Paul Jacob

For as long as men have held power over others, that power has been abused. It really shouldn’t be so shocking. Yet, what is shocking with this scandal is the willingness of many on the Leftwing of punditry to excuse or even justify this abuse by the IRS.

MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry actually told her national audience (both viewers) that “no one was fundamentally harmed” by the IRS’s targeting of Obama-unapproved applicants for tax-exempt status. Being blocked from organizing, having your rights trampled on for years – across two election cycles – is no big deal, apparently, when done to one’s political opponents.

Detestable jester Bill Maher asked, with adolescent seriousness, “Is it unreasonable [for the IRS] to target an anti-tax group?”

The drag on citizen participation in politics and government caused by the recent scandalous behavior of the IRS is merely standard operating procedure at the FEC. That’s why attorneys Benjamin Barr and Stephen Klein with the Wyoming Liberty Group filed a lawsuit, Free Speech v. Federal Election Commission, against the vague and overbroad FEC regulations that effectively shut down a great deal of speech by grassroots groups lacking big money or batteries of lawyers and accountants.

“We are now at the point where individuals must register and report with the government just to criticize it,” said Barr, the group’s senior counsel. Added Klein, “The government weaves a web of complex regulations that restricts politics to so-called professionals and shuts out individuals who just want to speak publically about political issues and those in power.”

That basic suppression by the FEC can also be applied in a politically targeted manner against one’s opponents, which is precisely what was alleged back in the 1990s. The FEC launched widespread investigations of the Christian Coalition and a number of other conservative or limited-government groups, including U.S. Term Limits.

The Christian Coalition was cleared of any wrongdoing, but it cost the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and created a major diversion. After forcing U.S. Term Limits to produce numerous documents and spend tens of thousands on legal fees, the FEC declined to expand the investigation or to formerly charge us with any wrongdoing.

What supposedly sparked the investigation was our communications informing the people of Oklahoma that incumbent Congressman Mike Synar opposed term limits. He lost in the Democratic Party primary . . . to a guy who spent less than $3,000.

That's the sort of speech the folks in Washington want to regulate (read: stop).

Funny, Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Division at the heart of the current IRS scandal, who last week took the Fifth rather than testify before Congress, just happened to be head of the Enforcement Office at the Federal Election Commission back in the 1990s. What a coincidence.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.