05/17/2013 11:25 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2013

The Tax Man Targeting our Right to Diversity of Thought

Getty Images

The governmental agency with the reputation for extreme and the most practical power over people's livelihood is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They have the ability to take away, garnish wages, and require you to leap at their request. They do not have the ability to regulate your thoughts and political affiliations. Or do they? There is a new reason to avoid the Tax Man. Stunning evidence is growing that they have done just that.

Simply put, this powerful independent agency of the Treasury Department, of the Executive Branch of government regulates, counts and collects beans. How they have become an instrument of political activity is a question that needs to be answered for preservation of our American liberties. What could be the political gain for the tax guy?

We need to recognize the new reality afoot that your conclusions and political affiliations may cost you. The affiliation du jour is being conservative. This may or may not be a new IRS problem but we likely find out soon.

The targeting of almost 500 conservative groups by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) over the past three years is a critical example of American political posturing. It is the jaw-dropping uniqueness of targeting these groups for the purpose of scrutinizing nonprofit applications for tax-exempt status. This has created unprecedented bipartisan disdain that leaves us questioning the focus of this agency, who ordered this, who created this initiative that reeks of tax-exempt bias. It doesn't only reek; it screams bias and possible criminality.

IRS agents, from a yet to be disclosed agency level, were put on notice to be on the lookout for conservative sounding "triggers" such as the Tea Party, Liberty, Patriot, Constitution preservation, government spending, making America a better place, Christian and pro-Israel, bells and whistles. These triggers alerted the IRS "thought police" to go into action. With this criterion, they required applicants to play ball with them, squeezing their energy, diverting funding, and time away from their organization's mission.

According to CNN:

"Among the criteria used by IRS officials to flag applications was a 'Be On the Look Out' list which was discontinued in 2012, according to the report. The criteria

-- Whether 'Tea Party,' 'Patriots' or '9/12 Project' was referenced in the case file.
-- Whether the issues outlined in the application included government spending, government debt or taxes.
-- Whether there was advocating or lobbying to 'make America a better place to live.'
-- Whether a statement in the case file criticized how the country is being run.
-- Whether it advocated education about the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

They delayed their applications and demanded answers to dozens of these intrusive questions that included names of affiliations, contributions, Facebook posts, and emails. Many of these requests for information will be scrutinized for the legality of the data requests. Many, if not most nonprofit organizations do not have the financial resources to create burdensome materials to accompany their requests for tax-exempt status. Many gave up the fight, some spent thousands of dollars to create the responses to the IRS, many were required to provide personal information about their donors and information about those they intend to educate including minors.

This is a clear assault on our rights to diverse views and freedom of association. The reality is that the "tax man" has become a political kind of guy, recklessly targeting the right, ironically becoming their own political machine. Without swift investigation, resolution, and accountability for this IRS scandal, any one of us could become a target based on our political thoughts and association. What we all have in common regardless of our political lean is the rule of law. And the law is clear that we have freedom of speech and freedom of association.

President Obama announced that this situation is "intolerable and inexcusable" and has "directed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to hold accountable those who made mistakes in the Internal Revenue Service's scrutiny of conservative groups."

Senior IRS Official Lois Lerner apologized for the inappropriate targeting that occurred during the 2012 election but claims that it was not politically motivated. Simply put, Ms. Lerner, the one thing that is crystal clear about this controversy is that it is a political intrusion into our affiliations. IRS leadership became aware of these problems in 2011.

We need to demand answers about how deeply infused these issues are in the IRS. Initially it was reported to be an isolated rogue incident but it was quickly realized that there were at least three locations, including Washington D.C., and California, that involved targeting conservatives.

The IRS admits they used inappropriate methods with conservative groups. But we need strong assurance that this type of targeting will not continue and will not expand to other possibly illegal forms of scrutiny. This cannot become a specter, societal norm that the IRS can use to target us based on our constitutional right to free association. Failure to see appropriate resolution and accountability will result in growing sentiment of righteous indignation from all political parties.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan is calling this likely an issue of mismanagement: It's miles beyond bad management; it is about harassment and singling out Americans based on their political ideology. House Ways and Means Committee hearings will begin on Friday. Is this managerial incompetence or a concerted political effort?

We all have skin in this game to maintain our liberties. It is an ironic turn of events that the very issue of inappropriate scrutiny of our liberties is now the focus of the IRS by the public, media, elected officials; even the ACLU has raised its head.

We must remember that the IRS will be a critical component of regulation of Obamacare. Much work needs to be done to assure appropriate compliance with coming attractions.