Lois Lerner is the former senior Internal Revenue Service official who used political ideology as a basis for denying tax-exempt status to certain nonprofit organizations. The Department of Justice has decided that it will not reconsider its 2015 decision not to prosecute her for doing so. This decision makes a mockery of President Donald Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.” It appears that no-one will ever answer for the numerous transgressions of the Barack Obama administration.
An unelected bureaucrat deciding that political alignment should determine how a federal agency treats private organizations is, in itself – or should be – a crime that carries the harshest penalties. It is the banana republic mindset with which Obama and his progressive cronies infected the highest echelons of power during his eight years as President. Misappropriating public funds or accepting bribes are not the most serious crimes a government official can commit; politicians and bureaucrats do such things all the time. The United States government – like all other governments – misuses tax revenues as a matter of course. Politicians often shape policy decisions to suit their donors. These things may be unjust, but they have characterized the business of political governance throughout human history.
In a supposedly free society, however, the worst thing an elected – or appointed – official can do is intentionally discriminate against citizens and private organizations on ideological grounds; political or religious.
Lerner, former head of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Unit, was responsible for obstructing applications for tax-exempt status from a number of conservative groups. At the time, no left-leaning organizations were subjected to similar obstruction, and Lerner herself admitted that applications were mishandled. In 2013, the Justice Department began looking into the matter but determined that there was not sufficient evidence to pursue the case against Lerner. The investigation into this IRS scandal lasted two years, and Lerner herself refused to testify, pleading the Fifth on two occasions, in 2013 and 2014. She was later placed on leave and has since retired from the agency.
A Familiar Story
It is, sadly, a familiar story. Hillary Clinton escaped prosecution in the same way. Investigators acknowledge that rules – and, perhaps, even laws – were broken but cite a lack of criminal intent as a reason for not bringing charges. Private citizens rarely, if ever, benefit from similar leniency in criminal justice matters. Ohio Republican Jim Jordon, who in 2016 sought the impeachment of then Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, expressed this very same sentiment, in a statement following the DOJ decision. “This is exactly what frustrates the American people about Washington: Connected people like Lois Lerner get away with things that ordinary Americans would be punished for.”
The real failure of the system is that elected leaders, along with the administrators and bureaucrats they appoint to manage government agencies, are not held accountable for betraying the public trust. Having been elected to public office, a politician can commit no worse crime than using that office to grant or deny legal rights based on their own political preferences. This principle extends to those officials appointed by said politician. Politically-motivated targeting of any group or individual, by any government official, should be a crime in itself. In such cases, the intent is undeniable. Lois Lerner is, without question, guilty of such a crime. That she will not face prosecution is an outrageous betrayal of the American people.
Our elected government and those it employs must be held to the very highest standards of integrity. Criminal courts – and, if necessary, the Supreme Court – should handle criminal proceedings against government officials. Law enforcement agencies should conduct all relevant investigations. No government should be permitted to investigate itself. Time and time again, the system fails the people, as politicians willfully choose to hold themselves and their appointees above reproach.
Lois Lerner will, it appears, never answer for her abuse of power and every American voter on the political right should remember this. She represents everything that was rotten to the core of Obama’s administration. The electorate has the power to replace those politicians who think themselves above the law with others who do not. If that power is not constantly exercised, how can any America expect fair and just governance?