If any good news came from Friday’s revelation that the IRS targeted conservative groups during the nonprofit application process, it was this: liberals can no longer call the Tea Party crazy.
Throughout the 2012 election cycle, conservative groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status regularly complained of “harassment” from the IRS. As usual, their cries went ignored — or mocked — by the mainstream media.
On Friday, conservatives’ worst fears were realized. The IRS confirmed that approximately 75 groups whose applications used words like “tea party” and “patriot” underwent a stricter review process when applying for tax-exempt status.
This message-based discrimination flies in the face of the First Amendment. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) rightly called the First Amendment “non-negotiable” while calling for a full investigation of the incident. At best it was incompetence; at worst it was a politically motivated act of discrimination. The days of Gilded Age are long gone. The “civil servants” who staff the bloated IRS should not express favoritism to one ideology or political party over another.
For its part, the IRS offered an apology and admitted mistakes were made. Singling out one or two groups is a mistake — singling out 75 is deliberate. The White House expressed disappointment and said the inspector general was conducting an investigation, but I have little confidence that heads will roll.
This latest act of bureaucratic incompetence is troubling but not surprising. The IRS simply confirmed the suspicions conservatives have always held. For Republicans looking to put up some points on the scoreboard, this will only fuel their drive to rein in government. I wouldn’t be surprised if renewed passion for the Fair Tax — legislation that would eliminate the IRS — surfaces.
When a friend once asked me where my suspicion of government comes from, I promptly replied: history. This incidence of Big Government gone bad is just one more for the record books.
Chaney is a senior at The George Washington University, majoring in political science.