Internal Revenue Service Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner(C) is seated before testifying to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee May 22, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
I understand that we live in a deeply divided country, where almost every issue seems to pit liberals in one corner and conservatives in the other. However, one would think that news that the Internal Revenue Service conducted an ideologically driven partisan witch hunt against any group would bring all sides together in condemning this behavior. Unfortunately, that hasn't entirely been the case.
On his HBO show "Real Time," Bill Maher said: "Is it unreasonable to target an anti-tax group? This is after all a group that named itself after a tax revolt that wants to abolish the IRS. It's like when a cop gets shot, the cops kind of take that personally."
Peter Goodman, executive Business Editor for the Huffington Post went further, arguing that:
“Lost in the latest political scandal is a simple fact: The Internal Revenue Service was acting in the public interest when it opted to train its auditing power on the tea party and affiliated groups.... [I]n castigating government as the root of all evil while portraying taxation as a form of tyranny, the tea party is no less than a mass celebration of the evasion of the basic responsibilities of American citizenship. Common sense alone tells you that people drawn to its ranks may feel extra temptation to find ways to limit what they surrender to the rogue federal bureaucrats who have supposedly seized the nation."
Let's be clear, if the IRS had only targeted groups that wanted to eliminate the IRS or eliminate taxation it would be an absolute betrayal of the public trust and a total disregard for the rule of law. But let me let you in on a little secret: the IRS didn't just target those groups, in fact it didn't just target Tea Party groups, or even conservative groups, the ideological test applied by the IRS in its targeting appears to be any organization or individual who might oppose the Obama administration's agenda. How do I know this? Because the Republican Main Street Partnership, an organization I currently head, was ticketed for an audit by the IRS too.
What is the Republican Main Street Partnership? Main Street is an organization of centrist Republicans, a group that pushes for bipartisanship and compromise, and that talks about the need not to end government, but the need to make government work.
Originally founded as the John Quincy Adams Society by such 'bomb throwers' as Rep. Amo Houghton (R-NY), Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Ralph Regula (R-OH). Main Streeters have always represented the governing wing of our party. Oftentimes we don't agree with our more conservative brethren, but, on this we are united, this IRS targeting is an affront to all Americans.
Not exactly the hardcore anti-government and anti-tax crowd the apologists for the IRS scandal would have you believe were the only targets of this ideological witch hunt.
This scandal has the potential to do devastating damage to the Obama Presidency. It is a scandal that average Americans - most of whom live in fear of an IRS audit - can wrap their heads around. Not only do average Americans understand the scandal, it also touches a nerve with voters because it challenges one of the basic assumptions made in our democratic form of government: namely that we are a nation of laws.
On the night Gerald Ford ascended to the Presidency after the Watergate scandal forced the resignation of President Nixon, Ford addressed the American people:
My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.
I am not suggesting that the IRS scandal is another Watergate, nor am I suggesting that it will bring down this Presidency. What I am suggesting, is that it is serious, indeed it represents a deadly breach of the public trust.
At a time when our nation is facing serious challenges we need a Washington that can work together to find solutions, not a Washington consumed by scandal and certainly not a Washington that no longer enjoys the faith of the American electorate.
Apologists for the shameful behavior of the IRS are not doing President Obama or the country any favors. We need a thorough accounting of what happened here, we need protections put in place to make sure it never happens again, and we need those who have abused the public trust to be held accountable.