Outside The Beltway
The Obama administration isn’t the first to face criticism of using the Internal Revenue Service as a political hit squad. Since the advent of the federal income tax about a century ago, several presidents – or their zealous underlings – have directed the IRS to turn its formidable police powers on political rivals.
As President Coolidge’s Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon ordered an IRS audit of a rival, only to find the Franklin Roosevelt administration, later, doing the same to him. President Nixon was caught on tape ordering IRS field audits of dozens of people deemed to be his political enemies. In other cases, a direct line of accountability to the president is not so clear. But whether directly ordered by a president or not, the IRS field audit has long been an option that gives new meaning to the term “bully pulpit.”
Here’s how six administrations played the IRS card.
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