The fallout from the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building has reached the level of chilling. Leftist politicians and commentators are uniformly referring to the riot as an “insurrection” while systematically ignoring the wide-scale damage and destruction that was done to American cities during 2020. We are now seeing calls to “deprogram” conservatives. Media outlets have been shut down, while others are targeted for silencing.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said last week that she and leftists of her ilk are discussing the creation of a federal commission on “media literacy” to “rein in” the press. If she has her way, apparently all news stories would be subjected to prior review and approval by some government agency before being released to the public. That would roundly extinguish free speech in America.
Obviously, what we need is some kind of commission on constitutional literacy, since AOC is woefully ignorant of the language and purpose of the First Amendment.
That aside, the all-out assault on conservative ideals and voices has already moved to the next level. On Jan. 15, 2021, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., moved to enlist the IRS in the war to silence conservative voices.
Wyden, one of the most liberal U.S. senators and ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, wrote a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, claiming that certain tax-exempt organizations were “involved in promoting and organizing events that ultimately led to the violent insurrection.” The proof of this, according to Wyden, is “press reports” showing that the events of Jan. 6 were “an orchestrated, organized event” and that “dark money” from the GOP was at the root of it all.
You might ask what “press reports” Wyden pointed to in support of his claim. Why, of course, they came from CNBC and the Washington Post. Apparently, we don’t have to worry about “media literacy” as long as the “news” blares from such leftist trumpets.
Wyden argues to Commissioner Rettig that organizations that incite insurrection and violence “must not be allowed to remain in operation.” He calls for the IRS, in “coordination with other law enforcement agencies,” to “investigate the extent to which tax-exempt organizations were involved in any part of the Capitol insurrection or actions leading up to that event, and to the greatest extent of the law, revoke the exempt status of those organizations that played a role in inciting or committing violence and other illegal acts.” (Wyden letter, page 3.)
Please note that Wyden calls into question, not only the violence of Jan. 6, but also “actions leading up to that event.” Democrats have demonized those who dared called into question the results of the November election. Setting aside the violence for one minute, openly challenging an election, or for that matter, any other political process, cannot possibly constitute an “illegal act.” Federal law has long been settled on the point that the claim and exercise of a constitutional right (such as free speech) can never be made into a crime.
If the IRS falls in line behind Wyden, as I expect it will do under the Biden administration, we can expect that every conservative political action group and public policy advocacy group in the U.S. will come under IRS attack, a coordinated attack including “other law enforcement agencies.”
Am I exaggerating?
For decades the IRS has been used as a weapon by political parties against its enemies. Most recently, this occurred during the Obama administration. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation revealed that the former president used the Exempt Organizations division of the IRS to delay or deny the approval of tax-exempt status for more than 100 new organizations between 2010 and 2012.
It turns out that the exempt status applications that were openly targeted were of organizations whose names included “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” “We the People,” and other conservative-sounding words. It became clear that the strategy was expressly intended to block conservative voices at a time when Obama was pushing for reelection in 2012.
During the heated congressional hearings that followed the GAO’s report, IRS official Lois Lerner, the head of the agency’s Exempt Organizations division and Obama’s minion carrying out the orders, pleaded the Fifth Amendment. She refused to testify to Congress about her role. She soon thereafter resigned from the IRS under fire but never faced charges in connection with her misconduct.
Wyden’s proposal would move this misconduct to a whole new level. Rather than use the IRS defensively as a shield to surreptitiously block new conservative voices from coming on the scene, Wyden would openly use the agency as a sword to attack existing conservative groups and put them out of business. Said another way, Wyden wishes to silence the opposition by crushing the political groups he does not agree with. This constitutes the quintessential abuse of power; the very thing the founders intended to eradicate with the First Amendment.
Interestingly, Wyden just voted to approve the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. What he probably doesn’t know (even though he voted for it) is that the new law prohibits the very actions he is calling the IRS to carry out.
How so? Act sections 105 and 106 of Division E (calling for general government appropriations) expressly prohibit the IRS from being weaponized. Section 105 provides that the IRS may not use any funds “to target citizens of the United States for exercising any right guaranteed under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” Section 106 states that the IRS may not “target groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs.”
Ironic – and hypocritical – isn’t it?
Obviously, these prohibitions do not intimidate Wyden. He probably didn’t even read them, because they’re found on page 512 of a bill that is 5,593 pages long. Who has time to read all that?
Regardless, Wyden clearly sees this as no barrier to stopping government insiders from turning the IRS lose on their enemies.
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