Remember Delaware Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell?
She was the Tea Party favorite whose upstart campaign shocked the world of Delaware politics back in 2010.
She beat the GOP-favored, nine-term U.S. Representative and former Governor Michael Castle in the primary election. She went on to vie for Vice President Joe Biden’s Senate seat in the general election, but lost to Democrat Chris Coons by 17 percentage points.
Seems she got an unexpected phone message earlier this year from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in Baltimore.
According to a story reported last weekend in the Washington Times, the message went like this: “Ms. O'Donnell, this is Dennis Martel, special agent with the U.S. Department of Treasury in Baltimore, Md. ... We received information that your personal federal tax info may have been compromised and may have been misused by an individual.”
As it turns out, on March 9, 2010, the very same day she went public with her plans to run for the U.S. Senate, a tax lien was placed on a house she owned. Of course this was publicized to make her look like a tax dodger. Problem is, she no longer owned the home in question.
Ooops.
The IRS later withdrew the lien, blaming it on a computer error.
Now, years later, she gets a call from this special agent Martel guy telling her that a Delaware state official improperly accessed her records on – drum roll – March 9, 2010.
I suppose this could all be just some weird coincidence. And I suppose I could be struck by lightning, buy a winning lottery ticket and be attacked by Chinese paratroopers today on my way to the grocery.
Of course, all this is being “investigated.” But O’Donnell says investigators trying to help her figure out what happened are being stonewalled at every turn.
We all know about the abuses at the IRS when it came to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. But did the abuse reach private individuals like O’Donnell? At first blush, I would have to say the smart money says it did.
Here’s what O’Donnell told the WT:
“I don't know. And I'd like to know. Because whether it’s one, eight or 80 [cases], it’s an abuse of power at the IRS. It’s using the IRS as a political weapon, and that shouldn’t be done.”
Remember Tricky “I am not a crook” Dick Nixon? Remember something called an “enemies list.” Yeah, me, too.
During Nixon's 1972 re-election campaign, White House counsel John Dean met with then-IRS chief Johnnie Mac Walters.
With a wink and a nod, Dean handed Walters an envelope. The envelope contained a list of about 200 peoples’ names.
(OK, I made up the part about the wink and the nod, but Walters did later testify about the envelope.)
This was the enemies list.
Dean suggested to Walters that the IRS should start investigating these folks and maybe even send a few of them to jail.
Walters stuffed the list in a safe and spent the next couple of years warding off criticism of IRS foot-dragging from Nixon aides like John Ehrlichman.
Later on, after Nixon resigned over the Watergate break-in scandal, we all found out what his administration was up to.
He was basically using the CIA, FBI and the IRS to beat down people who didn’t agree with him.
It was pretty awful.
Seymour Hersh in the New York Times chronicled back then how the Nixon’s CIA established what he called “an elaborate and secret domestic spying operation.”
(Back then they were using illegal wiretaps and reading mail. Spying on Americans is a lot easier with today’s technology.)
The NYT reported “intelligence files on at least 10,000 American citizens were maintained by a special unit of the CIA.”
Of course, the government worked hard to cover all this up back then, but it eventually was weeded out by Congressional investigators.
Fast forward to last week.
Here’s an excerpt from the WT article:
Investigators for Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, an influential Republican who serves on the Finance and Judiciary committees, have uncovered one key issue: a backdoor system in which state officials can access Americans’ private tax records in the name of investigating with little oversight or accountability.
The Treasury Department’s tax watchdog has informed Mr. Grassley that at least four politicians or political donors have had their personal tax records improperly accessed through that system since 2006, including one case in which a willful violation of federal law was identified.
But the Justice Department has declined to prosecute any of the offenders. Treasury officials have refused to give Mr. Grassley any specifics on the cases or to describe the disposition of Ms. O’Donnell's case, claiming even people who improperly access tax records have an assumption of privacy under federal tax laws.
Four politicians and political donors? Anybody want to take a bet on whether it was more like 40? Or 400?
And just this week, Delaware state officials told Congress they probably destroyed the computer records that would show when and how often they accessed Christine O’Donnell's personal tax records.
How convenient.
O’Donnell also told the WT how – even before the phone call about the breach of her personal information – she was dragged through a three-year IRS audit into her personal finances. She wound up paying the feds $1,100. Family and friends also were audited and cleared by the government.
As she was considering her U.S. Senate candidacy, O’Donnell told the WT, a prominent political figure in Delaware politics told her if she ran against Castle, the IRS and others would “F with your head.”
I don’t care if you’re a Republican or Democrat. I don’t care if you love or hate the Tea Party or Christine O’Donnell. I think we all can agree that this stuff is beyond the pale.
This sorry episode needs to be fully investigated and the responsible parties need to be held to account.