Free elections in the United States are increasingly endangered. The threat comes from a number of fronts, including the use by the Obama Administration of federal agencies to intimidate political opponents, and the increasingly oppressive and biased actions of campaign regulatory agencies.
The most well-known scandal is the action by the Internal Revenue Service to attack Tea Party groups, which oppose President Obama’s policies. Despite the clearly illegal nature of the IRS action, and the mandate of the court to produce information about its misdeeds, the tax agency continues to evade compliance with the law.
Last month, as noted by the Courthouse News Service :
“The Sixth Circuit slammed the IRS for continuing to resist, after nearly a year, an order compelling it to release lists that Tea Party groups say singled them out for harsh scrutiny….The targets of such attention allegedly faced year-long delays in the processing of applications, tight deadlines for responses, and requests for large amounts of unneeded documents. After a federal judge cracked the whip ….the IRS continually shrugged off the court order and filed its own petition claiming that the documents were confidential. Disagreeing with that characterization, the three-judge appellate panel said applications that were accepted or rejected are not considered “tax-return” information, and are not afforded such confidentiality… the decision does demand the documents be released “without redactions, and without further delay.”
Judicial Watch’s Investigation revealed that email exchanges between former Internal Revenue Services (IRS) Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and enforcement attorneys at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) demonstrated that the IRS provided “detailed, confidential information concerning the tax exempt application status and returns of conservative groups to the FEC,” a violation of federal law. Included with the email exchanges were IRS questionnaires to a conservative group that contained questions of a hostile nature.
In its March 16 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court bluntly stated:
“Among the most serious allegations a federal court can address are that an Executive agency has targeted citizens for mistreatment based on their political views. No citizen…should be targeted or even have to fear being targeted on those grounds. Yet those are the grounds on which the plaintiffs allege they were mistreated by the IRS here. The allegations are substantial: most are drawn from findings made by the Treasury Department’s own Inspector General for Tax Administration. Those findings include that the IRS used political criteria to round up applications for tax-exempt status filed by so-called tea-party groups; that the IRS often took four times as long to process tea-party applications as other applications; and that the IRS served tea-party applicants with crushing demands for what the Inspector General called “unnecessary information.” Yet in this lawsuit the IRS has only compounded the conduct that gave rise to it. The plaintiffs seek damages on behalf of themselves and other groups whose applications the IRS treated in the manner described by the Inspector General. The lawsuit has progressed as slowly as the underlying applications themselves: at every turn the IRS has resisted the plaintiffs’ requests for information regarding the IRS’s treatment of the plaintiff class, eventually to the open frustration of the district court. At issue here are IRS “Be On the Lookout” lists of organizations allegedly targeted for unfavorable treatment because of their political beliefs. … almost a year later, the IRS still has not complied with the court’s orders.”
The IRS defiantly continues to seek to use its enormous power to influence elections. A Capital Research analysis reports:
“President Obama’s IRS is still holding nonprofit applications from conservative and Tea Party groups hostage even now, years after the IRS targeting scandal first made headlines. The IRS remains a powerful instrument of political repression in the hands of Obama. Always on the hunt for new ways to disadvantage his political adversaries, Obama is also now moving forward with a fresh campaign of political intimidation against nonprofit groups that strikes at the heart of the American democratic process. Ominously, IRS boss John Koskinen has vowed ‘to have new rules to limit political activities of nonprofit organizations in place before the 2016 election, raising the specter of another major fight over the tax agency and political targeting,’ the Washington Times paraphrased Koskinen saying. The IRS already tried to impose a rule preventing nonprofits from running voter registration drives (which is currently legal if done on a “nonpartisan” basis), but backed down in the face of a public backlash.”
The concept of campaign regulation is also threatening the future of free elections in the United States. It is, under the guise of “taking the influence of money out of politics,” placing both free speech and free elections under the thumb of biased bureaucrats intent on replacing the will of the people with the goals of a politically biased elite.
A CATO examination of campaign regulation noted:
“campaign finance regulations favor incumbents, stifle grassroots activity, distort and constrict political debate, and infringe on traditional First Amendment freedoms. There is little reason to believe that still more regulation and public funding will yield positive results.The framers of the Bill of Rights provided for the First Amendment to keep the government from attempting to limit political debate and criticism. We should recognize the wisdom of that decision and return to the system of campaign “regulation” that the Founders intended: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech.”
An Institute for Justice study concurs:
“the federal government and most states have passed campaign finance laws that blatantly violate [free speech] rights. Sold as efforts to control the influence of ‘money’ in politics, the laws in fact regulate what money buys—political speech—and what it represents for many citizens—a meaningful opportunity to participate in the political process…In short, in America, it is now constitutional for the government to control and even ban political speech and participation. To borrow from Justice Thomas in his now-famous dissent in the Kelo case: Something has gone horribly awry with the Court’s—and the country’s—approach to the First Amendment.”
The New York Post’s examination of the Big Apple’s local campaign finance board concluded:
“Tired of voting? Here’s good news: The city’s Campaign Finance Board might soon do the choosing for you. It’s headed that way, anyhow. Even now, the CFB’s independence is in doubt, as current members may curry favor to win reappointment…the CFB, which pretends to boost democracy … operates as an unelected barrier to campaigns and political speech. In fact, the city’s entire campaign-finance system, which costs taxpayers millions, has proven itself a sham that’s only invited abuse and corruption.”