By Rick Manning
Guest Commentary on the News
THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Internal Revenue Service used its power to attack pro-Israel groups. While the WSJ article is subscriber only, here is the gist of it.
Not only did the IRS target politically conservative groups, they also sought to deny tax exempt authorizations to groups who, quoting the Wall Street Journal, “whose missions might conflict with Administration policies. The IRS’s ‘Be on the Lookout’ list that November  also included red flags for groups referring to ‘disputed territories.’”
The Journal goes on to report that Jewish groups seeking normal tax exempt status received questionnaires with ideologically oriented questions that are eerily familiar in their nature to the types of political inquiries made to tea party applicants.
According to the publication, “one questionnaire we’ve seen from the IRS to another Jewish group applying for tax-exempt status asked, ‘Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?’ and ‘Describe your organization’s religious belief system toward the land of Israel.’”
Now that we know that the IRS engaged in litmus testing of applicants based upon their support of Israel’s right to exist as a pre-determiner on whether a Jewish group should have received 501 (c) status, the Obama Administration can no longer cling to the notion that they were merely focusing upon conservative political groups.
The bald and ugly truth is that Obama’s IRS was being used for political purposes before even the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, and before the term “tea party group” was even included in the agency’s black list. As the Journal reports, “emails uncovered by the House Ways and Means Committee show that the IRS and State Department were conferring in 2009 about pro-Israel groups like Z Street and considering arguments to deny their tax-exempt applications.”
This disclosure should frighten every American as it is evidence that our nation’s tax collectors were more than willing participants in a scheme to regulate public discourse using their unique authority.
And it reveals an even seedier underbelly to the Obama Administration that can no longer hide behind the left’s outrage over the Supreme Court’s campaign financing decision. They have been unmasked as little more than thugs using the government’s power to intimidate or coerce those whom they disagreed.
In today’s foreign policy environment, what does it say that the first groups that this Administration went after were not necessarily domestically focused tea parties, but instead those that supported Israel’s right to exist? Given the Wall Street Journal’s revelations about the content of the IRS questionnaire, it is reasonable to ask how the Obama Administration would answer that very question.
The Internal Revenue Service scandal has always gone to the heart of First Amendment freedom of political activity in America. Now, that it is clear that the Agency had broader litmus tests of political ideology than was previously known, House Republicans need to hold firm in any negotiation with the Senate and not allow any of the monies they cut from the tax collectors budget to be restored.
Failure to exact a harsh penalty against this rogue Agency would signify a tacit acceptance of their democracy threatening behavior. What’s more, any individuals proven to be behind or involved in these attacks on freedom, should be tried and convicted for their crimes.
The power to tax is the power to destroy, and abusing the public trust by targeting perceived political foes using the tax collecting power can never be tolerated in a free society.
The author is vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government.
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