June 8th, 2016

The IRS and the Tea Party: worse than you might think, and does anyone care anymore?

Remember the IRS scandal?

It seems so long ago; so many outrageous things have happened since then. But this was one of the most outrageous, and remains so. It’s just that we’ve been playing so much whack-a-mole for so long that each fresh outrage gets stale and starts to fade from consciousness, to be immediately superseded by the new one.

Here is some news about it, however:

More than three years after it admitted to targeting tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny, the IRS has finally released a near-complete list of the organizations it snagged in a political dragnet.

The tax agency filed the list last month as part of a court case after a series of federal judges, fed up with what they said was the agency’s stonewalling, ordered it to get a move on. The case is a class-action lawsuit…

But even as it answers some questions, the list raises others, including exactly when the targeting stopped, and how broadly the tax agency drew its net when it went after nonprofits for unusual scrutiny.

The government released names of 426 organizations. Another 40 were not released as part of the list because they had already opted out of being part of the class-action suit.

That’s a lot more than most people would have guessed, I think. And remember those liberal groups who supposedly were also targeted? Well, there’s this:

Edward D. Greim, the lawyer who’s pursuing the case on behalf of NorCal Tea Party Patriots and other members of the class, said the list also could have ballooned toward the end of the targeting as the IRS, once it knew it was being investigated, snagged more liberal groups in its operations to try to soften perceptions of political bias.

So that was their cover.

Hey, the whole thing worked, didn’t it, to help the Democrats win in 2012? This event should have been a scandal that drew ire from both sides. It is a mark of our tremendous decline that it has not.

[NOTE: See also this.]

23 Responses to “The IRS and the Tea Party: worse than you might think, and does anyone care anymore?”

  1. F Says:

    I keep asking myself “where’s the outrage?” I feel like this should be a case study in civic failure, from elementary schools to graduate programs for journalists and political scientists. But zip — nothing. Glenn Reynolds runs a daily tally of the number of days since this scandal broke, and we’re up to something like 1145 days now, with nothing coming from it. That’s more than twice the 550 days that sank the Carter re-election effort and there is new information coming out (like the larger number of cases) yet it’s almost impossible to find coverage in the nation’s news.

    Doesn’t any self-respecting journalist or editor ask himself “why aren’t we covering this?” Isn’t any politician on either side of the aisle saying “hey, this threatens the fabric of our polity when civil servants can take aim at one political party with impunity.”

    We are indeed a fundamentally transformed nation, and the transformation is not good.

  2. Eric Says:

    F:
    “I keep asking myself “where’s the outrage?” I feel like this should be a case study in civic failure”

    Failure of activism, actually, although civic action is mostly a function of activism, anyway.

  3. Eric Says:

    F:
    “We are indeed a fundamentally transformed nation, and the transformation is not good.”

    From inception, the US has always been an purposefully transformed society – the essence of America is activism.

    America can be whatever social paradigm you want us to be – but you and your team need to compete for it, for real, in the arena.

    The key to genuine civic action is to understand that America’s social transformation is not spontaneous, not an individually aggregated consensus, not a vote. It is always creative and manufactured across the social spectrum of participatory culture and politics. It is and has always been – again – a function of activism, the power of the people available to anyone for any cause, who’s willing and able to compete for it.

    The issue is never the issue, right? Well, the issue isn’t only about power, either, or even about social dominance. Rather the issues, the power, the social dominance are all about paradigm shift – “a fundamentally transformed nation”.

    You have within your reach – everyone does – to transform America with your preferred paradigm. Reifying the conservative social paradigm, like any other paradigm, effectively requires the same basic competitive method as for reifying anyone else’s preferred social paradigm.

    Which is to say, the activist game is the only social cultural/political game there is.

    Anyone can play it. Anyone can win it. But you need to be in the arena with your team of activists zealously committed with the necessary mindset and skillset, competing for real head-on against all comers. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll win. It’s completion. Only that you’ll have a real opportunity to win.

    But if you choose not to play the activist game, that’s tantamount to conceding the fundamental transformation of America to anyone else who is willing and able to compete for real to reify their preferred paradigm.

    The IRS scandal is a wrong-doing, but it’s also not a legitimate excuse.

