Special to WorldTribune.com
By Matt Barber
Sir John Dalberg-Acton famously observed: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” No federal agency enjoys more power than the “absolute power” wielded by the Internal Revenue Service. It’s little wonder, then, that under this power-drunk Obama regime, the IRS has become “corrupted absolutely.” It’s become the hammer to this president’s favorite nail: political dissent.
The bureaucratic cat’s out of the bag, and the evidence is undeniable. The Obama IRS has been illegally targeting conservative, Christian and Jewish groups and individuals for political retaliation, intimidation and, ultimately, destruction. These revelations have spurred calls for criminal prosecution and even impeachment. Still, little has been said about how to prevent such Stalinist abuses of power in the future.
We’ve been over-thinking the problem. Sometimes complicated questions come with easy answers. I wish I could take credit for it, but while I was participating in a recent meeting in Washington, D.C., Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, hit on the simple solution. “The Constitution is a great place to go in order to rein in the rampant and repeated abuses at the IRS,” he suggested. Namely, the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the following:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
No individual – and especially no federal agency – is above the law. Regrettably, and largely through both citizen and government acquiescence, the IRS has been brandishing arbitrary and extra-constitutional authority, unchecked, for well over a century.
Imagine if the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, or the ATF suddenly began “searching” and “seizing” the “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” of millions of U.S. citizens every year without a warrant – without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion that any criminal or civil violation had occurred. People would be outraged, and for good reason. Such actions would rightly and universally be decried as unconstitutional. The lawsuits would fly, heads would roll and the courts would immediately shut down such “unreasonable searches and seizures.” This is exactly the kind of government tyranny our founders endeavored to thwart.
So why has the IRS been allowed to do just that – to violate, systemically and systematically, the Fourth Amendment? How is it that this one federal agency, with neither probable cause nor a warrant, is permitted to invade your privacy and confiscate your “houses, papers and effects” on a whim? How is it that if you fail to comply with their warrantless searches and seizures, they have the authority to ruin you financially and even throw you in prison?
No warrant? No problem. When the IRS arbitrarily and capriciously says “jump,” America opens its doors wide and says, “how high?” Is this the IRS or the ISS? Either way, it’s time that “we the people” put an end to this unconstitutional abuse of power.
At least some good has come from Mr. Obama’s IRS-gate scandal. It’s exposed the unprecedented depths to which corruption has burrowed its way from the top down. It’s also underscored the autocratic nature of the contemporary IRS beast. It’s unified many Republicans, Democrats and independents around this fundamental reality: America must de-politicize the IRS.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle love to pay lip service to a need for “tax reform.” Well, honorable sirs and madams, put up or shut up. It’s time for a new federal “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” A centerpiece to such legislation must be the simple codification of that which the Fourth Amendment already mandates; namely, that, when conducting “searches and seizures” (aka, audits), the IRS must adhere to the same U.S. Constitution that restricts every other federal agency.
Such a bill, notes Phillips, “would codify as federal law that no IRS audit (or any other agency audit) of a person, organization or business could be conducted without first having the IRS agent (or agent of the agency conducting the audit) to prepare an affidavit that is sworn to in front of a federal judge, federal magistrate or a tax court judge that states with specificity why there is probable cause to believe the audit will result in either the discovery of criminal activities or the discovery of civil wrong doing. It will be the functional equivalent of a search warrant.”
Phillips is on to something big here. Especially when you consider this last minor factoid: The IRS is also the OEA: the “Obamacare Enforcement Agency.”
If that doesn’t send a chill down your spine, then nothing will.
Matt Barber is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as Vice President of Liberty Counsel Action.