Presidents Who Used The IRS
President Obama has found himself caught up in yet another scandal this week with controversy over the IRS using their powers to attack the Tea Party. Whether you like the Tea Party or not, this behavior is not fair, nor should it be tolerated. However, this also isn’t a new development. The IRS has been going against political adversaries for years and it is only coming to light because of our constant news coverage. Since the beginning of the IRS, several administrations have gone after their political rivals. While we do not condone this strategy, it must be known that the current leaders are not alone in this tactic. Is the IRS a political goon squad? It appears that they might have been used that way.
All right, this is probably an easy target to start with. The man didn’t do a lot that was right while he was in office. The story that has been reported on the liberal news stations is that in 2004, the IRS went after the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., for criticism of President Bush. The IRS threatened to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status after the Rev. George Regas, the rector at the time, told the congregation that Jesus would have called the Bush doctrine of preemptive war “a failed doctrine.” The Bush IRS also went after the NAACP in 2004, after their chairman, Julian Bond, criticized President Bush for being the first president to fail to address the group’s annual convention and called for his removal. In its audit notice, the IRA said those statements constituted “improper political activity” for a group claiming nonprofit status. The NAACP went public with its complaints that the audit was politically motivated. After a two-year battle, the IRS dropped its case, and the NAACP kept its status.
Even though Clinton was the target of a lengthy and expensive investigation, his administration was not blameless in the IRS witch hunts against political foes. These included many figures involved in the Whitewater investigation, as well as Paula Jones. Juanita Broaddrick, Gennifer Flowers, and Liz Ward Gracen; four women who accused the president of sexual encounters. Additionally, the Clinton administration had Fox News host Bill O’ Reilly audited three times during the eight years he was in office. While investigators were never able to pin a scandal on the Clinton administration, it is noted that White House Associate Counsel, William Kennedy, is quoted as saying that the “IRS is on top of it” in reference to an audit of former White House Travel Director, Bill Dale.
During the height of the Vietnam war, Tricky Dicky (as Nixon was known), had the IRS target many anti-war and protest groups. The IRS also went after civil rights groups, reporters, and prominent Democrats. This information became public after the Watergate scandal and the tapes associated with this controversy. The tapes provided a direct line of accountability from the IRS to the Oval Office. Nixon, himself, was recorded on tape directing aides to use the IRS to get back at political enemies. In a taped conversation on Sept. 8, 1971, Nixon tells his chief domestic policy adviser, John Ehrlichman, to direct the IRS to audit potential Democratic rivals, including Sens. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, and Edmund Muskie of Maine. The House Judiciary Committee noted Nixon’s abuse of the IRS in its Articles of Impeachment, charging that Nixon “acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.”
JFK and his brother, Robert Kennedy’s target for investigation was the Teamsters Union. Kennedy had a “Get Hoffa” squad – which was in reference to Teamster leader, Jimmy Hoffa – that utilized the Justice Department and the IRS to target Hoffa for tax evasion. IRS investigators were directed to give top priority to the tax affairs of major racketeers, who would be “subjected to the ‘saturation type’ investigation,” according to Kennedy biographer Arthur Schlesinger Jr. This included wiretapping by the IRS – something Richard Nixon would lose his office over less than a decade later. The use of the IRS went further than this, however. In 1961, Kennedy went after right-wing conservative groups and evangelical Christians who were critical of a Roman Catholic being the president. The Kennedy administration established an “Ideological Organizations Audit project” within the IRS, which targeted conservative groups, such as the John Birch Society. In November, the IRS launched audits of 22 “extremist organizations,” several of which lost their tax-exempt status, jeopardizing their fundraising. This was not known by the public until after JFK’s assassination.
President Roosevelt used the IRS against anyone that went against his policies, politically or personally. It also didn’t matter if the person or organization was Democrat or Republican. His IRS enforcement was bipartisan in its conquest. These “enemies” ranged from populist Sen. Huey Long (D) of Louisiana,United Mine Workers leader John Lewis, Rep. Hamilton Fish (R) of New York, Chicago Tribune publisher Robert “Colonel” McCormick, Philadelphia Inquirer publisher Moses Annenberg (a fierce opponent of the New Deal), and former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon. While Roosevelt was not the first President to use the IRS to his benefit, he is probably the architect of how the previous four leaders on this list have used this arm of the Federal government to do their will.