Letting the IRS Get Away with It
by Mark Steyn
Six months ago, I fell out with National Review and decided to go it alone in climate fraud Michael E Mann's defamation suit against us for mocking his "global warming" hockey stick. That's not a small undertaking in the clogged septic tank of America's "justice" system, so to help underwrite it we introduced special SteynOnline gift certificates and our exclusive range of soon-to-be-collector's-item Mann vs Steyn trial merchandise and we published a new eBook edition of my free-speech book Lights Out. To all of which readers have responded very generously. My only mild complaint is that there has been no significant uptick in downloads of my version of "On A Slow Boat To China". Maybe if I'd re-titled it "On A Slow Boat To The District Of Columbia Superior Court", which is, alas, a far more lethargic voyage than one to Shanghai.
At any rate, ever since our suggestion that you might like to help out in this manner, we've had a steady stream of emails from readers explaining that this is all well and good but it's taxable income and what I really need to do is set up a 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 or 501(c)87 or some such as a vehicle for this campaign.
To which the answer is: well, we certainly considered the possibility, and a few years ago I might have entertained the notion. But not anymore. The National Organization for Marriage, which was founded to protect the pre-revisionist definition of marriage, is, in its various arms, both a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4. As such, its tax returns are publicly available, but not its donor lists. Nevertheless, it is obliged to report its donors on Schedule B to the Internal Revenue Service. Someone at the IRS leaked the donor lists to a man called Matthew Meisel, a gay activist in Boston. Meisel in turn passed it on to the gay group Human Rights Campaign (whose president was a national co-chair of the Obama re-election campaign), and HRC in turn published the list of donors, which was subsequently re-published by The Huffington Post.
There's no secret about why they'd do such a thing. As we know, if you disagree with progressive orthodoxy, you have no right to host a cable-TV home-decor show or give a commencement address at an American university or be a beauty-queen contestant. But that's not enough for these groups. If you're not a public figure, if you're just a Californian who puts up a yard sign or a bumper sticker on Proposition Eight, your car will be keyed and your house defaced. And likewise, if you slip a check in the mail for a modest sum, it is necessary that you also be made an example of. Brandon Eich, Richard Raddon and Scott Eckern all lost prominent positions as chief executives because of their donations. But Marjorie Christoffersen, a 67-year-old Mormon who works in the El Coyote restaurant in Los Angeles, was forced to quit because she wrote a $100 check in support of Proposition Eight.
So, when it comes to the leaking of donor lists, we're not dealing with anything "theoretically" or "potentially" "troubling". These guys act on this information, and act hard, and they are willing to destroy your life for a hundred bucks.
This is nothing to do with whether you support or oppose same-sex marriage. This is about whether you support free speech, public advocacy, private advocacy and ultimately - one day soon - the sanctity of the ballot box, and whether you oppose a culture of partisan thuggery.
So how did leaking the National Organization for Marriage donor lists work out for the IRS? Well, after a two-year legal battle, the Government of the United States admitted wrongdoing and agreed to settle. For $50,000.
After two years in the toilet of American "justice", I can tell you that 50 grand barely covers your tips to the courthouse washroom attendant. It's nothing. The IRS budget is over $11 billion, so you figure out how many organizations' donor lists they can leak for 50K a pop while still keeping it under "Miscellaneous" in the annual breakdown. $50,000 isn't even a slap on the wrist - and this notwithstanding that the IRS, as it has in the Lois Lerner case, obstructed and lied, almost laughably: For example, they claimed that the leak was an inadvertent error by a low-level clerk called Wendy Peters in March 2011. But in February 2011 Mr Meisel, the gay activist, was already letting it be known that he had a source who could get him the info.
As in the Lerner case, the inconsistencies and obfuscations were irrelevant. Like Ms Lerner, Mr Meisel took the Fifth. The NOM asked the Department of Justice to grant Meisel immunity so that he could be persuaded to disclose what really happened. But Eric Holder's corrupt Justice Department had already decided it wasn't going to investigate the matter so it had no reason to grant Meisel immunity. The Fifth Amendment, a constitutional safeguard to protect the citizen against the state in potentially criminal matters, is being creatively transformed to protect the state against the citizens in matters for which a corrupt and selective Justice Department will never bring criminal prosecution.
So, when it comes to leaking confidential taxpayer information for partisan advantage, the IRS got away with it.
A while back, I had an interaction with the IRS. The lady was very pleasant and I rather enjoyed the conversation and the matter was favorably resolved. But at one point there was a certain cold steely moment when she explained what the agency could do to me. And, being a foreigner and used to the considerably more circumscribed powers of civilized revenue agencies, I said: "Hang on a minute, what about due process?"
And she said: "Well, I wouldn't know anything about that."
That's the point I made re John Koskinen's testimony: He doesn't know anything about that. And nor, come to that, does Eric Holder. Indeed, the concept is increasingly unknown to American government.
It's bad enough to accord powers repugnant to core principles of justice even to a non-partisan regulatory bureaucracy. But only a fool would accord them to Lois Lerner's IRS.
Now as a philosophical matter I share Kathy Shaidle's distaste for the 501(c)3-ification of American life - and that's before you factor in the way the system's gamed by, say, Barack Obama's brother making deductible donations to thug pals in Sudan (an application personally approved and illegally backdated by Lois Lerner herself). But what's before us now is a practical matter: No one who treats with the United States Government can have any reasonable expectation of privacy if breaching that privacy would serve the interests of the Obama Administration. Therefore, one should avoid entering into relationships with the government that require one to disclose all but the most minimal information. Especially about other people.
Is my own public-policy dispute - "climate change" - as contentious as gay marriage? Well, Democrat moneybags and Big Climate bankroller Tom Steyer has pledged to spend gazillions of dollars to keep the Senate out of denialist hands this November. Michael E Mann with his 24/7 #KochMachineScaifeMachineDenialistMachine frothing is obsessed with who's "funding" his opponents. It's not hard to imagine, as November approaches, corrupt IRS clerks with friends in the corrupt EPA passing along donor lists to Mr Steyer and other interested parties.
So in my case there are no "donor lists", and there never will be. It is regrettable that only side of the aisle can avail itself of Big Government's emollients and ameliorations, but I cannot in good conscience risk exposing my supporters to the ruination that Marjorie Christoffersen faced. It's not that big a sacrifice. For as Miss Shaidle puts it, in the old days nobody said:
When you buy a SteynOnline gift certificate or a Mann vs Steyn T-shirt or my free-speech book, that is taxable income and a commercial transaction. Because that's the way it has to be until Congress gets serious about re-asserting its powers and abolishes the IRS and replaces it with a constrained agency and a simplified tax code more appropriate to a civilized society.
So I will see off the climate mullahs without any tax breaks. I thank you for your support and, whether or not I'm pledging my sacred honor, I do pledge this - that no information about SteynOnline readers or customers will ever be disclosed to a government agency. Which, if necessary, means I'll be pleading the full John Koskinen - whoops, sorry, I reversed over the hard drive on the way to testify.
The corruption of this republic is a disgrace. As I said, this is not Scandinavian-style statism, but something uglier and more thuggish. The conscription of the bureaucracy to torment the ruling party's ideological enemies is Banana Republic 101. And, until they're stopped, they will do it again.
© 2014 Mark Steyn Enterprises (US) Inc. All rights reserved.
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