The Internal Revenue Service scandal represents the outgrowth of a long-term effort to quell political free speech, former Justice Department officials David Rivkin and Lee Casey say.
"The unfolding IRS scandal is a symptom, not the disease," the two wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece Tuesday
"For decades, campaign-finance reform zealots have sought to limit core political speech through spending limits and disclosure requirements. More recently, they have claimed that it is wrong and dangerous for tax-exempt entities to engage in political speech."
The Obama administration, they argue, agrees with that view, especially when it comes to conservative organizations. The IRS intensive scrutiny of conservative groups flowed directly from the political and policy messages of the administration and Democrats in Congress, they said.
"The IRS clearly got the message," wrote Rivkin and Casey, who are both now partners at the Baker & Hostetler law firm in Washington, D.C.
"While the agency must be investigated and reformed, the ultimate cure for these abuses is to unshackle political speech by all groups, including tax-exempt ones, from arbitrary and unconstitutional government regulation," they said.
"The remedy is not to further limit political speech by nonprofit entities -- which would certainly raise significant constitutional issues -- but to encourage such speech by imposing fewer restrictions."
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