Look to the Framers for wisdom in these corrupt times.
Yes, I believe I was a target of the Internal Revenue Service. Can I prove it? Only by every trial lawyer’s trusted friend, Mr. Circumstantial Evidence. I mean, I can’t get into the heads of those two loose canons in Cincy. I suppose the only other way to prove it would be to seize the telephone records and e-mails of the United States Treasury Department. Oops! I forgot. Only the head of the Department of “Justice” has that much power. Guess I will have to rely on C.E., after all.
Not until the Inspector General was about to spill the beans did the I.R.S. stage a question to Ms. Lerner (designed to soften the blow after being discovered) that enabled her to spin the past targeting of various conservative groups into the work of some low level scoundrels in Ohio.
We learned that close to 500 entities applying for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) status were targeted and that, among them, were groups with “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their name. A few days later we learned that the net had a broader reach, including groups with “Constitution” in their name or groups that would dare teach the Constitution or “just want to make America a better place to live.” And, yes, I forgot one additional category: any groups critical of this government.
I applied for a 501(c)(3) exemption, complete with my $850 “user fee,” the 12 page application and over 93 pages of supporting documentation on August 20, 2010. Why “user” fee and not “application” fee? I’m not sure. I’m betting Jerry Seinfeld could do something with that. I won’t try.
Anyway, I received a request for additional information by letter dated October 6, 2010, only 47 days after I had applied. I was asked 32 additional questions. The request included the obligatory intimidating demand that my response would have to include a detailed statement that I knew I would subject myself to perjury should my answers be less than true, correct, complete, relevant, etc., etc. The letter informed that the due date for my response was October 27, 2010 (21 days to act) and that if I did not timely comply, I might as well forget it, or words to that effect. Oh, yes, they were kind enough to ask me to “please” attach a copy of their request letter to my response so they could “quickly” associate it to my case.
I complied by mail on October 19, 2010, with an additional 35 pages of answers and documents (8 days before my deadline) and was careful to include a copy of their request letter to enable them to act “quickly.” I received a final rejection letter dated December 13, 2011, signed by Lois Lerner, 420 days after applying.
I forgot to add that my corporate name is ELL “Constitution” Clubs, I teach the “Constitution” and I do admit that I “would like to make America a better place to live.” I am so ashamed. During this time frame, I also wrote a column for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wherein I was frequently critical of this government. I cannot imagine any rational instructor of the Constitution today who would not be.
Outraged? Yes, but not for losing. In fact, on the day I received the rejection letter, I said to my accountant, “I’m not surprised. This administration doesn’t want Americans learning about their Constitution.” No, my sense of outrage runs much deeper.
We find our country in a season of hearings investigating scandal after scandal, from Benghazi to the Associated Press to the I.R.S. Some Congressmen want heads to roll, but all (well, most all) “say” what they ultimately want to do is fix the system so that none of this “will ever happen again.” How warm and fuzzy does that make you feel?
The Framers knew that if the government they were crafting were structured so as to permit any one person or group of persons (including themselves) to attain unchecked power, tyranny and corruption would be sure to follow. That is the nature of the human condition dating all the way back to Adam.
So investigate all you want, Congress, but as long as the I.R.S. is run by humans, the only way to make sure this will never happen again is to abolish it. I know - far too much to ask.
So, let’s start out small. With one exception, noted below, abolish all exemptions. Lower the tax rates so as to enable individuals, in spite of losing a tax deduction, to give to causes of their choice. If the rates were fair, there is no good reason why any successful entity should not pay their share of taxes. I love the Y.M.C.A, but they are no longer young, they are no longer men and they are no longer Christian. They are “everyone” and should be on the same playing field as everyone else.
I am a conservative. I am a Christian. I hold the position that churches cannot be constitutionally taxed. “Congress shall make no law...prohibiting the free exercise of religion.” First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Look it up. “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” Case closed. However, tax deductibility of donations is a legislative gift, not a constitutional guarantee. It should also be abolished – even for religion. Reduce the tax rate and people of faith will continue to donate to God in the same amounts. And religion, as a general rule, will manage those resources far better than government ever has or ever will.
The system, as it exists, is a form of prostitution serving as an enabler of corruption. Government says, “If you are willing to sell some of your freedom of speech, we are willing to give you a tax break.” When the rules of the game are so convoluted, when the regulations are so demanding, those in power (of any political persuasion) will eventually use the system to target their enemies and reward their friends. Liberals will say, “Big deal. That’s the way it’s always been. Get back in power and you can have your turn at the trough.” Far too many Republicans just might agree. But conservatives, Tea Partiers, respecters of the Constitution and those crazy folks who “just want to make America a better place to live” want it stopped. Now!
Was my application improperly rejected? I believe so, but that isn’t the point. When the rules are ambiguous and otherwise flawed, all applicants with a different viewpoint from those in power will eventually lose the game.
Sadly, rational citizens don’t expect Congress to create a cure so that these problems “will never happen again.” There is too much power to lose when freedom is taken off the market and power is something most politicians will never give up as long as Americans continue to wallow in ignorance. As my ELL Constitution Club members know, Thomas Jefferson was right when he said: “Freedom and ignorance cannot co-exist.”
Tad Armstrong is an Edwardsville, Illinois, lawyer, founder of ELL Constitution Clubs (www.ellconstitutionclubs.com) and author of “It’s OK to Say ‘God.’”