The IRS Scandal: A Study in Government Tyranny

JEFFERSON - When the People Fear Government, there is Tyranny by Diane Rufino, April 19, 2017

“The Obama administration and its fronts in the Senate accomplished what Richard Nixon wasn’t able to accomplish, which was the suppression of an entire movement against him. That’s how you steal an election; you make sure your political opponents can’t open an office.”  —  Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, which has sued the IRS to obtain documents related to the controversy

From 2010 until 2013, the IRS, under President Barack Obama, intentionally targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups applying for 501(c) tax-exemption by delaying the processing of their applications, requesting burdensome information from them that was later deemed unnecessary, and by intimidating them into withdrawing their applications. The scheme was intended to intimidate and/or stop Tea Party and other conservative groups from engaging in political activity in the 2012 presidential election and in subsequent mid-term elections. The abuse by the IRS was orchestrated in response to the growing Tea Party/ conservative/ grassroots movement (which all of a sudden were applying in great numbers for tax-exempt organization status and which were donating in large amounts to Republican candidates and elections). The actions of the government, spearheaded by President Obama, were a clear example of government tyranny – using terror and intimidation (the full resources of the federal government) to silence political opposition.

As Rep. Darrell Issa and Rep. Jim Jordan of the House Oversight Committee explained in a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koshinen: “This revelation that the IRS sent 1.1 million pages of nonprofit tax-return data — including confidential taxpayer information — to the FBI confirms suspicions that the IRS worked with the Justice Department to facilitate the potential investigation of nonprofit groups engaged in lawful political speech.”

To date, and there is no surprise here, the IRS and its officials, have escaped justice and punishment. Its aggressive 3-year campaign against conservative grassroots organizations to suppress their first amendment rights of speech, expression, and assembly, and its illegal leaking of private tax information for political purposes, and its turning of the executive branch of the federal government into a thug ring for the Democratic Party has been explained away as mere incompetency and a lack of proper oversight.

The fact that Lois Lerner escaped prison, that records were destroyed in a campaign to obstruct justice and allow other guilty parties to escape punishment, and that John Koskinen retain his job as the IRS commissioner are scandals in and of themselves. Last fall, House Republicans took steps to have John Koskinen removed by impeaching him for his role in covering up Lerner’s crimes, his misleading a congressional investigation, his obstruction of Congress (defying a subpoena), and outright lying to Congress. Unfortunately, on December 6, House GOP leaders managed to derail impeachment, forcing the debate back to a committee for more study, where it silently died when Congress adjourned at the end of the year.

While most believe the scandal and the government abuse subsided in 2013 when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released an audit report concluded that the IRS had in fact used inappropriate criteria to identify, target, and then harass Tea Party and other conservative organizations in their applications for 501(c) tax-exempt status, the fact is that the IRS continued to improperly use its power to influence the 2016 presidential campaign and apparently still has hold-over rogue elements from the Obama administration who are secretly trying to undermine Donald Trump’s presidency. How else could Donald Trump’s tax returns have been leaked?  How else was it possible that Trump’s 1995 tax information was leaked during the 2016 presidential election season to Clinton’s team, just in time for the presidential debates? How can we forget her accusation and then the ensuing political pressure from the media for Trump to release his tax returns.  Remember what she said in the September 2016 debate;  “You’ve gotta ask yourself, why won’t he release his tax returns? And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings, but we have been told, through investigative reporting that, he owes about $650 million to Wall Street and foreign banks. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes. Because the only years that anybody has ever seen, were a couple of years where he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license. And they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.”

And how was it that an “anonymous” package with Trump’s 2005 tax return and tax info was mailed to the New York Times in early March?  [See my article “How Quickly Trump’s Tax Return Story Has Disappeared,” April 23, 2017].  Someone at the IRS, apparently still having the capability of treating it as a rogue agency, committed a felony. And Rachel Maddow of MSNBC, who received the tax returns from the Times and who was salivating over the chance to humiliate Trump, chose to insinuate that our President was the criminal and not the felon from the federal government.

Why do I suggest that the “leaked” tax information during the presidential campaign season and the anonymous package to the NY Times containing Trump’s 2005 tax return came from a rogue element still entrenched in the IRS?  Oh geeeezz, let me see…   All one needs to do is recall the 2012 targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups by the IRS for the purpose of reelecting President Obama.  The thought of someone at the agency doing a similar favor for Obama’s successor doesn’t seem so far-fetched. The tendency to hold on to power is natural.  Machiavelli explained this to us. The link between the IRS and Trump’s leaked tax returns is persuasive.

Furthermore, the history and modus operandi of both Hillary Clinton and Lois Lerner, head of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the IRS and mastermind of the Tea Party targeting scandal, appear very similar similar….  break rules, skirt the law, and then destroy evidence by deleting emails and destroying hard drives and servers. It’s a Democrat thing.  They benefit from the lawbreaking but escape justice by destroying evidence, which is itself a crime. Both used their positions in government not to genuinely and constitutionally serve the legitimate interests of the American people in general, but rather to advance personal and/or political goals. Lerner targeted the Tea Party. And Hillary collected lots of money by making personal deals while as Secretary of State to enrich her presidential campaign.  And then she had officials of the government “provide” her with ammunition (Trump’s tax returns) to beat Donald Trump.  Both “lost” or destroyed the emails that would have proven their crimes.

