ACRU

Cleaning Up the Swamp

Capitol building - low perspective

This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 9, 2017 by The Washington Times.

Less than three months into the Trump administration, the grand battle over the size, scope and purpose of the federal government is beginning.

The seating of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch will return the U.S. Supreme Court to a full complement and, it is hoped, respect for constitutional limitations on power —- including its own.

In the executive agencies, newly seated directors need to wield their own versions of the nuclear option to undo what eight years of Obamanista rule inflicted on the nation.

Since tax week is around the corner, let’s start with the Internal Revenue Service. Caught red-handed persecuting tea parties and other conservative nonprofits in order to aid President Obama’s re-election in 2012, IRS officials have yet to face any justice.

Lois Lerner, head of the division that did the dirty deeds, has retired with full pension. John Koskinen, a major Democratic donor on whose watch thousands of Ms. Lerner’s emails mysteriously vanished, is still IRS commissioner. Something needs to give here.

The IRS is long overdue for a housecleaning. Thousands of IRS employees who cheated on their own taxes were given a pass. Conservative groups and individuals were singled out for audits.

A new inspector general’s report has found that the IRS routinely seized millions of dollars from legitimate businesses between 2012 and 2015 simply based on the business people’s practice of making bank deposits of less than $10,000 to avoid onerous paperwork. This guilty-until-proven-innocent scheme of the IRS victimized countless small business people, some of whom didn’t recover what was seized even after being cleared of any criminal activity.

A random sample of 276 forfeiture cases found that 91 percent of the businesses had made their money legally. The only trigger was the amount of the deposits. Even more damning, the report said that agents preferred to target hapless business owners because these “quick hits” were easier than going after real criminals.

Now, doesn’t that make you feel warm and fuzzy about your own government? The Trump administration needs to rein in this most dangerous of rogue agencies.

At the Environmental Protection Agency, ruthless Obamacrats abused various federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act to advance a green agenda while subsidizing green cronies who returned the favor with heavy donations to Democrat coffers. They also conducted human experiments with allegedly deadly pollutants, and harassed countless Americans who ran afoul of their constantly changing guidelines.

On Feb. 28, President Trump signed an executive order directing the EPA to review its regulations, which should help end such abuses. He also has moved to reverse punitive regulations such as the Clean Power Plan that Obamacrats issued precisely to put the coal industry out of business. The idea is not to free up polluters. The laws enacted decades ago have done much to clean up our air and waterways. The Trump orders’ intent is to protect innocent landowners from what amounts to taking of their property without due process and to unshackle America’s energy and manufacturing industries from excessive regulation.

One of the biggest house-cleanings is due at the Justice Department, which Eric H. Holder Jr. had turned into a partisan, racially-motivated bully.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions began smartly by asking for the resignations of all remaining U.S. attorneys appointed by Mr. Obama. Now he needs to ferret out the agency’s left wing moles.
In late March, 25 civil rights attorneys, organization leaders, authors and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach sent a letter to Mr. Sessions imploring him to clean up the Civil Rights Division and the Voting Section in particular.

“During the Obama administration, the Division served purely ideological ends,” the letter said. Many of the abuses came under Thomas E. Perez, who now chairs the Democratic National Committee.

To end “partisan gamesmanship,” the letter offers these reforms: returning to “race-neutral Voting Rights Act enforcement that seeks to block discriminatory policies and procedures based on demonstrable impacts rather than mere statistical analysis”; to stop opposing state photo voter ID laws, citizenship verification in voter registration, and “common-sense adjustments to early voting periods”; to prosecute voter intimidation and to enforce Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act requiring accurate voter rolls.

In short, this means turning the Justice Department back into a non-partisan, chief enforcer of the nation’s laws.

None of this will be easy. Deep State Obama leftovers will do their best to dispense “shocking” leaks to their media allies that will elicit mob action in the streets. The sky will always be falling.

The Trump team needs to insert earplugs, tune out much of the media, and put the pedal to the metal.