There may be someone still out there who doubts that the IRS targeting of conservative groups was a deliberate strategy with the intent of suppressing political activity. For the rest of us, the news that Lois Lerner’s hard drive “crashed” in 2011, that her emails could not be recovered by tech support, and that the drive was “recycled,” is as damning at it is unsurprising. Her hard drive was not the only one. As Politico reported, “Earlier this week, Ways and Means Republicans said as many as six IRS employees involved in the scandal also lost email in computer crashes, including the former chief of staff for the acting IRS commissioner.”
So here is what we know:
1) The IRS selectively and comprehensively targeted conservative 501(c)4 groups for elevated scrutiny and denial of approval, for a period of several years including the 2012 election cycle.
2) Individuals associated with new conservative 501(c)4 groups were also targeted by the Department of Labor, the EPA, and other Federal agencies.
3) Since this came to light in early 2013, the IRS has stonewalled Congress and the Department of Justice has failed to investigate with even the appearance of seriousness.
I was a Democrat during the Watergate years. Back then, the fact that Nixon abused the powers of the IRS, on a retail basis, to go after individuals he considered political enemies, was immediately recognized, by observers across the political spectrum, as cause for investigation and ultimately grounds for impeachment.
More than a year after this scandal broke, we have no special prosecutor, and the left-wing and mainstream media are largely silent. I have to ask my many friends on the Left — do we really want to support empowering the explicit use of the taxing authority as a means of political intimidation? Will you be OK with this when and if the Republicans eventually win the Presidency?
My essential anguish on this issue is due to the fact that, unlike back in the 1970s, we have lost a bipartisan understanding of what constitutes an abuse of power, and whether it should be punished. The fact that we can no longer agree on whether the law should be uniformly enforced is one of the most frightening aspects of the current climate of political division. To say that most of the media has been more lapdog than watchdog since Obama took office is to rehearse the obvious. (Not everyone. Ron Fournier, a left-leaning journalist who was once an Obama enthusiast, continues to do solid work on the IRS scandal.)