WASHINGTON ― Renewed calls by Republican hotheads for an independent special prosecutor to investigate whether the IRS engaged in criminal conduct during the 2012 campaign should fall on deaf ears.
It would be silly to elevate what appears to be an egregious mistake by bureaucrats to the level of a constitutional crisis ― particularly at a time when the nation faces what is arguably its widest partisan divide of the 21st century.
Moderate GOP congressional leaders declined to call for a special prosecutor last spring in the immediate aftermath of the IRS admission that some conservative groups and their supporters were targeted for special scrutiny and, in some cases, auditing not only the groups but their individual donors as well.
They should continue to hew to that view. A national spotlight on the IRS foibles would only widen the partisan gulf between the right and the left at a time when the nation faces urgent economic and foreign policy changes. America simply cannot afford that.
That being said, the IRS should never be allowed to target one group or another merely because it engaged in its right of free political speech ― no matter how offensive to the party in power.
There’s no doubt that the rule the IRS was enforcing against recently organized conservative groups also should have been applied to left-leaning groups seeking 501 (c) tax-exempt status.
Much of the controversy could have been avoided if the IRS examining the records of an approximately equal number of Democratic activist groups rather than just concentrating on those siding with the GOP.
Right-wing Republicans, however, are incensed at the pace of the administration’s probe of IRS actions.
Yet there is obvious hypocrisy on the part of Republicans now attacking the IRS for scrutinizing obviously political conservative groups seeking tax-exemption status as primarily social welfare organizations while laying down a barrage of highly partisan fire.
Such “social welfare” claimants as Karl Rove’s CrossroadsGPS and billionaire Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity were properly investigated by the IRS to see whether they lied on applications for tax-exemption on social welfare grounds while they funneled millions of dollars into conservative campaign chests.
As a matter of fact, the Republican appointee who headed the IRS under President George W. Bush also went after the tax-exempt status of such liberal groups as Greenpeace and the NAACP ― not to mention a church that opposed the costly Iraq war.
Both sides need to turn down the rhetorical heat and cooperate on a compromise solution that would ensure proper bipartisan oversight of the IRS when it delves into political activities.
Here are a few steps that might resolve the contretemps and assuage the anger on both sides.
― Republicans should agree to stand down by ending their seemingly endless hearings and public comments about IRS duplicity. In return, Attorney General Eric Holder should name a scrupulously apolitical attorney to step in and accelerate his department’s investigation of the IRS scandal.
― President Obama should fire the IRS official responsible for the targeting of citizen’s groups for espousing an opposing political view.
― Finally, Congress needs to create a special bipartisan committee to write clearer guidelines defining what constitutes legitimate and illegitimate political activity by groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.
Once these and other rules are put in place there should be no need for a special prosecutor whose investigation would surely widen the rift between Republicans and Democrats that has brought our government to a standstill for most of Obama’s second term.
When that happens, all Americans of good will can breathe a collective sigh of relief.
By Wayne Madsen
Wayne Madsen is a contributing writer to www.onlinejournal.com. ― Ed.
(McClatchy-Tribune News Service)
(MCT Information Services)