The full impact of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of hundreds of conservative groups’ applications for nonprofit status for delay or rejection was provided this week in congressional testimony by the leader of one of those groups, Becky Gerritson, of Wetumpka, Ala., whose voice cracked as she said:

“In Wetumpka, we are patriotic Americans; we peacefully assemble; we petition our government; we exercise our right to free speech. We don’t understand why the government tried to stop us.

“I’m not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my Lord for mercy. I’m a born-free American woman, wife, mother and citizen, and I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. This was a willful act of intimidation to discourage a point of view. What the government did to our little group in Wetumka, Ala., was un-American. …

“Many of the agents and agencies of the federal government do not understand that they are servants of the people. They think they are our masters, and they are mistaken.

“I am not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in, the America that people cross oceans and risk their lives to become part of, and I am terrified that it is slipping away.”

This is the reason that, of all the domestic scandals plaguing the Obama administration, this is the most serious — though the others, whose revelations are growing daily, certainly still matter.

The IRS intimidation of conservatives (something “typical of authoritarian regimes,” as a Washington Examiner editorial put it) has dark implications for all Americans, who have almost no defenses against the agency’s intrusive inquiries, backed by the full force of criminal law.

As Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan, who endorsed President Barack Obama in 2008, wrote on May 31, “… nothing can damage us more as a nation than what is happening at the Internal Revenue Service. Elite opinion in the press and in Washington doesn’t fully understand this. Part of the reason is that it’s not their ox being gored; it’s those messy people out in America with their little patriotic groups.”

Further, Noonan said, the difference from past events (the Nixonian “enemies list” scandals targeting a few dozen individuals; the Clinton requisition of 900 administration opponents’ IRS files eventually “discovered” lying on a table in the White House; or even the George W. Bush-era investigations of some groups for which the IRS had received formal complaints) is in the far larger number of targets:

“There was no enemies list, unless you consider half the country to be your enemies (my italics). It is considered a bit of a faux pas to point this out, but what we are talking about in part is a Democratic president, a largely Democratic professional administrative class in Washington, and an IRS whose workers belong to a union whose political action committee gave roughly 95 percent of its political contributions last year to Democrats.”

One pro-traditional marriage group even had its donor list furnished to opponents, leading to threats and harassment against them. A pro-life group was asked for the “content of its prayer meetings” and ordered not to demonstrate against Planned Parenthood.

Thus, when Jay Leno told his audience this week that Obama should close the IRS instead of Guantanamo (or, better yet, “ship the IRS to Guantanamo”), he got loud applause.

And it wasn’t “a few rogue agents” who delayed those applications for up to three years, preventing any participation in the 2012 campaign, while liberal groups’ paperwork was handled expeditiously.

The lead story in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal was headlined, “IRS Staff Cite Washington Link.” It said agents in Cincinnati said they had multiple levels of oversight and review, with Elizabeth Hofacre telling the newspaper, “I was essentially a front person, because I had no authority to act without (a Washington IRS attorney’s) influence or input.”

And we still don’t know why former IRS director Douglas Shulman (a Bush appointee who, however, donated money to Democrats) visited the Obama White House far more often than his predecessor, who had precisely one meeting with President Bush.

Some speculate he discussed the IRS’ pending oversight of payments for Obamacare, but several of the meetings were also attended by the Obama campaign’s deputy political director, an odd participant if that were the sole reason.

And Shulman won’t say. He actually told a congressional hearing that his visits were “for the Easter egg roll with my kids.” He left off only the rainbow-viewing and unicorn-riding events.

But facing the danger of a politicized IRS, how long will Americans endure that sort of scorn for their right to know what is being planned for them?

Especially if, as Becky Gerritson noted, letting it continue can mean our freedoms “are slipping away”?

 

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at

[email protected]

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