Using the IRS for political oppression


He concluded, “We live in a Gestapo age.”

But before we get to that, let’s start at the beginning.

Last February, the National Prayer Breakfast invited the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Ben Carson, to speak.

The master of ceremonies said Carson was invited to speak for three reasons: 1. “He loves Jesus.” 2. “He has a compelling life story.” 3. “He is a distinguished man of science and healing.”

He added: “We hope he can help us sort some things out.”

Brother, Dr. Carson did just that, but probably not the way anyone anticipated — especially the president of the United States, who sat at the head table.

Dr. Carson that day delivered a stem-winder, a faith-based speech that, while not what I’d call a head-on partisan address, amounted to a principled rebuttal of President Barack Obama’s policies. It was, no doubt, an uncomfortable 27 minutes for the president.

Carson’s commentary was delivered in an affable style. A black man raised in abject poverty who become a learned man of science, he blistered the paint off how America is devolving into a state of intolerance, welfare, educational slavery and fiscal irresponsibility.

He started innocently enough, with a joke about a successful businessman who always struggled to find gifts for his mother on Mother’s Day.

Finally, he found a pair of exotic birds trained to talk and dance. He had them delivered.

He called to ask her how she liked the birds.

She said: “They was good.”

“Oh no, tell me you didn’t eat those birds,” he said. “They could talk and dance, and they cost $5,000 apiece.”

To which his mother replied: “Well, they should have said somethin’.”

That launched Carson into a string of observations on the principles of free speech.

In today’s America, the politically correct speech police are out in force, he said.

“PC is dangerous,” Dr. Carson told President Obama and the National Prayer Breakfast crowd that morning. “Because, you see, one of the founding principles is freedom of thought and freedom of expression. And, it muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them. And at the same time keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed. And we cannot fall for that trick. And what we need to do is start talking about things. Talking about things that are important.”

At the conclusion of the speech, Carson became a national story. Liberal writers raised an eyebrow at what they perceived to be an ill-timed dressing-down of the president. Conservatives, meanwhile, called his message refreshing, a message the country needed to hear.

No one can say whether the president really heard Dr. Carson’s message. But someone in government did, because in June, guess who visited Dr. Carson? The Internal Revenue Service. Carson had never been audited before his speech. Suddenly the tax agency was looking at his real estate holdings.

“I’ve been quite, I would say, astonished at the level of hostility that I have encountered,” Carson said.

“The IRS has investigated me. They said, ‘I want to look at your real estate holdings.’ There was nothing there. ‘Well, let’s expand to an entire [year], everything.’ There was nothing there. ‘Let’s do another year.’ Finally, after a few months, they went away. But they’ve come after my family, they’ve come after my friends, they’ve come after associates.”

And Dr. Carson isn’t the only conservative American under strangely timed IRS scrutiny.

Dr. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, wrote a letter to the president accusing the IRS of unfairly targeting his nonprofit groups.

Christine O’Donnell, the former tea party U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware, says she was audited and that some of her personal tax information was breached.

Former Nevada GOP Chairwoman Sue Lowden ran against Harry Reid in 2010. She lost in the Republican primary — and then found herself visited by the IRS.

Even as I was in the process of writing this, a friend forwarded me an email from a man in North Carolina who says that he and his cousin hosted an event for Mitt Romney, and soon thereafter found themselves scrutinized by the IRS.

All of this is anecdotal, of course. But it is beginning to add up, and at a certain point, men and women of good will in both parties must wake up and pay attention to these red flags.

It’s either an unbelievable string of coincidences or our government is, in fact, using the color of law to silence political enemies.

Two things lead me to suspect the latter.

First, Dr. Carson’s story rings true. The timing is so direct, the cause to investigate so suspicious.

Second, in a recent interview with Fox News, President Obama was asked about the allegations that the IRS targeted tea party groups for scrutiny regarding their applications for tax-exempt status.

The investigation is ongoing. From what is known publicly, there is zero doubt that conservative groups were targeted. The only question is how far up the political ladder it went. To compound things, the Justice Department assigned to the case an investigator who just happens to be a big fan of the president. She’s a maxed-out political contributor to President Obama’s campaign.

That in itself is unwise and outrageous. But the point at hand is that the investigation is not complete.

Yet the president tells Fox News that there is not a “smidgen” of evidence of wrongdoing.

How can he know that, unless he has some unholy control over the probe? And how then does he explain his own IRS supervisor taking the Fifth before a congressional hearing?

If there is no “smidgen” of wrongdoing, no one would need to exercise their right against self-incrimination, correct?

It doesn’t add up.

The IRS, of course, isn’t saying a thing about all this.

Let us not forget that these IRS suspicions do not come out of nowhere.

The inspector general issued a report in May that said the IRS “used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status.” Yet the president says there’s not a “smidgen” of evidence. And a few Democrats in Congress want an investigation of the inspector general, not the IRS. Can we get any more like the book “1984”?

Carson likens his treatment to the Gestapo. And it may be.

But one thing is for certain: Something’s going on.

And if you don’t want to be cooked and eaten, you better say somethin’.

(PS: Dr. Carson wasn’t invited back to the National Prayer Breakfast this year.)

Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.