GEORGE WILL: Stopping The IRS:
n 2013, Roskam, in a televised committee hearing, told the story of Al Salvi, who in 1996 was the Republican’s Senate candidate against then congressman, now senator, Dick Durbin. Democrats filed charges with the Federal Election Commission against Salvi’s campaign, charges that threatened to dominate the campaign’s final weeks. Salvi telephoned the head of the FEC’s Enforcement Division, who he says told him: “Promise me you will never run for office again, and we’ll drop this case.” So said Lois Lerner. After Salvi lost, FBI agents visited his elderly mother, demanding to know, concerning her $2,000 contribution to her son’s campaign, where she got “that kind of money.” When a federal court held that the charges against Salvi were spurious, the FEC’s losing lawyer was Lois Lerner.
Roskam’s telling of Salvi’s story elicited no denial from Lerner. Neither did the retelling of it in this column (June 13, 2013). No wonder: The story had not been deemed newsworthy by the three broadcast networks’ evening news programs, by The New York Times or The Washington Post. With most of the media uninterested in the use of government institutions to handicap conservatives, stonewalling would work.
It still is working through dilatory and incomplete responses to subpoenas, and unresponsive answers to congressional questions. Lerner’s name now has an indelible Nixonian stain, but there probably will be no prosecution. If the administration’s stonewalling continues as the statute of limitations’ clock ticks, Roskam says, “She will get away with it.”
Now in his fifth House term, Roskam, 53, says, “The advantage in this town is always with the entity that doesn’t want to do anything.” Many thousands of Lerner’s emails that supposedly were irretrievably lost have been found, but not released. The Justice Department’s investigation, which was entrusted to a political appointee who was a generous contributor to Barack Obama’s campaign, is a stone in the stone wall.
It’s a culture of corruption. Remember this, and act accordingly in all things. But wait, it gets worse:
Roskam says the task now is “to see that Lois Lerner 2.0 is impossible.” One place to begin is with the evidence — anecdotal but, in the context of proven IRS corruption, convincing — of other possibly punitive IRS behavior toward Republican contributors and other conservative activists. This justifies examining the IRS’ audit selection process. This would produce interesting hearings for most of the media to ignore.
Next, there should be hearings into the illegal disclosure of taxpayer information about conservative individuals and groups to the media and to liberal officials and groups. Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer for some groups abused by the IRS (and for this columnist on different matters), also suggests prohibiting IRS employees from joining a union.
“The National Treasury Employees Union,” she says, “provides no protection to IRS employees that federal statutes and the civil service system do not already provide. It already takes an act of God to hold an IRS employee accountable for his or her actions. But it is worse than merely redundant for IRS employees to belong to the NTEU. Because it adds nothing to its members’ protections, it is a purely political organization. In 2014, fully 95 percent of its contributions went to Democrats, including 11 Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. So, the IRS employees’ union dues finance the election of people who are supposed to scrutinize IRS’ behavior.”
The nice thing is, if Obama has to veto an IRS reform bill, it would be unpopular and would bring all this back up.