Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

May 22, 2013

Another View: Abusing authority inexcusable

When people talk about government posing a threat to citizens, a common topic these days is unmanned drones.

But a more credible threat may be the Internal Revenue Service. This agency, responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing related rules, has the ability to make life miserable for the average individual.

If that average individual is violating the law, so be it. But if targeting takes place because of political differences, then there’s a problem.

And that’s what apparently happened in the United States with certain conservative-leaning nonprofit organizations. According to reports, including admissions from IRS officials, these groups faced extra scrutiny — not because they were doing anything wrong - but because of what they supported.

Specifically, organizations seeking nonprofit status with the words “tea party” in their names or other terms common with conservative groups, received intensive IRS probes. Their nonprofit approval was delayed while the groups received extra scrutiny and they were asked questions not normally used by the IRS, according to government reports.

Now the Justice Department is investigating whether any laws were broken in this process. We assume they were. Using the IRS to pressure, intimidate or delay legitimate activities would constitute an abuse of power.

In many ways, this revelation is a nightmare come true for those who worry about government agencies behaving like bullies and taking the law into their own hands. The key questions now are: How high up in the government were officials aware this was happening, and what — if anything — was done when supervisors learned of the problems?

At this point, there is no evidence officials within the Obama administration specifically guided the targeting of conservative groups. But one presumes the people behind it were politically sympathetic to the president.

Congress will investigate this matter, as it should. Meanwhile, we expect people to be fired and perhaps criminally charged.

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