The IRS Claims New Patriot Act Type Powers to Punish Political Dissenters
In a precedent-setting case, the IRS wielded new power to punish the political speech of those who “espouse views” the government considers “inconsistent” with government-held beliefs. In a hearing originally closed to the public in a secret tribunal on a military island, but moved to a public location after protests from the press and the public, the IRS wants to wield this power against a former IRS whistleblower who was forced to resign upon his discovery of fraud in the agency. After monitoring and taping the whistleblower’s appearances on Sixty Minutes, talk radio shows, and political publications where he rebroadcast his findings of IRS fraud, the IRS initiated this inquisition against their former whistleblower. This new power may find new political targets soon enough.
The IRS, through the small office of “Director of Practice,” claims the authority to wield carte blanche authority over all the other powers of government—the authority to monitor, surveil, and eavesdrop on political dissenters, the authority to pry into the private financial records of banks, businesses, and taxpayers, the authority to conduct secret investigations under a criminal grand jury, and the authority to censure political dissenters by branding on them a badge of infamy and stripping them of governmentally-protected licenses. In short, under the guise of a “practice” investigation, the IRS claims the right to wield all intrusive and invasive powers of government available.
A “license” to practice before the IRS—even for people who have never requested such a license or actually practiced before the IRS, but are given one as a matter of law if they are accountants—“licenses” the IRS to conduct private audits without notice to the taxpayer, confer with criminal prosecutors without disclosure, and bring special “disbarment” proceedings against disfavored dissenters, even if the alleged “disreputable” conduct has nothing to do with any “practice” before the IRS.
The IRS now claims it can use these so-called “practice” investigations of anyone who Congress licenses to practice before the IRS—regardless of whether they actually practice before the IRS—to surveil the public appearances of dissenters, eavesdrop on the political conversations of dissenters, benefit from secret grand jury investigations, hold secret conferences with the criminal investigators, surreptiously tap the private database of taxpayer information, including taxpayers who merely have some financial “connection” to the accused, audit the political dissenter’s personal financial records, and use all this information against the dissenter in the “practice” proceeding.
Under the guise of a “practice” investigation, the IRS can ignore all the normal procedural protections against an illicit audit while it conducts such an audit. Simultaneously, the IRS can ignore all the legal protections afforded a person accused of a crime while conferencing with the people conducting a criminal investigation. Indeed, the IRS can even ignore the sunshine laws, as the records of such “practice investigation” are exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, as are grand jury proceedings.
The IRS claims it can exercise this authority in a secret proceeding without allowing a person the opportunity to cure any alleged mistakes, the opportunity to prepare a defense by knowing the exact facts they are accused of, without any opportunity for discovery, without any opportunity to call witnesses necessary for their defense, without any opportunity to cross examine their accusers, without any opportunity to testify at their own hearing about the merits of their position, without being forced to testify against themselves without such an assertion being held against them, and without even an opportunity for a hearing on the evidence.
This power of this little office with a Napoleonic vision goes even beyond the Patriot Act type authority and stories of FBI monitoring of war protestors.
Too Hoover-ish to be true in modern America? Just read the case of the IRS against Joe Banister scheduled for a “hearing”— a hearing where the IRS prohibited Banister from introducing any witnesses or presenting any evidence as to his defenses, and even discussing the sincerity, the truth or the “reasonableness” of his positions—on December 1 in the city by the bay, in the Tax Court chambers of the federal courthouse in San Francisco. History is being made.
November 28, 2003
Robert R. Raymond is the past Independent candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives for Wisconsin’s 5th District in the 2002 elections. A political activist for the past eight years he represents the People for Truth in Taxation Organization. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.