Let’s be honest. It’s hard to concentrate on more than one scandal at a time, and the ObamaCare meltdown could be the most consequential government policy failure in modern American history.
But let’s not forget another scandal, one that could well be one of the most consequential acts of sheer governmental malice in modern history – the IRS’s systematic targeting of conservative groups, targeting that had a profound impact on the conservative grassroots during the 2012 election.
And that scandal is not going away. Here are five reasons why:
First, it’s still ongoing. At the ACLJ, we’ve filed a lawsuit against the IRS on behalf of 41 conservative groups in 22 states. While the IRS targeted all of these groups – delaying some of their tax-exempt applications three years or more – a number of them still haven’t received IRS approval. Even now. Even after the IRS apologized for its misconduct.
Apology not accepted.
Second, with every new revelation, it keeps getting worse. In May, we were told that IRS misconduct applied only low-level employees in one office in Ohio.
Now we know the wrongdoing goes to the highest levels of the IRS, it also crosses agency lines (into the Federal Election Commission) and involves far greater misconduct than initially disclosed. The IRS not only targeted groups for unlawful review, it also illegally disclosed donor information to friendly, liberal media, and has engaged in a pattern of retaliatory audits – and that’s the tip of the targeting iceberg.
Third, IRS scandals are now widespread. The targeting scandal has placed the IRS under unprecedented scrutiny, and – quite frankly – the IRS is showing that it’s not only partisan, it’s corrupt, incompetent, and mean-spirited.
Corrupt? The IRS wastes absurd amounts of taxpayer money on extravagant conferences and other perks for its employees.
Incompetent? According to an internal audit, in the past decade, the IRS has paid out as much as $132 billion in “bogus claims” under the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Mean-spirited? Did you know that for a two-year span the IRS audited almost 70 percent of adoptive families? The normal audit rate for middle-class families is closer to one percent.
Fourth, scandal goes straight to the top. Last month, I wrote a column called “Obama’s fingerprints all over IRS Tea Party scandal” that quickly went viral. In this piece I noted that President Obama’s involvement has been hiding in plain sight, as he publicly and repeatedly condemned citizens’ groups like the targeted Tea Party groups and raised the very questions the IRS later unconstitutionally investigated.
Fifth, the IRS targeting scandal is directly relevant to the mother of all policy disasters, ObamaCare. With the IRS set to function as ObamaCare’s enforcement arm, every story of corruption, incompetence, and malice casts doubt on the IRS’s ability faithfully and lawfully discharge its responsibilities within our health care system.
At this point, the IRS and ObamaCare scandals are now dependent and self-reinforcing. Scandal in one area undermines confidence in the other, and the Administration is now in the position of explaining to the American people not only why it can be entrusted with directly managing one-sixth of the American economy when they can’t even build a functioning website, but also why the government’s most corrupt agency should enforce ObamaCare mandates.
Some commentators have called the disastrous ObamaCare rollout President Obama’s “Hurricane Katrina moment” – the moment when perceived government incompetence bursts out on the national stage in a way that no American can ignore.
But in this case, the Administration’s “Katrina moment” is amplified by its Nixon characteristics – the malicious use of government against political enemies. And just as Americans cannot and will not ignore the Administration’s destructive incompetence in the health care arena, they will not ignore the Administration’s malicious actions against their conservative fellow citizens.
The IRS scandal is not going away. It’s too important – too consequential – to the health of our Republic. Instead, the national response to the scandal must be clear and unequivocal, sending a message to this (and future) presidential administrations:
The government belongs to the people, not the President, and it must never be turned against the people to serve the President’s (or any) political agenda.
Jay Sekulow is Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which focuses on constitutional law. He also serves as a member of President Trump’s legal team. Follow him on Twitter @JaySekulow.