The Obama Administration’s new press secretary, Josh Earnest, was dismissive last week of questions about the burgeoning IRS scandal as mere “conspiracy theories.” He is joined in this sentiment by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) who asked IRS director John Koskinen in committee hearings if he knew about “Area 51 out in Roswell, New Mexico, where all those space aliens allegedly came? Have you ever had any responsibility for that?” When Koskinen answered no, Doggett continued, “I believe one of the mistakes that you’ve made in dealing with the committee today is that you did assume professionally that this is a serious inquiry. I believe it’s an endless conspiracy theory here.”
Charging others with dealing in conspiracy theories is an attempt to make the whole thing go away, and it will probably work. It is not the reaction of the most transparent administration in history, as President Obama promised his would be.
The current IRS scandal is certainly a conspiracy but not much of a theory. Even the facts already on the table are enough to indicate that a conspiracy is afoot.
Though the word “conspiracy” has accumulated bad connotations because of its associations with black helicopters and tin foil hats, there is nothing about believing a conspiracy that necessarily requires delusional thinking. A conspiracy is nothing more that multiple people working secretly toward the same goal. Spies, mobsters, and terrorist organizations engage in conspiracies every day. Timothy McVeigh conspired with Terry Nichols to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The Committee to Reelect the President conspired to burglarize the Watergate Hotel in search of political intelligence. The CIA conspired to assassinate Fidel Castro and Patrice Lumumba.
Conspiracies can be real, just as conspiracies can be phantasmal. Simply calling them “conspiracies” tells us nothing about their validity.
The truth of the IRS matter is not wholly known, of course, largely because of stonewalling on the part of people who dismiss the whole thing as “conspiracy theories.” Here’s what we do know: the IRS released conservative groups’ confidential tax information to rival political pressure groups as well as to media outlets. They also targeted nonprofits for extra scrutiny based on key words such as “Tea Party,” “Patriots” and “9/12,” or had a focus on “government spending,” “debt” or “taxes,” or said they wanted “to “make America a better place to live.” The IRS required pro-life organizations, for example, to forgo picketing abortion clinics as a condition of their tax exempt status. They inquired into what members prayed about and who among them had plans of one day running for office.
Probes into the matter have been continually frustrated. The woman at the center of the scandal, Lois Lerner, has invoked the Fifth Amendment to protect herself from self-incrimination. Unfortunately for Lerner, her invocation of the Fifth before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was preceded by a statement in which she insisted that she had “done nothing wrong.” How much protection does a blameless woman needs from self-incrimination? The committee’s chairman argued that by stating categorically that she was innocent of wrongdoing that she waived her protections under the Fifth Amendment. Lerner was later found in contempt of Congress for refusing to talk.
Two years of Lois Lerner’s emails have magically disappeared. After much footdragging on the part of the IRS, it finally agreed in May to turn over the subpoenaed emails, but later returned to announce that Lerner’s emails had been obliterated when her computer crashed. When Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee asked about a forensic investigation to extract data from her hard drive they were told this it was impossible because the drive had been conveniently recycled. Printed copies of the emails, which Lerner was required to keep in accordance with IRS regulations, did not exist because she ignored that rule. Six of Lerner’s subordinates whose emails were also under subpoena lost their emails when their hard drives crashed too.
If you don’t believe that seven people’s inboxes were zapped out of existence by highly selective computer crashes, you’re likely…a conspiracy theorist!
At least according to the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, you are. “It is unfortunate that the IRS experienced equipment failure that resulted in several computers crashing and some email data being lost from Lois Lerner’s hard drive between 2009 and 2011,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI). “But every equipment failure is not a conspiracy.”
Using the IRS as a weapon against political enemies is a conspiracy with plenty of precedent. Chief executives from FDR to Bill Clinton have abused the powerful agency’s authority to make people’s lives miserable. Nixon did it too. Democrats, who were rightfully incensed about his abuse, made sure that it was included in his articles of impeachment.
From Article II: “[Nixon] 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.”
Anyone who can’t feel the Nixonian reverberations pulsing through the current scandal is not paying attention.
The smoking gun from the Nixon years was a secret memorandum entitled “Dealing With Our Enemies.” A particularly egregious excerpt: “This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration; stated a bit more bluntly — how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” (Emphasis added.)
When liberals talk about the IRS scandal as “conspiracy theories” they are attempting to squelch legitimate inquiry. They fear the truth ever seeing the light of day so they try to marginalize anyone who talks about the scandal. We aren’t talking about NASA faking the moon landing here, only about government officials doing what they do best—abusing power and then lying when they get caught. Call that a “conspiracy theory” if you want.