FITRAKIS: The real IRS scandal

May 17, 2013

The following statement is by Robert Fitrakis, Chair, Federal Elections Commission, Green Shadow Cabinet:

No one should be shocked that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is once again using its power to harass grassroots patriot groups and local Tea Party organizations, as reported in the news recently.

The real scandal is that the IRS did not go after Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, or the pro-Obama propaganda groups Organizing for America and Priorities USA. These are the four major tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations under the IRS code, who are deciding who is running our country.    

The Obama administration’s IRS is adopting the same tactics used by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Obama’s IRS is auditing and investigating minor fringe players instead of major donors that uphold the two-party system. This is the same tactic the EPA uses to go after small independent gas stations who toss out oil, while ignoring egregious violations of environmental law by oil giants British Petroleum and Exxon.

Both major political parties have historically used the IRS to repress and intimidate political foes, minor political parties, and mass movements. The Bill of Impeachment against Richard Nixon included his use of the IRS “in a discriminatory manner.” Legendary liberal President Franklin D. Roosevelt used the IRS to settle scores with his political opponents like newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst, Governor Huey Long of Louisiana, and right-wing radio agitator Father Coughlin.

In the 1960s, the Kennedy administration’s “Ideological Organizations Project” challenged the tax exempt status of various right-wing foundations and sought to intimidate them. LBJ not only harassed the right-wing, most famously Barry Goldwater’s speech writer Karl Hess with the IRS. He also unleashed the FBI on anti-war, environmental and human rights groups under the COINTELPRO operation. The Associated Press reported in 1999 that “Officials in the Democratic White House and members of both parties in Congress have prompted hundreds of audits against political opponents in the 1990s.”

Obama’s first election campaign in 2008 ushered in the era of unlimited campaign funds, being the first to raise over a billion dollars. His was also the first presidential campaign in U.S. history to reject public funds so he would not have to limit the amount of money he could spend. When the Citizens United decision came down in 2010, despite the President’s stated opposition to it, he benefited from the 501(c)(4) groups as much as the Republican contender, Romney.  

The resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steve Miller does not solve the problem. The vast majority of anonymous money contributed to our top election officials by the 1% in our country, and embraced by both major corporatist political parties, remains intact. Until we defeat U.S. Supreme Court's doctrines that corporations have constitutional rights (corporate personhood) and that money is speech, the corrupt, non-transparent, money-laundering into Democratic and Republican Party political campaigns by multimillionaires and billionaires will continue. And of course in the immediate term, we can't let the Obama administration off the hook; there is plenty the current White House could do that it is not doing to compel disclosure and to crack down on political corruption. 

The Green Shadow Cabinet calls for a new system of public campaign financing that rewards small donations with matching public funds and requires full transparency for all donors.  We support the Move to Amend campaign to end corporate constitutional rights and overturn Citizens United.

BOB FITRAKIS is Chair of the Federal Elections Commission of the Green Shadow Cabinet. He has a Ph.D. in Political Science and a J.D. He is co-author of “Will the GOP Steal America's 2012 Election?” and “What Happened in Ohio? A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election.”