McConnell: 'Culture of Intimidation' Fueled IRS Scandal

Sunday, 19 May 2013 11:38 AM

By Greg Richter

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The White House might not have commanded Internal Revenue agents to target conservative groups, but a "culture of intimidation throughout the administration" made them think it was acceptable, says Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Department of Health and Human Services, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission all have targeted groups with a right-wing bent, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said on "Meet the Press" Sunday.

"What we're talking about here is an attitude that the government knows best," McConnell said. "The nanny state is here to tell us all what to do, and if you start criticizing you get targeted."

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The IRS admitted that agents singled out groups with "tea party," "patriot" and other conservative key words for additional scrutiny when they applied for 501(c)(4) status over the past two years. The status allows the groups not to pay taxes, keep their donor lists private, and engage in some political activity as long as it is not the group's main focus.

A clip of McConnell on C-SPAN from June 11, 1987 showed him critical of such groups at the time, when he feared liberal organizations could use the status to hide donors who were contributing to political causes. Now, it is clear that the federal government is trying to target people on donor lists to shut them up, McConnell said.

"I was wrong 25 years ago; I've been right for the last two decades," McConnell said. "The government should not be trying to intimidate citizens who criticize the government from exercising their First Amendment rights."

Despite the trio of scandals besetting the White House, McConnell predicts Obamacare will be big issue in 2014 midterms – partly because the IRS will have a hand in the health care law's implementation.

"If we had the opportunity to do it we ought to pull it out root and branch," McConnell said. "Single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in modern times."

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