The Internal Revenue Service was already an organization rightly looked on with scorn and fear by most Americans, heightened by the recent arrival of our W-2 forms. Since the early years of our country, when Chief Justice John Marshall in the Supreme Court’s landmark case McCulloch v. Maryland wrote that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy,” countless Americans have felt the heavy hand of the IRS.
Then came Barack Obama. Today, the IRS not only has dramatically expanded its scope and power but, populated by President Obama’s army of bureaucratic thugs, has also been waging a war of suppression and censorship on law-abiding Americans who dare challenge him.
Last year, the IRS admitted it had been targeting conservative groups who applied for tax-exempt status; it had been singling out groups with “patriot,” “tea party,” or “9/12” in their names and putting them through a ridiculous screening process that left the groups in limbo for months and sometimes years.
When news of the IRS scandal broke, President Obama said it was inexcusable and declared that he was angry about the targeting. He was outraged, he said, and would do everything in his power “to make sure nothing like this ever happens again” by “holding the responsible parties accountable.”
Now Obama is singing a different tune. Now he’s dismissing this brazen abuse of power as a “non-scandal.” Despite resignations at the top of the agency and the fact that Lois Lerner, the scandal’s central figure, pled her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, the president smirks when confronted about the abuses and says there’s “not even a smidgen of corruption” at his IRS.
As if to underscore this point, the IRS official in charge of tax-exempt organizations during the tea-party targeting, Sarah Hall Ingram, was promoted to run the IRS’s new Obamacare-enforcement office.
Putting anyone at the IRS in charge of enforcing Obamacare, let alone the woman behind the targeting scandal, is a slap in the face of all Americans. The problems with Obamacare are alarming enough, but with Sarah Hall Ingram involved in its enforcement, how can we trust that individuals won’t be harassed by the IRS for speaking out against Obamacare the same way that the conservative groups were targeted when she helmed the tax-exempt-organizations office?
How can Americans have any confidence that they will not be the government’s next target when they see such blatant corruption, prejudice, and disregard for their right to political free speech?
The latest IRS attack is its proposed regulations to further silence groups that aim to share their views and educate Americans about the issues facing our country. The proposed regulations apply to social-welfare organizations, called 501(c)(4)s, and seek to limit their ability to speak freely and educate their audience. Under these regulations, any public communication that is made 60 days before a general election or 30 days before a primary election that clearly identifies a candidate for public office, or the political party represented in a general election, would be considered prohibited candidate-related political activity. How can these groups then hold elected officials and parties accountable for their actions? How can they help educate the public with candidate comparisons, or encourage informed civic participation? They cannot. Other restricted activities under these regulations include:
Nonpartisan voter-registration drives
Nonpartisan “get-out-the-vote” campaigns
Voter guides referencing specific candidates or political parties
Hosting events with candidates, including debates, too close to an election.
As with the earlier targeting scandal, these regulations are poised to silence groups that disagree with Obama and his liberal policies, although they would leave intact the ability of unions to engage in political activity — and unions give nearly all their campaign contributions to Democrats. With this set-up, it’s impossible to regain trust in the impartiality of IRS bureaucrats.
While these regulations are still in the public-comment period, and it is not clear which provisions the final regulations will include, it is certain that defining the political activities of these social-welfare organizations as non-exempt is a goal of this administration. It would drastically change the playing field for many grassroots groups and organizations from right to left across the entire political spectrum. These new regulations would severely damage their ability to engage in even nonpartisan, politically related activities that further their overarching social-welfare goals.
February 27 is the public-comment deadline for the IRS’s proposed regulations. All Americans who value their freedom of speech should visit the IRS website and let them know you will not be silenced. The more power the IRS and the federal government attain, the bigger the threat to our constitutional rights.
If the IRS’s “power to tax” was the “power to destroy” almost 200 years before President Obama’s IRS bureaucrats set their sights on individual American citizens and grassroots organizations, the agency’s power today is at an all-time high and threatens our most precious rights and liberties. By impeding Americans’ constitutionally protected right to free speech, the federal government is waging a war on the very people it is supposed to serve.
We cannot allow President Obama and his IRS to shred the Constitution in order to further this political agenda. If we don’t stop this abuse of power now, we will live to deeply regret it.
— L. Brent Bozell III is chairman of ForAmerica, the largest active online conservative network, with over 4.5 million supporters.