    If the Tea Party were genuine activists competing for real, the IRS scandal would not have stopped them from adjusting in the arena to continue advancing their social activist movement.

    It’s essentially competition, yet confronted with a counter-action, the Tea Party crumpled with barely a ripple of fuss. They failed the fitness test in the arena.

    I don’t recall from any of my American History classes that the Founding Fathers’ success in their activist game that “fundamentally transformed [the] nation” with their preferred social paradigm ever depended on the King granting his stamped approval of their application for non-profit tax status.

  4. Eric Says:

    Oops. Fix:
    Of course, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll win. It’s completioncompetition. Only that you’ll have a real opportunity to win.

  5. Yancey Ward Says:

    I think we have passed the point of no-return.

  6. notherbob2 Says:

    The lack of outrage seems normal to me. A parallel would be the announcement that a 25th victim of a serial killer on trial has been discovered. The Obama administration has committed so many crimes that we have no ability to be shocked left. “Oh, so he strangled this one after stabbing the others….ho hum.” Also, Obama (supposedly) has a 51% approval rate…presumably, these approvers approve going after conservatives using government agencies.

  7. Jack Says:

    @ Eric, while normally I’d agree with your basic argument that politics—encompassing our laws taxes rights privileges etc—is a competition and to the winners go the spoils … to paraphrase basically. However, what if one team owns the referees? What if one team owns the equipment? What if one team has already been deciding the rules of this game in their own favor for 60 years? What if one team had already been declared the victor and this before its individual members have yet been born? The liberals own the courts they own the schools and universities. They own the bureaucracy and now finally that more people get a government check than work in the private sector, they own the country. It’s past time to go. If there were a new frontier I load my wagon and head out.

  8. progressoverpeace Says:

    I think we have passed the point of no-return.

    Yep.

  9. Cornhead Says:

    Classic Obama and Dem strategy on this one. Stall, delay and run out the clock and wear down opponents.

    As Carly’s dad told her, the federal tax code is the source of enormous political power. He knew. He taught tax law and was a federal judge.

    That’s one reason I liked Carly and Ted so much. They wanted to elminate the IRS as we know it.

    Most people don’t understand the power of the IRC. Simple example. But for the federal tax credits there would be no Tesla or Solar City. Elon Musk never would have been able to finance either without the federal tax credits. Both companies are a drag on the economy, but very disruptive. Lots of fees to the Street.

  10. Waidmann Says:

    There is no outrage. This is because we live in a post-Christian culture. When you take the Christian morality out of the American Revolution, you get the French Revolution. When you take Christian morality out of American culture, you get….this.

    Outrage? It went away when we dumped the 10 Commandments.

    Number 6: “You shall not murder”. Well that went away with Roe v Wade, and it’s been getting worse ever since.

    Number 7: “You shall not commit adultery.” When we dumped that one, we opened the door to all the sexual deviations we are having crammed down our throats.

    Number 8: “You shall not steal”. That one had to go before we could implement the redistribution scheme that is our tax structure. Goes hand in hand with….

    Number 10: “You shall not covet”. What is the welfare state is all about. It’s a small step from coveting one’s neighbor’s goods, to demanding that one has an entitlement to them. And society apparently is OK with the government stealing from Peter to pay for Paul’s goodies (and vote).

    Number 9: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Heck, the entire mainstream press has taken bearing false witness to an art form. They routinely lie about what candidates stand for—with impunity. Nobody is outraged, because, after all, “everyone does it”.

    None of what we see today would be possible in a nation that still took the 10 Commandments seriously. (Which, of course, is why they had to go!)

    Outrage? Not likely.

    “While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practicing iniquity and extravagance…while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the World; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams writing to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massacusetts, October 11, 1798

    Waidmann

  11. Ann Says:

    It’s not the “point of no-return”; we’ve been through worse — remember J. Edgar Hoover?

    The power to use the legal and police services of the federal government as leverage against your political opponents is a tempting one indeed, which is why both parties have done so in the past when they thought they could get away with such blatant violations of the Constitution. We’ve even lived through a very long period when this power got so out of control that one man held blackmailable material on United States presidents, Supreme Court justices, and too many members of Congress to count. This information was gathered systematically, by illegally wiretapping phone lines and bugging hotel rooms, as well as plenty of other underhanded (and, again, unconstitutional) methods. The man behind this effort was none other than J. Edgar Hoover.

