IRS proposes eliminating rules against political targeting, abusing taxpayer funds
J. D. Heyes
It’s a transition that has taken a century to evolve, but which has nonetheless been placed on hyper-drive during the Obama presidency: The shift away from constitutional government to rule by executive and administrative fiat. And now, halfway through the third century of America’s founding, the Legislative branch – the one the framers believed would be the strongest – has been rendered nearly powerless.
So impotent has Congress become in what some have deemed the “post-constitutional period” that even when it imposes restrictions on the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy often ignores those restrictions or attempts to circumvent them.
Case in point: In recent days, House Republicans accused the Obama administration of seeking to sidestep or eliminate important reforms the Legislative branch imposed on the Internal Revenue Service, “including prohibitions on lavish conferences and a ban on applying extra scrutiny to groups based on their political beliefs,” The Blaze reports.
The White House’s proposed 2016 budget for the IRS puts forth the administration’s plan for how the nation’s tax collection agency would operate during the coming fiscal year, but the plan does not include those reforms, as well as others that Congress has passed.
“We’re dealing with taxpayers’ money”
As further reported by The Blaze:
That prompted House Republicans to ask why those reforms weren’t picked up by the IRS budget for the coming year. They didn’t get an answer, but stressed that Congress still sees these reforms as important.
“Since the IRS targeting and spending scandals, appropriations bills have included prohibitions against targeting U.S. citizens for exercising their First Amendment rights, targeting groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs, and making videos without advance approval,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky.
“We’re dealing with taxpayers’ money, and these provisions lay out what most people would consider common sense policies,” he said.
As , the agency improperly targeted conservative and Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny ahead of the 2012 elections, delaying their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status so they could not participate in campaign process – a major violation of their right to free speech. We further reported that the operation appears to have been directed by, or coordinated with, the Obama White House.
Since then the scandal has continued to hamper the IRS, forcing majority Republicans in Congress to enact language in each budget bill that prohibits the agency from over-scrutinizing groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their political affiliations and beliefs.
However, the agency has also been involved in conference scandals, including one in which the agency spent in excess of $800,000 in taxpayer funds for a lavish event in Nevada.
In addition, the IRS was heavily criticized by members of the two primary political parties for creating an expensive Star Trek parody video.
As noted by The Blaze:
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), who chairs the subcommittee on financial services, said the proposed elimination of reforms meant to stop these activities adds “insult to injury,” especially since Congress was forced to impose them after several scandals hit the agency.
Where have all the provisions gone?
“A provision… that says you cannot target, well, that’s not in the request,” Crenshaw said. “A provision that requires videos to be reviewed for appropriateness, that’s gone.
“A provision that requires compliance with the federal tax records, that’s gone,” he continued. “A provision that guards against excessive conference spending, that’s not there in the request.
“There’s a provision that we put in to uphold the confidentiality of tax returns, that’s gone,” he said. “I hope that when you submit your 2017 budget, that you might think about adding them back to your budget request.”
For 2016 the Obama budget requests $12.9 billion in funding for the IRS, an increase of $2 billion; one-quarter of that, or about $490 million, would go towards the further implementation of Obamacare.
The abuse of Congress by the massive federal bureaucracy is, in large part, the fault of successive congresses over the years that have passed large “omnibus” pieces of legislation that a) create these federal agencies; and then b) empower them with the authority to make rules that have the force of law.
That’s not the system our founders established, but it is the system we are currently saddled with, thanks in large part to a Legislative branch that today refuses to use what power it has left to either defund or abolish some of these agencies outright.