An official with the Internal Revenue Service has admitted
that legal opponents of former President Bill Clinton were singled out for tax
audits, according to court documents made public this week.
"What do you expect when you sue the president?" senior IRS official Paul Breslan told Judicial Watch, the Washington-based legal watchdog group that had filed 50-plus legal actions against the Clinton administration and subsequently found itself in the IRS's cross hairs.
Breslan's quote is cited in Judicial Watch's complaint against the tax agency, based on a host of what look to be politically inspired audits that make the worst abuses of the Nixon administration appear puny by comparison.
"There were literally six witnesses in the room when Breslan told us we should have expected an audit," Judicial Watch Chairman Larry Klayman revealed to NewsMax.com. "Four of them were lawyers."
The legal group became the target of an IRS audit in 1998, just four days after it filed an independent impeachment report against Clinton, based on years of investigation into everything from Chinagate to the Paula Jones case.
But Judicial Watch wasn't alone. Witnesses bearing damaging testimony against the president were a favorite target of the Clinton IRS. Those singled out for audits include:
Clinton paramours Gennifer Flowers and Liz Ward Gracen, sexual assault accusers Paula Jones and Juanita Broaddrick, and fired White House Travel Office Director Billy Dale.
The Jones case, which would eventually lead to Clinton's impeachment, was of particular interest to the IRS, which apparently leaked her confidential tax returns to the late New York Daily News reporter Lars Erik Nelson.
In a September 1997 column Nelson revealed details from Jones' filing to bolster claims that she was profiting from her sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton.
In a subsequent interview with NewsMax.com's Carl Limbacher (then with the Washington Weekly), Nelson insisted somewhat implausibly that a "friend" of Jones had come across her tax return during a visit to her home and decided to go public with the secrets.
Quite an Enemies List
As the Judicial Watch complaint notes, the Clinton IRS also went after organizations and even media companies it perceived as politically hostile, including:
The National Rifle Association, The Heritage Foundation, The National Review, The American Spectator, Freedom Alliance, National Center for Public Policy Research, American Policy Center, American Cause, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for Honest Government, Progress and Freedom Foundation, Concerned Women for America and the San Diego Chapter of Christian Coalition.
Fox News Channel analyst Bill O'Reilly, a frequent critic of Bill and Hillary Clinton, has also pointed out how the IRS has repeatedly audited him.
The political nature of the Judicial Watch's audit seems particularly blatant.
"The IRS asked for our political affiliations in the first notice of audit," Klayman told NewsMax.
When he questioned why auditors wanted to know about the group's political ties, an IRS district director said the information had been deemed "relevant."
Worse still, each time Judicial Watch seemed to make legal headway against the White House, the IRS ratcheted up the pressure.
"When we would accomplish something big, like the criminal finding by Judge Royce Lamberth against Clinton in the Kathleen Willey Privacy Act case, our lawyers would get a call saying, 'We just want you to know that Judicial Watch is still on the IRS's radar screen,'" Klayman said.
"The same thing happened when we revealed the White House e-mail scandal," he added.
Shockingly, the IRS's intimidation tactics continue into the Bush administration, which has failed to sack Clinton's IRS Commissioner Charles Rosotti.
After Judicial Watch won the release of thousands of pages of documents from Vice President Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force last month, a badge-wearing IRS agent showed up at the group's offices.
A personal meeting between Klayman and Bush Justice Department Criminal Division chief Michael Chertoff, who led the Senate investigation into the Clintons' Whitewater abuses, failed to yield any interest in pursuing IRS abuses, which now threaten to tarnish the Bush administration.
When noted columnist Robert Novak inquired of the Justice Department about Judicial Watch's IRS complaint, he was told by a department official, "I don't know what we are going to do with this Klayman."
"When we were told that we were being audited because we sued Bill Clinton, we had no choice but to stand up and fight in court," Klayman said. "By leaving Charles Rossotti as IRS commissioner, Bush obviously is sending a signal that political audits are fine with him."