On Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Republican House Speaker John Boehner made it quite clear that the IRS targeting of conservative groups by individual employees was inexcusable, demanding jail time for those involved. Yet when similar occurrences happened in 2004 exclusively targeting groups in opposition to Republican President George W. Bush and his policies, conservative leaders remained silent and refused to act.
“The IRS admitted to targeting conservatives, even if the White House continues to be stuck on the word ‘if.’ My question isn’t about who is going to resign,” Boehner stated on Wednesday. Continuing, he said, “My question is who’s going to jail over this scandal?”
According to The Rachel Maddow Show and other sources, in 2004 there were at least two instances of the IRS using their power in a political manner which gave republicans political advantage. One regarded the IRS sending a letter of audit to the NAACP after that group made negative comments against President Bush. The other incident involved the IRS threatening a southern California liberal church with the removal of its tax-exempt status after the church had an anti-Iraq War sermon.
Meanwhile, such actions by the IRS were far from even-handed at that time and since. In 2004 there were reports of conservative churches denying Democrats communion for political reasons; the IRS ignored such acts. In fact, the IRS has continued to ignore these acts even when conservative churches time and time again commit them over various politically-charged issues.
Yet, from the right, nothing; no outcry of IRS political punishment was ever heard. Republicans just sat back time and time again knowing full well that their inaction was politically motivated.
As he awaited the IRS Inspector General’s findings on this event President Barack Obama has been non-partisan and even-handed throughout the revelation, exclaiming that such behavior is intolerable regardless of where on the political spectrum the targets lie. While it is true that the President said “if” in his press conference on Monday, the use of such a word was completely correct at the time, pending the Tuesday outcome of the IG’s report. Even now a criminal investigation is under way by the Department of Justice and its outcome will determine whether a criminal act was committed according to the law, and if so what legal action will be initiated.
After the report from the IRS Inspector General was released, President Obama remarked emphatically in a statement on Tuesday, “The report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.”
The President also called on Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to implement the Inspector General’s recommendations to fix the problem as quickly as possible and to hold all who bear direct responsibility accountable.
Such action and accountability was completely absent throughout the Bush administration’s eight years, or even within the Republican-controlled Congress. Had there been such action, had the republicans stepped up in 2004 and done what was right rather than what was politically convenient and advantageous to their own party and interests, this present situation within the IRS may never have occurred in the first place.