Jeffrey Toobin: 'Did the I.R.S. Actually Do Anything Wrong?'
9:23 PM, May 15, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
Since the IRS admitted it improperly targeted conservative and Tea Party groups last Friday, journalists have worked tirelessly to expose the full extent of the growing scandal.
The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin isn't one of those journalists. Writing in the New Yorker, Toobin is asking the question that none of his peers thought to ask: "Did the I.R.S. actually do anything wrong?" If you have no problem with government agents demanding lists of what books you've been reading and people you associate with, along with a printout of all your social media postings, then go ahead and entertain Toobin's question. But Toobin doesn't want to discuss this part of the IRS's overreach. Instead, he launches into a long lament about the need for stricter campaign finance laws. And the problem of lax campaign finance laws means IRS harassment of political organizations attempting to get 501(c)(4) tax exempt status is perfectly reasonable:
Of course, the current scandal is not about what the law should be, it's about selective enforcement of the law as it is. Liberals and the alleged centrists in the "No Labels" crowd love to talk up tough campaign finance laws as a cure all for systemic political problems, but getting them to acknowledge the difficulty of, say, having the government define promoting "social welfare" without playing politics and trampling the First Amendment is nigh impossible.
In any event, the issue of abusing 501(c)(4) status is, as President Obama would say, a sideshow. The question is whether or not conservatives and Tea Party groups were singled out for unfair treatment. All signs point to "yes," according to USA Today:
The article goes on to detail numerous instances of liberal groups skating through the IRS process and quickly being granted 501(c)(4) status. Toobin does finally feint at the problem of selective enforcement:
But don't worry, Toobin's heart isn't really into advocating equal treatment under the law. In his next and final paragraph, Toobin concludes by fretting over what will become of the obviously well-intentioned IRS agents who put Tea Party groups through the wringer:
Well, you have to credit Toobin for putting a novel spin on an old defense: The IRS was just imposing order!
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