When Government Intimidates Using An Enemy List

I am not a conspiracy theorist. So much so that I’ve never even given credence to the grassy knoll shooter theory surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, despite knowing full well how near impossible it was for Lee Harvey Oswald to be a lone gunman. But in light of what has been revealed regarding the IRS targeting conservative groups requesting to obtain 501(c)(4) status, I believe it is a certainty that at some level of government, there was a list compiled for the purposes of flagging applicants with political leanings counter to those of the executive branch. And I don’t believe it was low or or mid-level bureaucrats who produced such a list.

Back in February Ted Olson, former US Solicitor General and counsel for Charles and David Koch, wrote the following in The Wall Street Journal:

How would you feel if aides to the president of the United States singled you out by name for attack, and if you were featured prominently in the president’s re-election campaign as an enemy of the people?


What would you do if the White House engaged in derogatory speculative innuendo about the integrity of your tax returns? Suppose also that the president’s surrogates and allies in the media regularly attacked you, sullied your reputation, and questioned your integrity. On top of all of that, what if a leading member of the president’s party in Congress demanded your appearance before a congressional committee this week so that you could be interrogated about the Keystone XL oil pipeline project in which you have repeatedly—and accurately—stated that you have no involvement?


Consider that all this is happening because you have been selected as an attractive political punching bag by the president’s re-election team. This is precisely what has happened to Charles and David Koch, even though they are private citizens, and neither is a candidate for the president’s or anyone else’s office.


It’s common knowledge that the left has made the Koch Brothers out to be evil villains for doing nothing more than having their wealth and supporting conservative causes. In all honesty, when I read Olsen’s piece in February I thought it was a stretch. I can see where the Koch Brothers would tire of being made out to be rightwing villains but Obama questioning their tax returns sounded like conspirator rhetoric to me.

But in light of the nefarious actions by the IRS, I now view Olsen’s claims through a new lens — and it chills me to think of the ramifications of our government possibly compiling enemy lists.

This is not the first time people have been singled out by the government in an attempt to intimidate them. In 1971, Americans were introduced to President Richard Nixon’s “enemies list.” Nixon had instructed his staff to keep a list of political opponents and, as then-White House Counsel John Dean described it, they would then “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”  On Nixon’s list were notable figures such as Paul Newman (actor); Charles Dyson (businessman); Rep. John Conyers (D-MI); NPR newsman Daniel Schorr; Morton Halperin, a foreign policy expert and father to political journalist Mark Halperin; and others. The secret list was the subject of justifiable scorn when it was unearthed in the mist of the Watergate scandal.

While some mainstream network reporters have already gone so far as to call the actions of the Obama administration “Nixonian,” I think more digging is required before that conclusion is made. However, I do believe the culture of intimidation long ago created by this administration is toxic and provides rationalization for bureaucrats to go after perceived enemies of the President.

When government creates enemy lists to intimidate people through an organization as feared as the IRS, trust in our Republic begins to decay. It is imperative that Congress not grandstand, that Republicans not overreach, and that Democrats not go into damage control mode. This would allow for a bipartisan solution to ridding the IRS of the corrupt actors who directed the targeting of conservative groups.

I submit that the last time our country was this partisan was during and toward the end of the Vietnam War era. Today, like in the late 1960s and early 1970s, accusations are being made against both major parties and everyday Americans don’t know what to believe. Factor in an agency like the IRS targeting people based on their ideology and a myriad of conspiracy theories seem plausible. Obviously that is not a healthy state for our country’s well-being or morale.

While watching the IRS Congressional hearings, it’s obvious that outgoing IRS commissioner Steven Miller’s strategy is one of obfuscation. Finding the truth is not going to be easy, but Congress can make life miserable for enough of these bureaucrats to make examples of them for others considering similar malfeasance — and to stop the decaying trust in government.

When government uses an enemy list to intimidate a particular group of citizens, the entire country is adversely affected.