Just so you know: The IRS is still harassing conservative non-profits

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday May 20th, 2016

Two tough federal judges aren't having the IRS's nonsense excuses.

You'd think the last thing the IRS would do would be to continue harassing and targeting conservative groups, given the scrutiny and very public criticism it's already received for doing so. You'd think they'd clean up their act and start playing it straight knowing that their behavior is being watched. You'd think that. But you'd be wrong.

I cannot recommendly highly enough Kim Strassel's Potomac Watch column, which runs on Fridays in the Wall Street Journal. With excellent sources and a dogged commitment to find out what's happening beneath the surface, Strassel regularly exposes abuses of federal power - and she has rarely done so more dramatically than here. Nothing at all has changed at the IRS. They're still harassing conservative groups, and what's worse, they're now blaming the groups themselves for their own victimhood:

A lower-court judge had blithely accepted the IRS’s claim that the targeting had stopped, that applications for nonprofit status had been approved, and that the matter was therefore moot.

The federal judges hearing the appeal, among them David B. Sentelle and Douglas H. Ginsburg, weren’t so easily rolled. In a series of probing questions the judges ascertained that at least two of the groups that are party to the lawsuit have still not received their nonprofit approvals. The judges determined that those two groups are 501(c)(4) social-welfare groups, which are subject to far less scrutiny than 501(c)(3) charities, yet are still being harassed by the IRS five years later. The judges were told that not only are the groups still on ice, but that their actions are still being “monitored” by the federal government.

As one lawyer for the plaintiffs noted, despite the IRS’s claim that it got rid of its infamous targeting lists, there is “absolutely no showing” that the agency has in fact stopped using the underlying “criteria” that originally “identified and targeted for mistreatment based on political views.”

The hearing also showed the degree to which the IRS has doubled down on its outrageous revisionist history, and its excuses. IRS lawyers again claimed that the whole targeting affair came down to bad “training” and bad “guidance.” They blew off a Government Accountability Office report that last year found the IRS still had procedures that would allow it to unfairly select organizations for examinations based on religious or political viewpoint. The lawyers’ argument: We wouldn’t do such a thing. Again. Trust us.

More incredibly, the IRS team claimed that the fault for some of the scandal rests with the conservative groups, for not pushing back hard enough during the targeting. In response to complaints that the groups had been forced to hand over confidential information (information the IRS now refuses to destroy), one agency lawyer retorted: “They didn’t have to give the information to the IRS if they thought it was inappropriate, they could have said so.” Really.

See? It's your own fault the IRS abused your rights because you didn't resist enough! That's seriously an argument they're using.

If anyone still doubts at this point that the IRS is acting at Obama's behest, all you have to do is look at the lame excuses they're offering in this hearing. The reason they continue to do as they always have is that they know Obama wants them to, and neither the judiciary nor the legislative branches have any real enforcement power to make them do otherwise. Only the executive branch has that power, and it's not going to exercise it as long as Obama is president. If the IRS received any instructions at all from Obama, it clearly involved little more than coming up with better excuses for why they continue to do what they were supposed to have stopped.

By the way, it's important to step back here and appreciate the big picture. The IRS can do this because we have a tax code so onerous that nonprofits cannot function without tax exemptions, and the need for the tax exemption essentially forces you to do whatever the IRS and/or the rest of the federal government wants you to do. It's the same power play Washington used last week with its transgender bathroom agenda. You don't have to do it, schools, unless you want those federal funds! And all the schools depend on them, so in effect, Washington now sets the policies for every local school district in the nation.

In the case of the IRS, the power to harass whoever they want - and use the tax code to do it - is essentially the unlimited power to search and destroy as your political agenda guides you.

Imagine a nation in which no one accepts federal funding and no one seeks out a tax break - because no one needs either one. That's a world that horrifies Democrats, because if that were the case, they would have no simple mechanism for imposing their agenda on you. That's why the boss is always talking about tossing out the entire tax code and replacing it with a newer, simplified one. And it's also why so many in Washington will simply not hear of it. The tax code and the doling out of federal funds is what makes it possible for them to push you around. If politicians and bureaucrats can't do that, why live?

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