    Hoover was the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for an astounding 48 years. Just think about the power that implies, for a second. Hoover led the agency before it was even named the FBI (it was called the Bureau of Investigations when Hoover took the helm in 1924). During his near-five-decade reign as America’s “top cop,” Hoover wielded an enormous amount of power — so enormous that while two presidents actually considered replacing him (Truman and Kennedy), neither did so because they feared the consequences of doing so. Making Hoover, in essence, more powerful than the president. …

    After his death, when Congress did belatedly investigate Hoover, it was found that every president from FDR through Richard Nixon had benefited from the FBI bugging their political opponents. That’s “every” — as in “both Democratic and Republican administrations.”

    And as far as the IRS is concerned:

    John F. Kennedy sanctioned an “Ideological Organizations Project” at the IRS that investigated right-wing groups. President Richard Nixon encouraged a secret IRS program called the “Special Services Staff” to investigate his political opponents and harass them with audits. And presidents weren’t the only offenders; the FBI has long used the IRS to harass political opponents. A 1964 FBI plan to “discredit” the United Klans of America called for illegally disclosing tax information about key members. Around the same time, the FBI initiated an IRS audit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his non-profit organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. One memo even suggested the bureau forge letters from King to donors of the group that warned of the ongoing IRS investigations, in the hopes of cutting off the group’s cash flow.

  12. geokstr Says:

    I believe it was the failure of the GOP to hold anyone responsible for the blatant political use of the IRS to stop the Tea Party momentum in its tracks in 2012 that led much of the Tea Party to coalesce behind a destructive force like Trump. In fact, all the main players in this scandal not only kept their jobs, they all got huge bonuses, and the few forced into retiring a little early ended up keeping their full extravagant pensions as well.

    Add in the all too obvious antipathy towards the TP of the GOP congressional leadership, the majority of the Republicans in both chambers, including the betrayal by many who owed their seats to them, and the Crony Chamber of Commerce, is it any wonder the mass of the movement said screw you to any R in national public office? Their logical candidate should have been Cruz, but they abandoned him too for the flim-flam man.

    It’s actually Paul Caron Prof of taxprof.com who’s been tracking this scandal every day, not Prof Reynolds, who just links to him daily. I’ve read much of everything related to this criminal activity by the left since Day 1. Sure, the Democrats did everything they could to obfuscate, spin and delay the investigation, and the media still refuses to cover it, but I remain convinced the Republicans have been in on the slow-walking all along. They should have been screaming about this every day at the top of their lungs, on every appearance on the Sunday shows and every interview.

    Instead, it took civil suits and FOIA requests by Levin’s Landmark Legal Foundation and others to drag out things like this list. Have the House and Senate oversight committees no subpoena or other powers to get at this information sooner than 3 years later?

    And does this list consist of just that – a listing of the targeted groups, with no other data, like application date, approval date, additional data demanded, etc, that could prove leftwing groups were added late as a cover, or will that require another 3 years to get?

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Mr Waidmann has the right of it in pointing to the spiritual failure of so many Americans.

    He brought to mind a friend’s observation of Whittaker Chamber;

    “One of Chambers’s closest friends, Ralph de Toledano, noted that when the [Soviet] “evil empire” collapsed, people asked him: “Would Whittaker Chambers still believe that he had left the winning side for the losing side?” He replied that, Chambers, long before the collapse, had already seen “that the struggle was no longer between Communism and Western civilization, but one in which Western civilization was destroying itself by betraying its heritage.”

    In essence, “Communism had triumphed, not in its Marxist tenet but in its concept of man—a concept which the West has accepted.”

    It goes back to Chambers’s insistence that there are two faiths and the West must make a decision: God or man? As he wrote in Witness:
    “God alone is the inciter and guarantor of freedom. He is the only guarantor. External freedom is only an aspect of interior freedom. Political freedom, as the Western world has known it, is only a political reading of the Bible. Religion and freedom are indivisible. Without freedom the soul dies. Without the soul there is no justification for freedom. …
    … There has never been a society or a nation without God. But history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that became indifferent to God, and died.”

