They can’t run against Bush, but the Democrats seem desperate to try the next best thing. How else to explain their sudden resurrection of Karl Rove as a political hate figure? “Karl Rove is at it again,” House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers recently told a gathering of left-wing activists. Conyers continued: “While we were deciding what to do with him” — a reference to the fact that the Judiciary Committee under Conyers has hounded Rove for years, fruitlessly, over picayune matters — “he was out doing more mischief. And so I think that calls for a reinvestigation of him.”
This is ridiculous. Rove’s alleged sin this time is to have acted as an adviser to American Crossroads and its sister group, Crossroads GPS (which stands for Grassroots Political Strategies). Democratic officials, liberal good-government groups, and even the Obama White House have accused Crossroads GPS of abusing its tax-exempt status to protect the identities of donors while engaging in prohibited campaign-finance activities. While American Crossroads is a 527 political-advocacy group and must disclose the identities of its donors, Crossroads GPS is a 501(c)(4) group, so it is not required to disclose the sources of its contributions.
The substance of the case against Crossroads GPS is weak, and the political motivation driving its opponents is obvious: First, the Democrats are desperate for ways to motivate their base, and few bogeymen scare liberals into turning up at the polls as effectively as Rove. And second, they are seeking to intimidate the private individuals and businesses who donate to groups such as Crossroads GPS, hoping that this will hurt conservative causes on the margins.
It should be acknowledged that Democracy 21, one of the liberal good-government groups making allegations against Crossroads GPS, has in the past also caused trouble for left-wing advocacy organizations. Nonetheless, it has not presented any credible evidence that Crossroads GPS has failed to follow the rules governing organizations of its type. What it has are mere insinuations — and that is why it is asking the IRS to deploy the vast investigatory resources of the federal government to substantiate them.
Democracy 21 is free to petition government agencies as it wishes, but it is troubling that Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus has joined their campaign. Baucus’s request that the IRS get involved comes on the heels of a similar one from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which last August tried to set the IRS against the libertarian-leaning Americans for Prosperity. Conveniently, AFP was founded by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, who play the role of evil conservative overlords in the Left’s imagination when Karl Rove is not available. The application of this kind of political pressure to the IRS would have Democrats howling if the investigatory targets were liberal and the pressure came from Republicans.
While we’re on the subject of the Kochs and the IRS: The White House has never explained how its political operatives became so very well acquainted with the tax filings of Koch Industries. White House officials have repeatedly attacked the Kochs by name, revealing in the process a suspiciously high degree of knowledge about the way they file their taxes. It is not absurd to think that such knowledge could be inferred by someone sufficiently familiar with the Kochs and the tax code, but . . . well, an appetite for investigations can easily backfire: The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax matters is now looking into whether Obama’s political appointees improperly divulged private information about the Kochs’ tax history.
It’s no secret that the Democrats are unhappy with the campaign-finance status quo. They are unhappy with any arrangement that allows private individuals and businesses to compete on a level playing field in the marketplace of ideas with unions and the establishment (read: liberal) media. But adding to this unhappiness right now is a desire to run against familiar bogeymen and intimidate conservative donors. Conyers revealed the fundamentally political nature of his concern when he explained to the activists that we must reinvestigate Rove “immediately after the next 33 days, in which we determine whether I’m going to remain the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.”
The phrasing suggests Conyers thinks he won’t. If on nothing else, we agree with him on that.