Minnesotans in Congress mostly silent about IRS acts

Tom West, West Words

Tom West, West Words

Nancy Judd is the organizer of a group called the Central Minnesota Tea Party Patriots – Browerville Area. In the wake of revelations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups for audits, and delaying their applications for tax-exempt status while allowing similar applications from liberal groups to sail through to approval, I asked if her group was contacted.

Judd says that her group, unlike the Tea Party in Rochester, Minn., has not been singled out by the IRS because it never applied for tax-exempt status. She said the Central Minnesota Tea Party is “more like a garden club.”

It doesn’t make financial contributions to political campaigns. The only money raised is used to pay for the cost of refreshments or perhaps for a speaker’s expenses.

The group does endorse candidates, and last fall, it endorsed a laundry list of local and statewide Republicans.

But mostly, the Browerville Tea Party group is just a bunch of like-minded citizens who get together monthly to educate and support themselves on the issues of the day.

Perhaps they are lucky to be below the radar, or perhaps now the IRS or some other agency will target them.

However, every American should feel chills down their spine over the actions of the IRS. This nation is supposed to be about equal justice under the law, but we already know that this is about squelching and harassing citizens whose only offense was to disagree with President Obama.

If you want to give up your liberties and constitutional rights, now is the time to say and do nothing.

You would need to be at least 50 years old today to have lived through and understood what Watergate was about. President Richard Nixon left office not just because he tried to cover up a burglary of the Democratic National Committee’s offices. Subsequent investigation revealed a widespread effort to use the power of the federal government to circumvent the laws of the land for political advantage. In fact, the second article of impeachment against Nixon reads in part, “He has, 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. “

That sounds pretty close to what has just been revealed.

I am not saying here that President Obama should be impeached. Far from it. To repeat a well used question raised during Watergate, we still must answer, “What did the president know and when did he know it?”

And the key will be whether or not the president and Attorney General Eric Holder genuinely attempt to hold accountable every one of their associates who obstructed justice, or if they will, as Nixon did, try to cover up the whole mess in hopes it will go away.

This one isn’t going away. Already it has come out that Mitt Romney’s tax returns were illegally leaked. A Washington Post editorial writer, Ed Rogers, blogged, “The IRS inspector general’s report is only the beginning, and it was just leaked on Friday afternoon. … Yet the jaw-droppers keep coming. This morning The Post reported that the Obama IRS targeted groups that want to ‘make America a better place to live.’”

Attempts will be made to cap the blame at the top of the IRS, but these were political acts, not tax policy issues. Which political associates created the climate that gave IRS underlings the green light?

What is also troublesome is the silence that has come forth from our congressional delegation in Washington. Do they not believe in equal justice under the law? Do they believe it is OK to apply the tax laws differently to their supporters instead of their detractors?

Check out the government Web sites of Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan. When this issue was on deadline, not one word about this miscarriage of justice could be found on them.

Last year, Franken was one of seven senators who sent a letter to the IRS telling them to target these 501(c)(4) groups, but on Monday, in response to a question on CNN, he said, “It’s a legitimate inquiry by the IRS. What is in no way legitimate is that this be biased in any way. And the people responsible for this should be held accountable.”

It’s unfortunate that wasn’t spelled out in the original letter. Since it was signed by seven Democrats, it’s understandable how the IRS may have misinterpreted the intent.

Leadership is about more than endorsing ideas that a clear majority agree with, like supporting Social Security and Medicare. Leadership should be about facing unpleasant truths when they arise, and reminding everyone about the core values on which the nation was built: blind justice, freedom to associate, to speak and to write whatever we want about the government, free and fair elections, etc.

In 1998, Hillary Clinton said that there was a “vast right wing conspiracy” trying to destroy her husband. Well, it looks like we have a “vast left-wing conspiracy,” too.

The question for Minnesotans in Congress is: Do you believe in open, honest government, treating everyone fairly, or is partisanship more important? Your silence or after-the -fact clarifications speak volumes.

Tom West is the editor and general manager of the Record. He can be reached at (320) 632-2345 or by e-mail at tom.west@mcrecord.com.

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