    I’ve concluded that Chambers was right in his insistence that, “God alone is the inciter and guarantor of freedom” for rights are only irrevocable when granted by something above mankind’s current consensus of opinion. As what some men may grant, other men may revoke.

    Chamber’s observation that the West had accepted communism’s soulless ‘concept’ of man brings to mind this observation;

    “When people reject traditional religious beliefs, they merely go on to create some other faith-based schema to believe in; whether it be money or power or the various religions of the left; socialism, communism, feminism, environmentalism or anthropogenicism, etc, etc. human nature demands something larger than itself to believe in.” anonymous

    Philosophy and religious premises are of far more importance than most, deem them to be.

  14. Waidmann Says:

    Geoffrey Britain,

    Does your quote from Chambers come from his book “Witness”? If not, where? I don’t know Chambers, but it seems perhaps I should.

    “Witness” was written in 1952, the year I was born. There is truly nothing new under the sun.

    Waidmann

  15. expat Says:

    You have to think of the blowback Gowdy has gotten for sticking with the Benghazi investigation. It takes a tough guy to withstand all the “that’s so yesterday” criticism. When the MSM decides that people would rather hear about some celebrity than meaningful but complicated news, you have a hard time getting through to normal people.

  16. Big Maq Says:

    “There is no outrage. This is because we live in a post-Christian culture. When you take the Christian morality out of the American Revolution, you get the French Revolution. When you take Christian morality out of American culture, you get….this.” – Waidmann

    Some conservative commentators even talk about “Judeo-Christian values” to expand the boundaries to include Jews – Levin and Hannity used this frequently.

    The interesting thing about this type of comment is that it implies Christians (and Jews, per above) have the exclusive ability to know right from wrong, or the flipside, that non-Christians cannot know right from wrong.

    There are way too many people who call themselves “Christian” that do horrid things, sometimes in the name of their Christian faith.

    So basing an argument about (outrage over) right and wrong to having or not the Christian faith 1) lets way too many people off the hook; 2) opens up the debate about hypocrisy.

    For instance, what do we say about church leaders who are supporting Trump?

    By my understanding, as a born and raised Christian, that direct association represents a serious lapse in adherence to Christian teachings.

    I get the overall point, that America is having a moral/cultural/political failing that is reflected in this issue and many others, and agree.

    I believe a lot of non-Christian people agree (and more could) with our fundamental principles.

    However, we are at the point that if we want to organize and bring people into supporting a conservative movement, we need not brand it as Christian only. It may have come from there, but we are not asking anyone to convert to / adopt Christianity to be part of our movement, right?

    We need to start “hearing” what others would hear when we say these things.

    Something to think about, not an objection.

  17. Big Maq Says:

    “I keep asking myself “where’s the outrage?”” – F

    Answer:

    “It seems so long ago; so many outrageous things have happened since then” – Neo

    Part of that answer is that we are in an era of outrage overload, and we (most of us anyway) have “normal” lives to live (i.e. responsibilities we need to take care of, which occupy most of our time).

    At its core, this is a symptom of the overall size and scope of the government(s) we have.

    It is so large and complex, there is no way any of us individually can keep tabs on the merely “big issues” from every dept/agency/service/council/etc. (But isn’t that what representative government is about?)

    Politicians use that their advantage, as well as procedural maneuvers to slow things down (a type of “sandbagging”) into a “forgotten” state.

    Couple that with a “helpful” media that buries the lede on page 3 or beyond, if providing any coverage at all.

    Yes, it does all come back to “activism” (per Eric). I call it “involvement”.

    Who wants to add to the pile we already have on our plate every day? Yet, if we don’t, we get what we see from our “representatives” in government.

    Our Liberty requires care and feeding too.

  18. T Says:

    For those who are interested, Prof. Paul Caron (Pepperdine School of Law) keeps a daily running update of the IRS scandal.

    Here’s to his perseverance!!!

    The Link:

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2016/06/the-irs-scandal-day-1127.html

  19. Big Maq Says:

    T – thanks!

