Someone once said “When it rains, it pours.” That statement seems to be true in a metaphorical sense, especially given the breadth of major stories coming out of D.C. recently.
On May 13 it was reported, “The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative’s top executive called a ‘massive and unprecedented intrusion’ into how news organizations gather the news.” An attorney for the AP says the records included all outbound calls which revealed the “the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters” as well as the general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and the House of Representatives press gallery. According to the AP “It was not clear if the records also included incoming calls or the duration of the calls.”
Kelsey D. Atherton with Popular Science reports, “Electronic communications have improved drastically since the legal precedent was set [in 1979], and the amount of revealing data now transferred with a phone call is far greater than just a telephone number. But the law has yet to catch up with technology—which means the Justice Department has access to a lot more than just the numbers dialed by the AP’s journalists.”
Gary Pruitt, the AP’s CEO, said the government sought and obtained information far beyond anything that could be justified by a specific investigation, and demanded all copies of the records be destroyed. Pruitt said, “These records potentially reveal communications with confidential sources across all of the newsgathering activities undertaken by the AP during a two-month period, provide a road map to AP’s newsgathering operations and disclose information about AP’s activities and operations that the government has no conceivable right to know.”
There is something called “freedom of the press” that is supposedly protected by the 1st Amendment, not to mention the 4th Amendment protection from unreasonable searches and seizures. In 2008, U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney ruled that a journalist could not be compelled to answer questions “because his First Amendment right to protect his sources outweighed the government’s need to identify those sources.”
If the DOJ overstepping it’s bounds wasn’t enough to get people to question whether or not government bureaucrats can be trusted to protect fundamental rights, then the news coming out of the IRS may cause people to ask those questions.
It was reported that the IRS had targeted certain groups seeking 501c(4) non-profit status. Chris Wilson from Yahoo News reports, “an inspector general report on the practice found, groups with phrases like ‘tea party,’ ‘patriots’ and ‘9/12 project’ were targeted for the ‘Be On the Look Out’ or ‘BOLO’ list, and often ended up waiting two years for notice on their status.” Wilson further reports, judging only by the numbers of organizations that were approved, “progressive organizations did not appear to receive special treatment compared to conservative ones.” But comparing whether or not certain groups with “political sounding names” received preferential treatment from the IRS is not the real issue. The real issue is with the very existence of the IRS. Why should a government agency be allowed to decide whether or not a person or group is “allowed” to spend their money in the manner they choose? To go one step further, why should a government agency get to decide who gets to collect money without paying taxes?
If you support the idea that everyone is equal under the law, then you believe that no person or group has any more right than any other person or group. Which leads to the logical conclusion that if one person or group is tax exempt, then all persons and all groups should be tax exempt. And believe it or not, the IRS could be abolished, and replaced with nothing, if federal spending were to be cut to the spending level of 1992!