FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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! 

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 23, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Notes on Inauthenticity in a Creeping Fascist Nuthouse
Andrew Levine
Recession Now, Please
Rob Urie
Mr. Trump Goes to Kensington
Jeffrey St. Clair
Deep Time and the Green River, Floating
Robert Hunziker
Earth 4C Hotter
Kenneth Good
Congo’s Patrice Lumumba: The Winds of Reaction in Africa
Pete Dolack
The Realism and Unrealism of the Green New Deals
David Rosen
The White-Nationalist Great Fear
Kenn Orphan
The War on Indigenous People is a War on the Biosphere Itself
L. Michael Hager
What Netanyahu’s Travel Ban Has Revealed
Ramzy Baroud
Jewish Settlers Rule the Roost in Israel, But at What Price?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Is Environmental Protection Possible?
Josue De Luna Navarro
What It’s Like to Grow Up Hunted
Ralph Nader
They Don’t Make Republicans Like the Great Paul Findley Anymore!
Gary Olson
Whither the Resistance to our Capitalist Overlords?
Dean Baker
On Those Downward Jobs Revisions
Rev. William Alberts
Beware of the Gun-Lover-in-Chief
Helder F. do Vale
Brazil: From Global Leader to U.S. Lapdog
Laura Finley
Educators Actually Do “Work” in the Summer
Jim Goodman
Farmers Need a Bill of Rights
Tom Clifford
What China’s Leadership is Really Worried About: Rising Debt
Daphne Wysham
Saving the Planet Means Fighting Bipartisan Corruption
Tierra Curry
Amazon Fires Put the Planet at Risk
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Decentralize Power and Revive Regional Political Institutions
John W. Whitehead
American Apocalypse
George Wuerthner
How Agriculture and Ranching Subvert the Re-Wilding of America
Daniel Murphy
Capital in the 21st Century
Jessicah Pierre
400 Years After Slavery’s Start, No More Band-Aids
Kim C. Domenico
Finding the Comrades: Maintaining Precarious Sanity In Insane Times
Gary Leupp
“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”
John Kendall Hawkins
The Chicago 8 Trial, Revisited
Rivera Sun
Tapping into People Power
Ted Rall
As Long as Enemies of the State Keep Dying Before Trial, No One Should Trust the State
Jesse Jackson
The Significance of the “1619 Project”
Thomas Knapp
“Nuance” in Politics and Public Policy? No Thanks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and Endangered Species, Wildlife and Human
Mel Gurtov
China’s Hong Kong Nightmare, and the US Response
Ron Forthofer
Sick of Being a Guinea Pig
Nicky Reid
Why I Stopped Being White (and You Should Too)
Jill Richardson
As the School Year Starts, I’m Grateful for the ADA
Seth Sandronsky
Rethinking the GDR
Adolf Alzuphar
Tears / Ayizan Velekete
Stephen Cooper
General Jah Mikey: “I Just Love That Microphone, Man”
Louis Proyect
Slaves to the Clock
David Yearsley
Moral Cantatas
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail