ISIS’ spokesperson is a kid from Calgary who wants to “paint the White House black.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell asks one question none of the “officials” seem to care to ask: Why? Why are foreigners flocking to the Middle East to fight alongside ISIS? Why is Saudi Arabia so keen on getting involved? How far does Obama really want to go? Find out inside. Read on…
If you’ve ever wanted to expose some heinous crime against humanity, here’s your chance. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell shows you how to make sure the world accesses to your leaks, even if something happens to you. Chris also shares why this is probably a terrible idea. Read on…
America has about 4% of the world’s population, yet houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated. What’s going on here? Chris Campbell digs deep into the industry to figure out the truth. While many blame the private prison industry, the real culprit, says Chris, begins right outside your door. Read on…
When Obama first announced U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, most people have no idea that it was to destroy U.S. military equipment in the hands of ISIS. How did ISIS get U.S. weapons? Chris Campbell blows the story wide open in today’s Laissez Faire Today. Read on…
Every 37 seconds, an American is arrested and criminalized because of one racist and ridiculous law. Join Chris Campbell as he takes you back to when marijuana became illegal… why it’s hurting America… and why you should fight to end the prohibition. And it’s not so you can smoke it. Read on…
Think it’s impossible to escape Obamacare? Think again. Laissez Faire Today reader David F. shares how he did it and how you can do it too. Don’t see another doctor, take another pill, or shop around for better medical insurance until you read his story. Read on…
“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
“Where were you when it happened?” How many times have we been asked -- and asked -- this question since 2001? Today, Chris Campbell asks us to pose a different question: What can I do today to making Sept. 11 another turning point in my life? And then, of course, taking that first step. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
The so-called recovery is only built on debt and printed cash declares our own Byron King. In the long term, the only option for the government to continue financing it's operations is to print too many dollars. Money printing has it's limits, however. It's Byron's opinion that at some point, perhaps very soon, the government will have to turn to more desperate measures. Namely, capital controls. In the following featured essay, Byron outlines 4 probably ways the government will take your cash and one play you can buy through your broker to prepare today. Read on...
Americans expatriate because they want to get out of the country. Corporations expatriate for similar reasons. Clem Chambers explains...
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
The U.S. dollar is the dominant global reserve currency. All markets, including stocks, bonds, commodities, and foreign exchange are affected by the value of the dollar.The value of the dollar, in effect, its “price” is determined by interest rates. When the Federal Reserve manipulates interest rates, it is manipulating, and therefore distorting, every market in […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
The game of speculation is the most uniformly fascinating game in the world. But it is not a game for the stupid, the mentally lazy, the person of inferior emotional balance or the get-rich-quick adventurer. They will die poor.– Jesse Livermore, How to Trade in StocksThe trouble with capitalism’s guardians is that they have no […]
Let’s head back in time…In 2004, a mere decade ago, the US national debt rang the register at $7.4 trillion. That represents “debt per citizen” of over $25,000. You, me, your neighbor, your 4-yr old grandson, you name it and they’re portion of the U.S. debt is $25k.But flash forward to today and you’ll see […]
John Foust, a Democrat running for the 10th congressional seat in Northern Virginia, is — like Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other state Democrats — gung-ho to expand Medicaid. His wife’s position is, shall we say, a bit more nuanced.Foust has slammed his opponent, Republican Del. Barbara Comstock, for her opposition to expansion. He has spoken […]
The midterm election season is upon us, and it’s a tossup whether the Republicans will win the Senate, or if President Obama, seemingly oblivious as conflict flares up around the world, will, through his continuous campaigning, keep Harry Reid in his majority leader seat.The only thing we know for sure is that sociopaths will be […]
Alexander Hamilton was America’s first Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington. When he first entered office in 1789, America was an agricultural nation of just 4 million still broke from its financially costly victory over the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.The states had accumulated relatively massive debts to finance that war, which mostly […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
In the minds of many people around the world, including in the United States, the term “capitalism” carries the idea of unfairness, exploitation, undeserved privilege and power, and immoral profit making. What is often difficult to get people to understand is that this misplaced conception of “capitalism” has nothing to do with real free markets […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
The power to tax has long conferred the power to destroy one’s political opponents. When the latest IRS politicization scandal erupted in May, many commentators talked as if the abuses were a novelty in American history. But, as David Burnham noted in his masterful 1990 book, A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the Abuse of Power, “In almost every administration since the IRS’s inception the information and power of the tax agency have been mobilized for explicitly political purposes.”
The IRS has a long history of trying to ruin the political careers of its critics. In 1925, Internal Revenue Commissioner David Blair personally delivered a demand for $10 million in back taxes to Michigan’s Republican Sen. James Couzens — who had launched an investigation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue — as he stepped out of the Senate chamber. Couzens fought the case, and eventually proved that he had actually overpaid his taxes by roughly $1 million. But the precedent of using threats to deflect oversight was firmly established.
President Franklin Roosevelt used the IRS to harass newspaper publishers, including William Randolph Hearst and Moses Annenberg (publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer). He also dropped the IRS hammer on political rivals such as Huey Long and Father Coughlin, and prominent Republicans like former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon.
Perhaps Roosevelt’s most pernicious tax skullduggery occurred in 1944 when he spiked an IRS audit of massive illegal campaign contributions from a government contractor to Texas Rep. Lyndon Johnson. Johnson’s career would likely have been destroyed if Texans had learned of his dirty dealing. Instead, Johnson survived, and scores of thousands of Americans and more than a million Vietnamese died as a result.
John F. Kennedy raised the political exploitation of the IRS to an art form. Shortly after capturing the presidency, he denounced “the discordant voices of extremism” and, in a passage that could have been lifted from Obama’s recent Ohio State University commencement speech, derided people “who would sow the seeds of doubt and hate” and make Americans distrust their leaders.
At a news conference a few days later, a reporter sought his views on the legality of campaign contributions supporting “right-wing extremist groups.” Kennedy replied, “As long as they meet the requirements of the tax law, I don’t think that the Federal Government can interfere or should interfere with the right of any individual to take any position he wants. The only thing we should be concerned about is that it does not represent a diversion of funds which might be taxable to — for nontaxable purposes. But that is another question, and I am sure the Internal Revenue system examines that.”
Actually, Kennedy heavily elbowed the IRS to make sure that it targeted the tax-exempt status of conservative organizations that had criticized Kennedy or his agenda. The IRS launched the Ideological Organizations Audit Project, which targeted numerous right-leaning groups, including the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade and the American Enterprise Institute.
Shortly before his assassination, Kennedy specified that he wanted an “aggressive program” against the IRS targets. Kennedy also used the IRS to bolster compliance with “voluntary” price controls, targeting steel executives who defied the administration for audits.
Nixon’s tax enforcers
A 1976 Senate report noted, “By directing tax audits at individuals and groups solely because of their political beliefs, the Ideological Organizations Audit Project established a precedent for a far more elaborate program of targeting ‘dissidents.'” After Richard Nixon took office, his administration quickly created a Special Services Staff (SSS) to mastermind “all IRS activities involving ideological, militant, subversive, radical, and similar type organizations.”
More than 10,000 groups and individuals were targeted because of their political activism or slant between 1969 and 1973, including the John Birch Society and Nobel laureate Linus Pauling. The IRS was also given a list of Nixon’s official enemies to, in the words of White House counsel John Dean, “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” Contributors to the Democratic Party were also high on Nixon’s target list.
Nixon’s administration vastly expanded a secret computer database — the “Intelligence Gathering and Retrieval System” the IRS began in 1963 — to sweep up information on individual Americans and groups. By 1975 the IRS had stockpiled data on almost half a million persons and groups; the program was abolished after its existence became known outside of official circles.
The exposure of Nixon’s IRS abuses profoundly weakened him during the uproar after the Watergate break-in. The second article of his 1974 impeachment charged him with endeavoring to “obtain from the IRS … confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.” Congress enacted legislation to severely restrict political contacts between the White House and the IRS.
