‘The Intimidation Game’: IRS Scandal Looms over Next Administration

Hillary Clinton looming (Alex Wong / Getty)
Alex Wong / Getty

In June, Hillary Clinton warned that Donald Trump was a would-be dictator who could not be trusted with the powers of the presidency. “Imagine if he had not just Twitter and cable news to go after his critics and opponents, but also the IRS, or for that matter our entire military,” she said. “Given what we have seen and heard, do any of us think he’d be restrained?”

How ironic, given that she served in the Obama administration while it abused the powers of the IRS to target conservative groups.

Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel documents the IRS scandal in her new book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech.

The story she tells is a familiar one to those who have followed the scandal, via Breitbart News and other (largely conservative) outlets over the past few years. The immense value of Strassel’s book is that she not only summarizes that story, but also places it in the context of other efforts by the left, and the state, to silence conservative speech.

These include efforts to force conservative 501(c)4 non-profit organizations to disclose their donors, shareholder proxy wars to force companies to stop political giving; efforts by members of Congress to shame scientists whose research casts doubt on left-wing alarmist versions of climate change; and President Barack Obama’s astonishing attempt to target top supporters of his 2012 Republican rival, Mitt Romney, by publishing an “enemies list” of donors who subject to audit and intimidation.

By far the most chilling episode Strassel recounts is Wisconsin’s “John Doe” investigation, a partisan witchhunt designed to cripple conservative organizations and to exact revenge for Gov. Scott Walker’s successful labor reforms. Before it stopped, the inquisition involved predawn raids, gag orders, and terrified families — scenes out of a totalitarian regime, not the U.S. Streusel’s vivid account evokes horror: “people … are appalled and outraged to think this happened in America.” But it did.

All of these were, and are, aimed at shutting down conservative and business-friendly voices. Perhaps the most important of these efforts is still ongoing: namely, Democrats’ push to alter the First Amendment to the Constitution so that it explicitly excludes corporations (and only corporations) from exercising the right to political free speech. The amendment, which is aimed at overturning the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, is one of Hillary Clinton’s core campaign promises.

That means that if Hillary Clinton is elected, not only will no one be held accountable for the IRS scandal — which remains largely unresolved to this day, Strassel points out — but the war on political speech will continue.

Hillary can be expected to pass some version of the DISCLOSE Act, a Democratic Party initiative to flush out the political views of federal contractors, and could revive proposed IRS regulations that would effectively legalize the targeting that was done in the IRS scandal.

Trump has been combative with the press, but there is nothing to suggest that he would pursue, or sanction, the kinds of abuse that Hillary Clinton and her party have been eager to encourage in the recent past. In fact, only a Trump presidency holds out the possibility of bringing the perpetrators of the IRS scandal to justice.

In contrast, a Clinton win could see a renewed effort to target conservatives for the “crime” of dissent. The Intimidation Game is a timely warning of what is at stake in this election.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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