Lois Lerner

IRS Scandal Shows Importance of Privacy Protections

by Phil Kerpen | Townhall.com  |  published on May 27, 2013

IRS apologists are furiously trying to change the subject from the outrageous targeting of political opponents by the IRS to a policy debate over forced disclosure of contributions to groups that engage in political speech. The story is that a deluge of applications forced the IRS to cut corners and the targeting scandal was an accidental result of mismanaging that flood. From there the apologists pivot to demanding a new crackdown on political speech, forced disclosure of donors, or both. But the story is a fairy tale and the “solutions” are unconstitutional.

The Inspector General’s report actually shows applications were down when the targeting began. It shows that 1,735 groups applied for 501(c)(4) status in fiscal 2010, down from 1,751 the prior year. The fiscal year was in its fifth month, February 2010, when targeting began; we don’t know what the standard was in February because it is redacted in the report. We do know the terms “tea party” and “patriot” were used starting in April 2010, more than halfway through the fiscal year. There is simply no way the IRS could have been flooded with applications that far into a year in which overall applications were down.

Still, the policy debate is an important one: Was the Supreme Court wrong when it found that the anonymity of group member s engaging in controversial speech is protected by the Constitution? Considering the revelation in the Inspector General’s report that the IRS looked for “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run” to subject groups to additional scrutiny, the privacy question is more vital than ever.

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