FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz

shutterstock_363666005

Politicians who limit the effectiveness of government agencies for short-term political advantages cheat taxpayers and short-change the government. I first met Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a brash young Republican, at a gathering of EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center), which challenges invasions of privacy by big business and government. Privacy was not the only issue he championed, having taken stands against corporate welfare programs, bloated corporate contracts with the government and even corporate crimes.

Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – a body with powerful tools to investigate government waste, corruption and defiance of the laws. And he has vaulting ambitions, almost running for Speaker of the House last year with only seven years of seniority.

My colleagues and I met with him and his staff soon after he took over the Committee. We seemed to have found common ground on some important matters, including pressing for full online disclosure of government contracts and leaseholds with private business (above a minimum dollar amount).

Presently, taxpayers can only view a summary of these contracts, which total hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Government procurement reforms seemed an ideal subject for a left/right alliance in Congress.

At our meeting I expressed the hope that Congressman Chaffetz would not imitate his predecessor, Congressman Darrell Issa, the mega-millionaire show-boater who reveled in mostly useless partisan hacking of Obama’s executive branch.

Alas, no such luck. Instead of doing something about the Pentagon’s violation, since 1992, of a federal law requiring annual audits–a law with which every other federal agency complies–he left that massive, nearly $600 billion budget to continue to be mired in waste, redundancy and corporate corruption.

Instead of amassing all the government’s corporate welfare programs and analyzing them to determine what should be cut or kept, he has avoided doing anything about the crony capitalism that his fellow Republicans routinely denounce but do nothing about.

So what is self-minimizing Congressman Chaffetz’s principal passion? Trying to impeach, censure or cause the resignation of the head of the IRS, the renowned turnaround specialist John Koskinen. The Utah Roman candle has accused Koskinen of interfering with a congressional investigation, not preserving pertinent records and lying to a congressional committee.

Koskinen repeatedly provided the committee with documentation for his denial of the charges that he was engaged in a cover-up of alleged IRS harassment of Tea Party and other conservative 501(c)(4) organizations applying for tax-exempt status. Ranking minority member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) laid out his own rebuttals, citing the Department of Justice investigation finding that “no evidence that any IRS official acted in a way that would support criminal prosecution” or that any official, including Mr. Koskinen, an Obama appointee, attempted to obstruct justice.

More telling was the exhaustive, multi-year, $2 million investigation by the Republican Inspector General of the IRS, Russell George, who cleared the IRS Commissioner of the Chaffetz Committee’s charges. Mr. George, a Bush appointee, found no politically motivating targeting of these conservative 501(c)(4) applications, no obstruction of justice and no concealing of information from Congress. Some bureaucratic sloppiness, sure, but that was all.

A more cutting judgement came from Law Professor Richard Painter, former Chief Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush, who said “this is essentially a dispute between the IRS and Members of Congress about the 501(c)(4) organizations that further the objectives of political campaigns, including campaigns for Members of Congress.”

Legal observers say Chaffetz’s resolution is not legally binding and is going nowhere. So what’s going on here is the Chaffetz caper is part of an overwhelming attack on the IRS by the Congressional Republicans–an attack that has turned them into major aiders and abettors of those who are sitting on $300 billion in annual uncollected taxes.

Figuring that the IRS is about the least popular agency in the government, the Republicans have repeatedly cut its seriously inadequate budget from $12.8 billion in 2013 to $10.6 billion this year, with several consequences. You pay more when corporate tax escapees and others do not pay what they owe. Or the deficit gets larger. Or you receive fewer or diminished public services. You are also wasting endless hours trying to get through to the staff-depleted IRS on the telephone with your questions.

The Democrats in Congress somehow cannot get themselves to make the Republicans pay a political price for the reckless strip-mining of the already inadequate IRS budget, further burdened by new laws like Obamacare.

The agency simply doesn’t have enough specialists to investigate global corporate tax evasion; the super-wealthy’s use of the tax havens like Panama and the Cayman Islands, not to mention many phony deferrals, or unlawful exploitations of tax loopholes.

The Congressional Republicans are complicit in shielding $300 million in tax evasion. Were it not for their immunity on Capitol Hill, they could be indicted for a conspiracy to protect big-time tax evaders. Every million dollars in the IRS enforcement budget brings in at least $6 million in revenue.

You as voters can call members of Congress out this November, unless your Republican Lawmaker comes clean and rejects the Party’s wrecking machine.

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail