When news broke of the Internal Revenue Service targeting the Tea Party and other groups, it brought back chilling memories for Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz.
"I was one of those people audited four times in a row during the [Richard] Nixon administration because he had his enemies list,'' the famed civil-rights attorney told "The Steve Malzberg Show'' on Newsmax TV.
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"All four times I came out not owing a penny but . . . I had to pay a fortune to accountants to help me through my audit.''
Dershowitz said the IRS, in practice, is supposed be neutral in its pursuit of collecting taxes and investigating those it believes are skirting them.
"It’s never ever supposed to be in a position to do anything but collect money. It’s a scandal if they put the thumb of politics on that scale in any way, whether it be for conservative organizations, liberal organizations, or anything else in between.''
But he said that objective can get buried when human nature kicks in.
"Even if you try to be neutral and objective, if there are groups that are opposing your political view, you are more likely, unconsciously and consciously, to see them as political and partisan and, therefore, to say, well, you know, this is a political group; this not somebody who should be tax exempt; this is a group that’s taking positions,'' Dershowitz said.
"Those people who are pro-life, for example, are more likely to see somebody who takes a position that is perceived to be pro-choice as political.''
He said the opposite is also true.
"I know some liberals have done the same thing. They’ve said that the Catholic Church should lose its tax exemption because it speaks out against abortion. That’s absurd,'' he said.
"I mean they’re a religious organization. They’re entitled to take views on religious subjects. So there’s both an unconscious, which is bad enough, and then a deliberate use of a kind of implicit enemies list or lists of harshest scrutiny groups that are opposed to your politics.''
That kind of thinking should never be tolerated by the IRS or any branch of government, according to Dershowitz.
"If prosecutors go after people because of their political views — and there are some instances of that happening as well — that should be, obviously, something that should never be tolerated,'' he said.
Dershowitz said anybody who was targeted by the IRS has the right to sue for compensation, damages, and legal expenses.
"It was clear that they had been targeting me for whatever reason. And then I found out later they targeted many, many other people like me,'' Dershowitz said.
"And, in my case, I was earning a small salary. There was nothing to target. But they just were harassing and that was happening in a widespread way.''
He said the scandal is not good for either political party.
"What is bad for Republicans to do to Democrats is equally bad for Democrats to do to Republicans or conservatives,'' he said.
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