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When the IRS plays politics, you pay for it

Articles in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and The Washington Post recently detailed how the government has agreed to pay $3.5 million to 428 conservative Tea Party groups who applied for non-profit status but were unfairly targeted by then-President Barack Obama’s Internal Revenue Service.

Lois Lerner and her cadre of malefactors at the IRS’ non-profit division slow-walked the applications of groups with any association with the Tea Party. They required onerous documentation and information not required of applicants who were not conservative.

Of course, it’s good that such inappropriate political targeting by IRS bureaucrats is rooted out. Lerner famously declared her innocence before a House committee, then proceeded to assert her Fifth Amendment privilege to every question asked of her. In September 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, no doubt guided by Rod Rosenstein and other useful idiots in President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, announced there would be no prosecution of Lois Lerner.

Robert Wood, in a Forbes article on June 1, 2015, said Lerner retired with a full pension and other benefits, including the $129,000 in bonuses she was awarded by the IRS from 2009-2011, which just happened to be years in which she was stonewalling conservative groups. Wood also pointed out in his article that the IRS first claimed to IRS Inspector General investigators that it had lost all of Lerner’s emails from 2009 through 2011, even though the IRS spent $10 million trying to recover them.

Doesn’t that have a familiar ring to it?

The part of this story that is the most outrageous is that you, the taxpayer, pay the $3.5 million settlement. The articles say “the government” agreed to settle, but the “government” gets its money from you – if you pay taxes.

There’s no accountability for the bad actors in the bureaucracy. They retire with full benefits and not even a slap on the wrist. They are the wrongdoers, but you, and I, have to pay for their wrongdoing.

Congress should enact a law that provides when a government employee takes the Fifth before Congress or any grand jury on matters related to his or her performance in his or her government job, the employee should be fired immediately. Some would suggest that it’s wrong to punish someone for asserting a constitutional right, but there’s no constitutional right to a government job.

Imagine what would happen in the private sector if an employee took the Fifth when asked by his or her employer if he or she embezzled money from the company? Such an employee has every right to avoid self-incrimination but does not have a right to his job. In the private sector, the employee would be fired after asserting the Fifth, and the matter turned over to local law enforcement for prosecution.

In Lerner’s case, she was referred to the DOJ for prosecution, but the swampsters run the DOJ, too, so nothing was done.

Here is a sad fact: The use of taxpayer money to pay for a government employee’s wrongdoing is common. The Lerner saga is not unusual.

In November 2017, CNN political reporters M.J. Lee, Sunlen Serfaty and Juana Summers reported that since the passage of the Government Accountability Act of 1995, creating the Office of Compliance (OOC) to pay for malfeasance by Congressional employees, over $17 million has been paid to victims of sexual harassment, discrimination, or other wrongdoing by government employees.

This $17 million does not come from the offending federal employees. It comes from you, the taxpayer. When the government does wrong, you pay the victims, and there’s often no repercussions for the offender.

In January 2018, the Public Broadcasting System announced that members of Congress or their offices had used nearly $300,000 in taxpayer funds to settle 13 claims of sexual harassment or discrimination since 2003.

There’s only one conclusion to reach: The swamp protects its own — with your money.

Michael Henry writes in Oxford and can be reached at mhenryauthor@gmail.com.