IRS: Double Standard Benchmark

Co-authored with Julia Tavlas

Americans expect that federal agents will enforce the law with integrity, and they expect the ever-prying eyes of an independent media to help ensure that integrity.

The Internal Revenue Service scandal, however, lays bare the truth: Our media and government institutions are shot through with double standard and riddled with hypocrisy. Washington is revealed to be a modern-day Gomorrah, where rule-makers are exempt from the rules that bind everyone else, and journalists — instead of exposing — enable and excuse corrupt bureaucrats and practices. For example: Next time you’re interrogated by the tax man, try answering with silence.

Silence is no confession; after all, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS‘ tax exempt office, said so. In testimony before a congressional committee on her role in the scandal engulfing her agency, Ms. Lerner justified her decision to be suspiciously mute on constitutional grounds:

“I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee. I have decided to follow my counsel’s advice and not testify or answer any of the questions today.”

Next time the IRS asks you how much money you make, tell them, “I have done nothing wrong.” See how far that gets you.

Another example: Imagine if, under some hypothetical Republican administration, the IRS were targeting and harassing left-leaning, tax-exempt labor unions. Imagine if this Republican-controlled IRS denied nonprofit status to staunch supporters of Democratic politicians and causes. Imagine the thunder and fury that would emanate — and rightly so — from the bastions of the left.

Reverse the politics of the players, and they become not hypothetical at all, but actors in a real-life travesty where liberal outlets make excuses for the IRS‘ egregious behavior. The Washington Post, for example, tried its best to make out the IRS to be at least a not-so-bad guy:

“Nonprofit groups that do not have to pay taxes are supposed to ensure that political activity is not their primary purpose, so evidence that some of the new organizations seeking tax-exempt status were fronts for campaign organizations drew bipartisan interest.”

How admirable that the newspaper is concerned about nonprofits engaging in political activity. Maybe someone should tell the paper’s editors that tax-exempt labor unions are — shall we say — politically active. Last year, The Wall Street Journal conducted a thorough investigation of union political spending and found that from 2005 to 2011, organized labor spent a whopping $4.4 billion on political activity.

Need more proof that double standards are at play here? Imagine if the hypothetical Republican administration that was harassing unions had been elected with the help of IRS agents who were overwhelmingly Tea Party members.

Again, flip the politics of the players, and you have not a hypothetical, but reality: During the 2012 election cycle, the political action committee of the union that represents IRS agents contributed $547,800 — to Democrats. Not surprisingly, Colleen Kelley, the president of this union, was vocal and unapologetic in her support of Barack Obama: “[We] supported the re-election of President Obama as being in the best interests of the dedicated men and women of the federal workforce.”

Does The Washington Post not care that labor leaders like Ms. Kelley endorse (liberal) politicians all the time?

The hypocrisy continues: The IRS‘ Lois Lerner has found herself sweating under the hot lights of a House committee interrogation. It’s the same position her agents had been putting conservatives in for years.

Unlike them, she had the option of noncompliance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column was originally published in The Washington Times, June 6th, 2013