Back in the darker days of Chicago when guns and gangsters first ruled, Al Capone was king. Known for his violent temper and for a peculiar sense of fair play — “my way or the highway” — Capone was responsible for dozens of murders and was, perhaps, most notorious for the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre. Seven members of the rival Bugs Moran gang were murdered while Capone vacationed in Miami Beach.
The mobster was Chicago’s Public Enemy No. 1. He ultimately served time in jail, but not for murder. Law enforcement’s big “gotcha!” came by way of tax evasion; where police and the FBI were unsuccessful, the IRS triumphed.
Through Capone, the IRS developed a fearsome reputation for swift law and order. It is still feared today, but not because it stands for law and order but because it has become a weapon of political retribution. A cloud of scandal and cover-up hovers over the agency, which is being investigated for abuse of power. It has since exploded into a scandal within a scandal.
The original accusation against the IRS was that it was targeting conservative organizations that were established under tax-exempt status. Congress subpoenaed Lois Lerner, who at the time was the IRS’ director of exempt organizations, to appear at a special congressional hearing when information surfaced that she had declared at an American Bar Association meeting that her department was, in fact, investigating organizations with tea-party identifications. Lerner invoked the 5th Amendment as protection against self-incrimination.
This month, Congress learned that Lerner’s hard drive containing important evidence from her email from 2009 to 2011 malfunctioned and has been melted down for recycled parts. How convenient for partisans in the Obama administration to behave suspiciously and “green” at the same time.
Would the IRS let a taxpayer off the hook for not filing an income-tax return because a computer virus erased relevant information? It is unlikely.
Currently, there are six ongoing investigations of the IRS — four by congressional committees, one by the Department of Justice and one by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. There are serious implications of government abuse against individuals as well as organizations. Just ask Adryana Boyne.
Boyne and her husband were among the founders of Voces, a conservative Hispanic educational outreach program that supplied copies of the Constitution, for example, to people who were studying to pass the exam for U.S. citizenship in Texas. They applied for 501(c) tax-exempt status in June 2009 and did not receive a response until late 2010.
“They sent me a 27-page exhaustive questionnaire that required I submit all of my speeches, presentations, name all of my friends involved in politics and the number of times we met. They wanted details about personal conversations I had with my friends,” Boyne explained during an interview on my show Zona Politica on Univision America radio.
Additionally, everything had to be submitted within two weeks or else the application would be terminated. Boyne dropped the application request rather than comply. “I have no doubt that this was politically motivated,” says Boyne.
Boyne and her colleagues with Voces were being targeted for their political beliefs. There can be no other conclusion after examining the case, which appears not to be an isolated one. It represents a dangerous precedent.
If the administration — through the IRS — has issues with the current criteria for assigning tax-exempt status, it should raise it with Congress, the elected officials who charged with establishing tax policy. Partisan government workers should play no role in that debate; nor should they try to circumvent investigations aimed at getting to the truth.
For many, paying taxes is a painful process, but it is done in the belief that it serves an ultimate good. Once that good faith is breached, everything begins to fall apart. That is why it is so important that this investigation be done with all the due diligence and political impartiality possible on all sides. This will better protect the integrity of our institutions and, most important, our faith in good government which, poll after poll indicates, is waning.