Recently Mortimer Caplin announced his retirement at the age of 96. Caplin may have been the only IRS chief to appear on the cover of Time Magazine back when he was targeting JFK’s political enemies with audits as part of Kennedy’s “Ideological Organizations Project.”
“I remember that the president made a speech and I got a call from the White House again,” Caplin would later write. “The right-wing organizations were believed to be overstepping their tax-exemption bounds.”
There are always plenty of Caplins and Lois Lerners around to do the dirty work of the men on top, but what truly matters is the abuse of power by the chief executives who give them their marching orders.
Obama’s IRS scandal is not the first abuse of the system. But it should be the last one. Like JFK’s IRS scandal, it comes down to a White House worried about the impact of “right wing organizations” on its political agenda and lists being drawn up in order to intimidate and sabotage conservative organizations.
Like the Kennedy team, Obama’s people were more interested in the political allegiances of the bureaucracy under their control than its competence and in an administration where even the National Park Service has been politicized, the use of the IRS as a political weapon of terror was inescapable.
IRS scandal figures like Lois Lerner and Sarah Hall Ingram embody the Obama ethos by hiding their political partisanship within a façade of incompetence. But like Caplin they were performing political duties, rather than governmental ones. Their allegiance was not to the law, but to Obama.
From the beginning, Obama tore down the walls between his private interests as a political candidate and his public powers as an elected official. Previous politicians blurred the lines, but he removed them. Government websites became indistinguishable from campaign websites. Cabinet members broke the law by campaigning. Not only did the campaign never end, but the campaign became the government.
The Internal Revenue Service became another arm of the campaign and when Democrats called on it to take action against the Tea Party; it acted.
Lois Lerner received an email with a link to an NPR story in which top Democrats complained about Republican contributions and described a complaint that they planned to file with the FEC. Lerner, revealing her allegiances and informed by her FEC past, responded, “Perhaps the FEC will save the day.”
Lerner was not some rogue employee. She was reacting to pressures from top Democrats who were afraid of the rising strength of the Tea Party and worried about the consequences for the 2012 elections. The IRS was rotten with partisan figures like Wilkins and Lerner who were approaching the political contest from the standpoint of Obama employees, not employees of the United States government.
The story that began with a few Cincinnati employees as the fall guys converged on the White House. While the bureaucracy in Washington D.C. pointed fingers at places on the map, local IRS offices pointed the finger right back at D.C. making it clear that this was a political operation run out of Washington D.C.
IRS agents testified to the micromanagement of Tea Party applications that came down all the way from Washington D.C. And they testified that some of the orders had come from the office of Obama political appointee William Wilkins who had done pro bono work for Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright on tax exempt issues during the election.
The White House was the place that Sarah Hall Ingram, who headed up tax exempt organizations at the IRS, visited 155 times. It was the place that IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman visited 157 times. The White House was where Ingram sent along confidential taxpayer information and it was the only party to benefit from the IRS sabotage of Tea Party tax exempt filings.
IRS Chief Counsel William Wilkins, one of Obama’s two political appointees, had known about the targeting and his office had played a role in orchestrating it. Wilkins reportedly met with Obama a few days before new guidelines targeting conservative groups were issued by his office.
Lerner’s office chose to route applications through the office of a political appointee so that an Obama loyalist could monitor the political activities of the opposition and stalemate their plans. If the IRS targeting had truly been the work of rogue employees, they would not have needed a loyalist “political commissar” with a direct line to Obama to approve their work and tell them what to do.
Obama attempted to maintain plausible deniability claiming that he only learned about the IRS scandal from the media. White House chief counsel Kathryn Ruemmler took the fall for knowing and not telling him and like Lois Lerner exited stage left. The official story is that the Chief of Staff, Obama’s lawyer and any number of senior officials knew. But that Obama didn’t. That was also the Watergate story.
Considering the disingenuous way that Lerner first attempted to preempt the scandal by leaking the information with a planted question and the collapse of the lie about a few rogue agents, the Obama defense looks like only another in a long series of lies. And we shouldn’t have to wait until Obama’s Caplin is writing his memoirs to learn about the White House phone call or meeting that started it all.
Top IRS officials would not have put their necks on the line with a political targeting operation in a town where no one in the government does anything without expecting a favor in return. It’s equally unlikely that anyone in the shifting coterie of top officials around Obama initiated such an operation on their own. Obama may not have known the specific details, but there is little doubt that he knew something was being done about the Tea Party problem that had caused him so much trouble over ObamaCare.
Obama’s standard procedure has been to offer up scapegoats who then retire with full benefits. Others like Ingram who is overseeing the IRS ObamaCare office, have actually gotten promoted. If nothing else, these simple facts reveal the hollowness of Obama’s initial display of outrage. As with Benghazi, a brief flare of outrage for public consumption was followed by private pats on the back for doing a good job.
If Obama had truly been outraged by the IRS’s political targeting, he would have reacted the way he did when confronted with things that truly angered him, like voter ID requirements or WW2 veterans trying to visit memorials. Instead the IRS scandal followed the same pattern as Benghazigate. The perpetrators profited, the whistleblowers were punished and the victims were dismissed and silenced.
Obama had eliminated the barriers between the campaign and the government. And the IRS stopped being part of the government and became part of the campaign; turning into Obama’s own tax thugs.
Don’t miss Jamie Glazov’s video interview with Daniel Greenfield on “Obama’s Shutdown Strategy,” the administration’s Brotherhood Romance, the Huma Abedin-Anthony Weiner saga, the Unholy Alliance and much, much more:
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