservative nonprofits were also hit by far more audits.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) denounced the IRS targeting of conservative nonprofits as “the hallmark of authoritarian nations.”
In 2016, a federal appeals court ruled the IRS had committed “unconstitutional acts against” right-wing nonprofits.
Is President Joe Biden’s IRS going on the ideological warpath?
In speeches last fall, Biden denounced Republicans as “semi-fascists” and “extremists” who could destroy democracy.
Is there any reason IRS officials would not heed the president’s alarms?
Congress passed a bill last year to hire an additional 87,000 IRS agents and staffers.
The tax code is a hellishly complex four-million-word tangle.
Many people and organizations inadvertently violate rules that even the IRS has trouble explaining.
Unfortunately, it may be years before we learn how Team Biden has exploited the IRS’s power over innocent Americans or Biden critics.
Despite endless reforms of the tax code, Congress has done little to curb the power of the IRS.
“The IRS operates a near-totalitarian system,” Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) declared in 1988. “The taxpayer, meanwhile, is afforded hardly any rights during such proceedings other than to pay the alleged deficiency.”
“The IRS controls more information about individual Americans than any other agency,” the Commission on Economic Growth and Tax Reform warned in 1996. “Without a trial, the IRS has the right to seize property from Americans.”
Thanks to that vast unchecked power, the next IRS scandal is only a question of when — not if.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.