There is “no evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” the Internal Revenue Service assured Americans during an internal investigation of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. Few will find comfort in those words, and understandably so.
Last week, while seeking to reassure Americans he has seen no evidence of a crime, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen acknowledged he had not even bothered to review any of the applicable laws.
It seems like only yesterday that President Obama called the scandal “inexcusable” and pledged to work “hand in hand with Congress to get this thing fixed.” More recently, though, he dismissed it as a “phony scandal,” and his fellow partisans adopted a similar tone. As a result, House investigators have been stonewalled at every turn, from Lois Lerner’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment to the recent disclosure that key emails long sought by investigators were lost years ago in a suspiciously convenient hardware malfunction.
Whether it is incompetence or malfeasance, we cannot trust anything the Obama administration says about this scandal going forward. The IRS’s actions are the absolute core of despotism: an unchecked, unaccountable bureaucracy using immense authority to terrify American citizens while pursuing a blatantly partisan agenda.
The American people deserve better.
President Obama has claimed in the past that his is the “most transparent administration in history.” If his administration’s commitment to transparency is sincere, the Department of Justice could appoint a special counsel to review the relevant evidence – one who will, unlike Mr. Koskinen, be familiar with the criminal code.
Whether or not the Obama administration decides to conduct a serious investigation into the IRS’s misconduct, Congress should use every tool within its power to get answers. The House has done laudable work thus far and should continue. Harry Reid’s Senate may want to consider the implications of remaining silent on such an important issue, too.
In “Federalist No. 51,” James Madison warned of the “great difficulty” in creating a “government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” The Obama administration is clearly not up to the task. Now the only question is whether Congress can reassert some control over Obama’s draconian partisan bureaucrats.
Michael A. Needham is the chief executive officer of Heritage Action for America (heritageaction.com).