Political Shenanigans: The IRS and the Tea Party

It’s a dirty little secret of modern political history that John F. Kennedy’s 1960 victory over Richard Nixon very well may have been the result of ballot box shenanigans.

Many in the Nixon campaign thought so and urged the candidate to demand an investigation and a recount. Nixon refused.

The margin of victory of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney in the 2012 campaign wasn’t as thin as that of Kennedy over Nixon, but many suspected that some shenanigans must have occurred.

Given the facts that Obama had taken a “shellacking” in the 2010 midterms, the anemic state of the economy, and the September surprise of the Benghazi fiasco, many thought a can of tunafish stood a better change of winning the presidency than Obama did for winning reelection.

Even George W. Bush’s political architect, Karl Rove, on election night, was completely baffled on how Obama beat Romney.

In the week and months that followed, we were told that the Obama victory was the result of a better ground game and being technologically savvy. Of course what we didn’t know then, but know now is that the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups since the 2010 midterm elections.

As Stan Veuger, of the American Enterprise Institute, and his colleagues report in a new study,

It might be purely accidental that the government targeted precisely this biggest threat to the president. It may just be that a bureaucracy dominated by liberals picked up on not-so-subtle dog whistles from its political leadership. Or, it might be that direct orders were given.

One thing is clear however, “the president’s team was competent enough to recognize the threat from the Tea Party and take it seriously.” And Obama and his campaign had every reason to take the Tea Party seriously. Veuger argued that “when properly activated,” the Tea Party “can generate a huge number of votes—more votes in 2010, in fact, than the vote advantage Obama held over Romney in 2012.”

The data for Veuger’s study shows “that had the Tea Party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5–8.5 million votes compared to Obama’s victory margin of 5 million.”

For these reasons, as they geared up for the 2012 election, team Obama’s “undermining the Tea Party’s efforts . . . must have seemed quite appealing.” And undermining the Tea Party is exactly what happened between the elections of 2010 and 2012.

In fact, the Tea Party all but disappeared in the presidential contest, prompting Peggy Noonan to write that their whereabouts was “one of the great questions about the 2012 campaign.”

We now know where the Tea Party was—in the political deepfreeze. Tea Parties across the country seeking 501(c)4 status to organize and mobilize were thwarted from doing so. Veuger quotes Toby Marie Walker of the Waco, Texas, Tea Party as saying:

“Our donors dried up. [Dealing with IRS demands] was intimidating and time-consuming.”

And the Richmond, Virginia Tea Party spent $17,000 in legal fees and the time of their all-volunteer work force was used up addressing IRS requests instead of reaching out into black and Latino neighborhoods, working on voter turnout, or sponsoring events championing constitutional principles and “the concepts of liberty.” Both the Waco and the Richmond Tea Parties received their tax-exempt statuses after the 2012 election.

“We may never know to what exact extent the federal government diverted votes from Governor Romney,” Veuger concluded, “and thus, how much it influenced the course of a presidential election in the world’s oldest democracy.”

But this we can know exactly: when this president advises us, as he did at the May 5, 2013, Ohio State University commencement, that we should “reject [those] voices” warning “that tyranny . . . is lurking around the corner,” Americans should reject Obama’s voice when he says, “trust me.”


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If you enjoyed this article you can find more like it at derrickjeter.com, where you’ll also find information about my books, O America! A Manifesto on LibertyA 911 for 9/11: Finding Answers to the Evil of September 11, 2001, and Our Day of Dependence: A History Lesson from Thanksgiving.

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