But the IRS continued its freelance work. After Sen. Joe Montoya of New Mexico announced plans in 1972 to hold hearings on IRS abuses, the agency added his name to a list of tax protestors who were capable of violence against IRS agents. When IRS Commissioner Donald Alexander was challenged on the listing at a 1975 Senate hearing, he replied, “The only connection that I can think of immediately is that Senator Montoya is, after all, the Chairman of the IRS Appropriations Subcommittee, and someone might have thought that he did violence to our appropriation.” Information from an IRS investigation of Montoya was leaked to the Washington Post. Partly as a result of the IRS leak, Montoya lost his reelection bid.
The IRS targets conservatives
In the following decades the IRS regularly sparked outrage by abusing innocent taxpayers, but there was scant controversy about the agency’s politicization until Bill Clinton took office. In 1995 the White House and the Democratic National Committee produced a 331-page report, “Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” that attacked magazines, think tanks, and other entities and individuals who had criticized Clinton.
In subsequent years many organizations that were mentioned in the White House report were hit by IRS audits. More than 20 conservative organizations — including the Heritage Foundation and the American Spectator – and almost a dozen high-profile Clinton critics were audited.
The Landmark Legal Foundation sued the IRS after being audited. Its brief quoted an IRS official who claimed at a meeting that documents revealing the names of congressmen and their staffers who had requested audits were being or had been shredded. The official went on to recommend tactics for masking such requests in the future.
The IRS claimed that it could not find 114 key files relating to possible political manipulation of audits of tax-exempt organizations. The Clinton administration fought vociferously to prevent Americans from learning how it had abused IRS powers. As a Wall Street Journal editorial noted, “The IRS position is incredible. It says letters from politicians asking that someone be audited are confidential tax-return information.”
Bipartisan tax bullying
In perhaps the least recognized media bombshell of the Clinton era, the Associated Press reported in late 1999 that “officials in the Democratic White House and members of both parties in Congress have prompted hundreds of audits of political opponents in the 1990s,” including “personal demands for audits from members of Congress.” Audit requests from congressmen were marked “expedited” or “hot politically,” and IRS officials were obliged to respond within 15 days.
The AP noted, “The IRS computer tracking system in Washington denotes the name of a politician who refers a matter. The original letter from the White House or lawmaker is forwarded to the case agent.” Permitting congressmen to secretly and effortlessly sic G-men on whomever they pleased epitomized official Washington’s contempt for average Americans and fair play. But because the abuse was bipartisan, it evinced little or no interest on Capitol Hill.
After Obama’s first presidential election, conservative groups began mobilizing across the nation to resist what they perceived as his socialist policies and programs. By mid-2010, conservative organizations were complaining of harassment by the IRS. The Obama administration perpetually denied that any such targeting was occurring.
However, a May 2013 Inspector General report confirmed that IRS employees had devoted far more scrutiny (sometimes amounting to seeming harassment) to nonprofit applications that used the terms “tea party” or “patriot” or that criticized government spending or federal deficits. The Inspector General report concluded, “Developing and using criteria that focuses on organization names and policy positions instead of the activities … does not promote public confidence that tax-exempt laws are being adhered to impartially.” Surprise, surprise.
Congress claims to be vigorously investigating the latest scandal, and further facts may come out in the future. Thus far the media have largely ignored how the Obama-era abuses vivify how the tax code allows rulers to suppress political opposition.
This fundamental truth has burst forth only occasionally over the past century — perhaps most eloquently in a 1967 federal appeals court decision overturning the conviction of a leftist Oregon lawyer: “The court will not place its stamp of approval upon a witch-hunt, a crusade to rid society of unorthodox thinkers and actors by using the federal income tax laws” to silence them.
But as long as the federal tax code is incomprehensible to most Americans, the IRS will continue to have vast power over its targets. And we cannot expect politicians to fix the problem as long as they expect to profit from the IRS’s machinations. But, as Alexander Hamilton, later the nation’s first secretary of the treasury, warned in 1782, “Whatever liberty we may boast in theory, it cannot exist in fact while [arbitrary tax] assessments continue.”
— James Bovard
This article originally appeared here on the Future of Freedom Foundation website.