John Boehner is wondering who connected with the IRS caper might be going to jail.
The disappointing answer is … probably no one.
The targeting of political groups by the IRS is apparently not a crime, according to political lawyers from both parties.
“I am not aware of any statute that prohibits IRS targeting of applicants,” said Republican lawyer Jan Baran, who served as general counsel to George H.W. Bush and the RNC. Other politically inclined lawyers agree.
Essentially, there are three types of laws that might conceivably have been broken, as Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledged in his testimony before a House committee Wednesday:
1) Civil rights laws that protect people from being discriminated against by the government
2) The Hatch Act, which prevents civil servants from engaging in partisan political activity
3) Perjury laws, which prevent people from lying to Congress
For the third law to have been broken, Republicans would have to prove that IRS officials knew of improper targeting of conservatives and testified to the opposite effect. They have noted that then-IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman testified in March 2012 that there was no such targeting going on.
But for that to be perjury, Shulman would have had to know that he was lying. Miller admitted Friday that Shulman was wrong but suggested he wasn’t aware of the targeting.
“It was incorrect, but whether it was untruthful or not … ” Miller said, tailing off. He later added: “To my knowledge, I don’t believe he knew at the time.”
As for the first two laws, it likely would have to be proved that the staff members involved in targeting the conservative groups were deliberately doing so for political purposes.
“You would want some direct evidence of intent, that people knew what they were doing was wrong and they decided to do it anyway,” Nathan Hochman, a former assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s tax division, told Bloomberg News.
An abuse of power is not criminal? Perhaps the Founders meant for impeachment to serve as a remedy for that kind of wrongdoing. But they also could never have envisioned such an expansive bureaucracy with such terrible power over American citizens.
If what the IRS did isn’t a crime, it should be made one. The power of the state to intimidate and to destroy is great enough as it is without loopholes allowing bureaucrats who violate the public trust to escape justice.