... The most serious of them was almost too shocking to be credible, but it had to be believed because the officials in charge made a point (indeed, contrived an opportunity) to apologise for it publicly.
It seemed that the Internal Revenue Service – the US equivalent of the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs – had been deliberately discriminating against organisations with the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their titles. In other words, they had been singling out for high pressure audits and super-scrutiny, groups that were thought to be critical of the Obama administration. Those who had spoken out against the President’s expansion of government power, or in favour of tax-cutting, or even those who sought to educate public opinion in what they believed to be the meaning of the Constitution, were interrogated and intimidated in a way that Lois Lerner, the head of the tax division responsible, admitted was “absolutely inappropriate”.
Inappropriate? The only word that would suffice here would be “outrageous”, or maybe “illegal”. The IRS is one of the mightiest federal government agencies. It has terrifying powers over ordinary citizens that our own dear HMRC would die for. And, by its own admission, it had been carrying out a politically targeted vendetta against organisations that were simply exercising the right, guaranteed to them by the First Amendment to the Constitution, to free speech and assembly. (This would be roughly the equivalent to HMRC engaging in a concerted campaign of harassment designed to put Ukip out of business.)
Scarcely anything could be more antithetical to the principles on which America was founded than this abuse of federal government power to suppress dissident opinion. With apparently unconscious irony, Ms Lerner has now invoked her Fifth Amendment right to refuse to testify about these matters before a congressional committee. “Pleading the Fifth”, as it is known, permits a witness to refuse to give evidence under oath that may incriminate him. (Back in the day, it was regarded by McCarthyites as the traditional recourse of the Commie scoundrel unwilling to answer questions about his political affiliations.)Read the whole thing.