Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell will say today that the IRS is "thumbing its nose at the American people." He'll make those remarks this morning at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
"[I]n the midst of congressional hearings into their activities, unionized employees at the IRS are about to get $70 million in bonuses. The IRS union is thumbing its nose at the American people. It’s telling them in the clearest terms possible that it doesn’t care about this scandal, or how well government works, or how well it’s serving the public. All it cares about is helping union workers get theirs. It’s pure arrogance, and it reflects a sense of entitlement better suited to an aristocracy than to a nation of constitutional self-government," McConnell will say.
He'll also take credit for identifying the IRS problem long before the federal agency began to come clean about its activities.
"As for the IRS, my own concerns trace back to a phone call I got from a constituent early last year, who said he’d been subjected to excessive questioning and unreasonable deadlines from the IRS. When similar complaints followed, I sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Shulman asking for assurances that there wasn’t any political targeting going on. I said public confidence in the IRS depended on it. Six weeks later I got a lengthy response from the Deputy Commissioner, Steven Miller, in which he basically told me 'move along, nothing to see here.' Well, now we know that wasn’t the case. Now we know that the IRS was actually engaged in the targeted slow-walking of applications by conservatives, and others who were, get this, criticizing 'how the country [was] being run.' It overwhelmed them with questions and paperwork, and in some cases initiated audits on folks that had never been audited before," the top Republican in the Senate will say.
In one case, an IRS agent allegedly demanded that the board members of an Iowa pro-life group sign a declaration that they wouldn’t picket Planned Parenthood. Several pro-Israel groups have said that they were singled out by the IRS for audits after clashing with the administration over its policy on settlements. Then there’s the story of Catherine Engelbrecht. Catherine says that after applying for tax-exempt status for a voter-integrity group called True the Vote, she and her husband were visited by the FBI, the ATF, OSHA, and an affiliate of the EPA. When all was said and done, OSHA told the Engelbrecht’s they had to cough up $25,000 in fines. The EPA affiliate demanded they spend $42,000 on new sheds. And three years after applying for tax-exempt status, True the Vote is still awaiting approval. The list of stories like these goes on and on. And so now we have an administration that’s desperately trying to prove that nobody at the top was involved in any of this stuff, even as they hope that the media loses interest in this scandal and moves on. But we can’t move on. Because as serious as the IRS scandal is, what we’re dealing with here is larger than the actions of one agency or any group of employees. This administration has institutionalized the practice of pitting bureaucrats against the very people they’re supposed to be serving, and it needs to stop.
The good news is, more people are beginning to catch on. When I warned about all this last year, I got slammed by the usual suspects on the Left. They said I was full of it. But even some of them now seem to realize that just because McConnell’s the one pulling the alarm doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire. The IRS scandal has reminded people of the temptations to abuse that big government, and its political patrons, are prone to. People are waking up to a pattern. They’re connecting the dots. And they’re rightly troubled. Looking back, the IRS scandal helps explain a lot of the things this administration has done. You all remember the President wagging his finger at the Supreme Court during his 2010 State of the Union address. Well, I assure you this little piece of presidential theater wasn’t done for the ratings. There was a good reason the President and his allies devoted so much time and energy to denouncing the Citizens United case. But it’s not the reason they gave. I realize this may be shocking to some of the interns in the crowd. But the fact is, the Court’s decision was actually fairly unremarkable. All it really said was that, under the First Amendment, everycorporation in America should be free to participate in the political process, not just the ones that own newspapers and TV stations. In other words, there shouldn’t be a carve-out when it comes to political speech for folks who own media companies. It was a good and fair decision aimed at leveling the playing field. The real reason the Left was so concerned about Citizens United was that they thought it meant more conservatives would start to form what are known as social welfare organizations — something they’d been doing, with groups like Planned Parenthood and the Sierra Club, for years. And what’s notable about social welfare groups is they don’t have to disclose their donors.
That was the main concern of the President and his allies. They weren’t interested in the integrity of the process. If they were, they’d have been just as upset at Left-wing groups for maintaining the privacy of theirdonors. What they really wanted was a hook that enabled them to stir up outrage about conservative groups, so they could get their hands on the names of the folks who supported them — and then go after them.Citizens United provided that hook. As a longtime political observer and First Amendment hawk, I knew exactly what the Democrats were up to with their complaints about this decision. I’ve seen what the loudest proponents of disclosure have intended in the past, and it’s not good government. That’s why the FEC has protected the donor lists of the Socialist Worker’s Party since 1979. That’s also why the Supreme Court told the State of Alabama it couldn’t force the NAACP to disclose the names and addresses of its members back in the 1950s. The President could claim, as he did six months after wagging his finger at the Supreme Court, that “the only people who don’t want to disclose the truth are people with something to hide.” But the fact is, there’s a very good and legitimate reason that courts have protected folks from forced disclosure — because they know that failing to do so would subject them to harassment.