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How Not to Deliver a Political Threat

11/12/2005 03:11 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's a quick tip for those of you who are considering trying to intimidate, browbeat or silence someone with whom you disagree: For heaven's sake, do it verbally. Written threats are just so pesky, and they have this maddening tendency to end up in the press.

Take the IRS's attempt to whup a good old-fashioned audit-related scare into the All Saint's Episcopal Church in Pasadena, CA, as reported in The Los Angeles Times:

" ...a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church ... " [the IRS wrote]. The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections. The letter went on to say that "our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article." The IRS cited The Times story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus."

What I want to know is, what happened to the days when the federales would send some good old boys out to deliver the threat in person? I mean, is it some sort of fuel-economy thing? Is it that they just don't want to put a couple of guys in dark suits into a Crown Vic and send them out to Pasadena to sit with the church folks and bully them into silence the way it ought to be done, face to face over coffee and sandwiches? I know it's a long drive, but it's all freeways and on a good day you can make it from downtown in a swift 20 minutes or so. But I guess that's the sort of personal touch you just don't get any more in government work, and it's darn near untraceable besides -- if the so-called "minister" tries to make a stink, why, you just claim he misunderstood your intentions, or better yet, that the visit never took place at all. Nixon's IRS knew how to do this kind of work, but that kind of stagecraft seems to be a lost art in the Bush administration.

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