On my way to the coffee shop just now I saw a copy of USA Today, the lite newspaper. The headline read:
IRS GAVE LIBERALS A PASS
Which is pretty dramatic. It’s also a lie. As are all those headlines comparing President Obama to President Nixon.
I don’t want to minimize what the Internal Revenue Service did by targeting political groups for extra scrutiny. That was absolutely wrong, no mistake. But comparing this event to what Nixon did? That’s just plain stupid. Aside from the fact that the IRS is involved, the two cases are utterly different.
Nixon and his staff actually made a list of his political enemies. They weren’t exactly open about the list, but neither was it a huge secret. These guys even wrote memoranda about the list — like this one from John Dean, the White House Counsel, to Lawrence Higby, the Assistant Chief of Staff to President Nixon:
This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly—how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.
Nixon and his crew were deliberately using the IRS to ‘screw’ people they identified as their political opponents. The investigation of individuals and groups Nixon opposed (or who opposed Nixon) was initiated BY the White House. Now THAT is a scandal.
According to the Inspector General, the current IRS issue was initiated by mid-level bureaucrats within the IRS, and done without the knowledge of the White House. It was a violation of policy and procedure. It’s not a scandal.
So why did these bureaucrats target certain political organizations for extra scrutiny? Because legislation (passed through the efforts of Republicans, by the way) made it possible for individuals to contribute money to certain types of political action committee without their names being disclosed. Donations to PACs whose purpose is political are NOT tax deductible; donations to PACs whose purpose is general social welfare ARE tax deductible.
And guess what. The IRS is actually obligated BY CONGRESS to do just that. They’re legally required to review every application for tax-exempt status to insure the group requesting the exemption isn’t partisan, political, or designed to generate private gain. The only problem is the bureaucrats chose to use some pretty vague and inappropriate keywords to determine which political groups should be given a closer look. They cast too wide a net.
Obviously, what happened in the IRS is nothing at all like the crimes committed by the Nixon White House — though you wouldn’t know that from the reporting or the ranting of Republicans in Congress. Nor, if you read the headlines of USA TODAY, would you be aware that liberal groups were also unfairly targeted. And in fact, the ONLY targeted group to be denied tax exempt status during the 18 months of the extra scrutiny was Emerge America, a group that helps train Democrat women who are running for political office. None of the conservative or Republican groups were denied tax exempt status. So the headline in USA TODAY is not only incorrect, it’s not only lazy reporting, it’s the exact opposite of the truth. It’s a lie.
So much for that ‘liberal media’ myth.