Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
You certainly hear some amazing things in congressional testimony. Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS unit that determines whether organizations receive tax-exempt status, claimed last week that she had neither done anything wrong nor lied about her involvement in the discrimination against conservative and libertarian groups – and then took the Fifth and declined to answer any questions. (She was promptly placed on administrative leave.) And the previous week, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who was fired by President Obama but is sticking around to help with the transition to new leadership, told members of the House Ways and Means Committee some real doozies.
He said that his agency’s targeting of conservative and libertarian groups for special scrutiny of their requests for tax-exempt status was “obnoxious” but that he did “not believe that partisanship motivated the people who engaged in the practices described in the inspector general’s report.” He even objected to the word “targeting,” claiming that there was no scandal but only “foolish mistakes” made by “people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection.”
Was there a concerted attempt to silence the Administration’s political enemies in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election? Absolutely not, according to Miller. It was simply “horrible customer service.” Oh, please.
The use of the IRS for partisan advantage is repugnant but it should not come as a surprise. Discriminatory treatment and abuses of federal powers are rife elsewhere in the Obama administration as well. For example, the EPA was found to be granting favors to left-wing “green” organizations that were denied to conservative groups.
Government agencies are supposed to waive fees for groups that disseminate information for public benefit, but there is an extraordinary disparity in the granting of those waivers by EPA, depending on how “friendly” the groups are to the agency’s (and President Obama’s) expansive and precautionary view of government. Left-wing environmental organizations that lobby for more intrusive, obstructionist regulation fared much better, according to an analysis by Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Of Sierra Club’s 15 requests, EPA granted 11. And Sierra Club received the harshest of treatments. In fact, EPA granted 19 of [the Natural Resources Defense Council’s] 20 requests and 17 of EarthJustice’s 19 requests. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility went a perfect 17-for-17. The Waterkeeper Alliance had all three of its requests granted, Greenpeace and the Southern Environmental Law Center each were 2-for-2, the Center for Biological Diversity 4-for-4.”
While pro-regulation, EPA-friendly groups had their fees waived 92 percent of the time, Horner’s requests on behalf of CEI and the American Tradition Institute were rejected more than 93 percent of the time. That certainly looks like discrimination – unless, of course, it’s just more of Steve Miller’s “people trying to be more efficient in their workload selection.”
It’s not just federal agencies who are guilty of discriminatory “service” based on politics. Last year, the White House itself hijacked the impending FDA approval of an obviously innocuous genetically engineered, farmed salmon that reaches mature size more rapidly than its cohorts but is otherwise indistinguishable from them. Ordinarily, this sort of approval would be made by mid-level bureaucrats at the FDA, but politics came into play.
The reasons for the lengthy delay that ensued after the needed Environmental Assessment was completed were revealed in brilliant investigative reporting by science writer Jon Entine. He wrote that the White House interference “came after discussions late last spring  between Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ office and officials linked to Valerie Jarrett at the Executive Office [of the President], who were debating the political implications of approving the [genetically modified] salmon. Genetically modified plants and animals are controversial among the president’s political base, which was thought critical to his reelection efforts during a low point in the president’s popularity.” This is a grotesque perversion of what is supposed to be transparent and impartial government regulation.
Even more worrisome is partisan discrimination and bias in law enforcement. An egregious example concerned the intimidation of white voters by the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia during the 2008 election. Two of its members were originally charged with voter intimidation for obstructing the entrance to a polling place while brandishing baseball bats, but the Department of Justice later lessened the charges against one and dismissed the charges against the party and the other, eliciting widespread outrage and charges of racism. Department of Justice official J. Christian Adams, who resigned his position in protest at his department’s conduct, said in an interview with Fox News Network’s Megyn Kelly that it was common knowledge around the DOJ that,”Civil rights complaints would only be pursued when initiated by people of color against white people,” but, “when it was the other way around, the complaints, even when well-substantiated as with the New Black Panthers, would disappear in a bureaucratic morass.”
Finally, the FDA and FBI have ignored flagrant violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act by anti-biotechnology activists who have slapped homemade labels on genetically engineered foods in markets, which makes the products “misbranded,” and therefore unable to be sold legally. (The illegal labeling was the subject of a front-page New York Times story on May 24, 2012, which identified a perpetrator and the site of the crime and included a photograph of her applying the label. I personally reported that incident to both the FBI and the FDA, neither of which has taken any action.) This reeks of more special treatment for a political constituency friendly to the administration.
What ever happened to the concept of equal treatment under the law?