During the Watergate scandal, the press went into a veritable feeding frenzy when the Nixon White House reported that slightly more than eighteen minutes of tape recordings of a key conversation between President Richard Nixon and his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, were erased. The Nixon White House claimed it was an accident. This erasure contributed immeasurably to the perception that the president was corrupt and helped bring down a presidency that only two years earlier had won reelection in a historic landslide. (Ironically enough, one of the articles of impeachment 51 against Richard Nixon cited his attempts to use the IRS against his political enemies, attempts that were insignificant compared to the vast scope of actual IRS wrongdoing during the Obama administration.) Fast-forward to 2014, with the IRS facing allegations of wrong- doing that absolutely dwarfed in scale and scope any of the allegations against the Nixon administration, and it “lost” far, far more evidence than a mere eighteen-minute conversation.
Imagine you approach a Hollywood executive with the following script idea: A powerful federal agency goes rogue. It targets political opponents with extraordinary investigations, targets opponents for audits, tries to throw opponents in jail, targets politicians who try to investigate its wrongdoing, and even attempts to monitor the prayers of the faithful. Then, just when investigators close in on the wrongdoers, they suddenly disclose that they’ve “lost” all the relevant evidence. The movie would never be made. Why not? Because it’s too cartoonish, too absurd to be believable. But in the modern IRS, truth is truly stranger than fiction.
The IRS seems to be replacing “tax collection” with “oppression and censorship” as a key part of its agency mission statement.
In late May 2013, we’d seen enough. We filed a lawsuit, the largest in ACLJ history.21 Ultimately including forty-one conservative and pro-life organizations in twenty-two states, it represented a comprehensive attack on the IRS targeting scheme and laid out in detail the consequences of the IRS’s misconduct. The ACLJ filed its case with the following understanding:
“Let’s translate: when evaluating progressive organizations, the IRS singled out only seven groups for additional scrutiny, asked an average of only 4.7 additional questions, and approved every single group.
By contrast, the IRS singled out 104 conservative groups, asked an average of 14.9 additional questions (some with multiple subparts), and ultimately approved fewer than half,” Jay Sekulow.
By early 2010, two developments were shaking American liberals to their core. The first was the rise of the Tea Party; the second was a Supreme Court case that protected the right of free political speech. Read more