  20. Waidmann Says:

    Big Maq,

    “Some conservative commentators even talk about ‘Judeo-Christian values’ to expand the boundaries to include Jews – Levin and Hannity used this frequently.”
    When they talk about ”Judeo-Christian” culture or values, they are most likely talking about the Judeo culture of the Old Testament, from whence came the Christian culture of the New Testament. It has nothing to do with modern Jewish culture, which, in this country, is pretty much leftist. I think many Orthodox Jews are an exception to that, but Conservative and Reformed Jews in America are all pretty liberal (if anyone knows different or better, please weigh in). Israel itself was founded and remains a Socialist nation.

    Your next seven paragraphs are interesting, I am tempted to address them, but it would hijack this thread, and I don’t want to do that more than I already have.

    Your last paragraph, however, I want to comment on. I agree that it is not necessary to convert to Christianity to recognize the value of Christian morality. I suspect that many of our Founding Fathers were not, in fact, Christian in the Biblical sense. However, they all agreed that the 10 Commandments were absolutely necessary for the continuance of our Constitution. It’s the morality that permitted it to work. And it is the lack of said morality that is ruining it now.

    Waidmann

  21. Big Maq Says:

    @Waidmann

    I do understand the biblical reference / history.

    Don’t want to belabor that point, other than to say that I don’t think many listeners are making that fine a point on “Judeo-Christian”, and I too don’t think it is a modern cultural reference, but is an appeal to a commonality.

    My point towards the end of my comment was about appealing to those who are not Christian when it comes to building a conservative movement.

    We can insist on being clear that it all comes from Christian morality, a good historical argument.

    But, then it becomes “the Christian’s morality” rather than universal principles we all can live by.

    The Founding Fathers took pains to separate church from state, and used language that did not emphasize that the principles were “Judeo-Christian”.

    “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights… – Geo Washington – 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport, RI
    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/letter-to-the-hebrew-congregation-at-newport/

    And, yes, agree that we are veering away from those Founding Principles.

  22. Waidmann Says:

    Big Maq,

    “My point towards the end of my comment was about appealing to those who are not Christian when it comes to building a conservative movement.”

    What, then, will be the draw for those who are not Christian to join a conservative movement based on Christian morality? The Ten Commandments contradict what we naturally want to do. Why would anyone want to follow the Commandments unless they actually believed that they come from a Higher Authority? And that they were given, not as the Ten Suggestions, but actual Commandments.

    This is, I believe, the main problem facing those who have been trying to build a conservative movement absent Christianity. I wish them luck, but I doubt they will have it. They certainly haven’t had any great success so far. “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Those days are these days.

    Waidmann

  23. Big Maq Says:

    “the main problem facing those who have been trying to build a conservative movement absent Christianity” – Waidmann

    The problem is not building the movement absent Christianity. It is not absent – the core principles are there, and have appeal well beyond the bounds of Christianity.

    It is how we want to portray them that is different, and insisting on making it about Christianity sends the a very specific message to those who are not.

    Are we really so weak in faith that we have to have the affirmation in every conversation on the topic that it is a Christian morality?
    .

    “What is the draw?” – The principles are universal… Washington wasn’t looking to emphasize the religious aspect, but a universal aspect.

    Why? What would they “hear” if he expresses it the way you’d insist on? Does that make them more or less likely to agree?

    Should he/we only address people who believe in a “Higher Authority” because we believe they couldn’t possibly be receptive to our ideas?
    .

    “They (conservative movement) certainly haven’t had great success so far” – Obviously many factors come into play. We thought we were positioned for success, but have seen the reality in dramatic fashion in 2016. Wouldn’t attribute it to “trying to build the conservative movement absent Christianity”.

    Speaking of not having great success, sadly, even Christianity is waning and losing it’s way.

    Really, to those points… what does one say when church leaders are backing Trump? WWJD? Probably not what they are doing. “Leadership” like that probably does much to hurt Christianity, and the conservative movement simultaneously.
    .

    Like it or not, we are living with many others who don’t share our beliefs. If we want to have any possibility to shape our society, we need others, and need to consider how we approach those who are not in our religious circle.

    Bottom Line: You may feel the need to express it the way you do, and that is okay, you are free to do so, but please consider your audience and if it is serving your objective.

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