The New York Times says “someone” sent the documents to a reporter so it has no criminal liability in publishing it. Constitutional law is fairly firm on this point. But as a lawyer, I find that at times it fails to pass the “smell test.” In other words, the policy sometimes stinks!!  How is an ordinary citizen supposed to reconcile this reality:  “If a private citizen receives stolen property, they go to jail.  But if a reporter receives stolen documents, they receive the Pulitzer Prize.”  [Daniel John Sobieski, “Rogue IRS Felons Vindicate Trump.” American Thinker]. To the very end, the Obama administration, through the officials he put in place, used the power of the federal government for strictly political purposes – for the purpose of assassinating the character of a presidential candidate, helping Hillary Clinton win the election, and to further entrench the agenda of the Democratic party in government. The IRS had never ceased serving as the nefarious arm of the political left to target conservatives and lessen their chances in the political arena. And even as a new administration is taking over the federal government, Obama officials still in remaining at the agency are using the same power to obstruct the efforts of a legitimately-elected president of another (an opposing) political party.

Think about this –  Hillary Clinton, as a candidate for president, continued to receive the highest levels of support from the government (including control of the media and access to illegally-disclosed confidential information) even after she had abused that government’s power and prestige and had clearly broken many of the laws put in place to provide transparency to the American people. And, the President of the United States and the Democratic Party (the party having full control and power in government) co-opted all the functions, resources, and instrumentalities of t government, and their influence/pressure as well, in order to help her and to interfere in the campaign of a presidential candidate that threatened their power. It wasn’t the Russians. It was the Obama administration itself.  If this isn’t the definition of government tyranny or the definition of government corruption, I don’t know what is.

It’s about time the American people learned the true extent to which the government had turned on them, had violated their precious liberties, sought to target and silence them, and threatened their voice in government.  This investigation is necessary so that We the People, and conservative watchdog groups, can seek protections to make sure it never happens again.

We exercise the First Amendment so that we don’t have to exercise the Second !!

INTRO — 

We all know how fundamental the rights of conscience, religion, and speech are.  The rights of conscience and religion are the beginnings of thought.  Speech is how we express that thought.

More than that, from a liberty point of view, it is our first amendment right that protects all the others by giving voice and publication when government violates them. It alerts the People to weigh for themselves how much they value their rights and liberties. And then it is the second amendment that ultimately secures all other rights from tyranny in government.

In the IRS scandal, we had the Obama administration using the IRS as a tool of terror, of intimidation to silence the Tea Party –  his party’s political opposition. In theory and practice, it was much like Hitler and his gestapo. Political speech was frozen by government action, first and foremost, and then there were the Tea Party groups and folks who self-censored for fear of having the IRS target them, audit them, and god-forbid come up with some trumped-up charge to make their lives a living hell, fine them, or imprison them.

Why?  Because he was working to win the 2012 election for himself and his party and to win mid-term elections.  In fact, documents released just last week by Judicial Watch confirm that President Obama’s IRS improperly targeted conservatives in order to help him win the 2012 presidential election.

On April 14, 2015, Judicial Watch announced it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the IRS seeking “any and all records” related to the selection of both individuals and organizations for audits based upon applications filed requesting nonprofit tax status.

Political speech and expression is the most protectable form of speech; it was intended to help We the People flesh out ideas, assess honestly and fully what the government is doing, figure out which candidates are best to govern on our behalf, and to see that government operates as best and as responsibly as possible from our end. Our Founding Fathers appreciated the importance of protected political speech from the lessons taught throughout the colorful history of England. We can never forget that the government is OUR government and not the government of a political party. It operates on us, as individuals, in our lives, our property, our revenue, our liberty, and in our ability to live freely. Political parties are merely political organizations looking for power, not human results.

THE IRS and TAX-EXEMPTION

US federal tax law, specifically Section 501(c)(4) of the IRS code (26 U.S.C. § 501(c)), exempts certain types of nonprofit organizations from having to pay federal income tax. The statutory language of IRC 501(c)(4) generally requires civic organizations described in that section to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare“. Treasury regulations interpreting this statutory language apply a more relaxed standard, namely, that the organization “is operated primarily for the purpose of bringing about civic betterments and social improvements.” As a result, the IRS traditionally has permitted organizations described in IRC 501(c)(4) to engage in lobbying and political campaign activities if those activities are not the organization’s primary activity.

TIMELINE of the IRS SCANDAL —

(1)  On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) is a U.S. constitutional law and corporate law case dealing with the regulation of campaign spending by organizations. The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) that freedom of speech prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by a nonprofit corporation. The principles articulated by the Supreme Court in the case have also been extended to for-profit corporations, labor unions and other associations.

All of a sudden, non-profit groups could spend money to engage in political activity and to influence elections. At the time, the Tea Party movement had just taken off, and:

  • Most of the applications to the IRS for tax-exempt 501(c) status were conservative groups, and
  • Most of the money pouring into TV and radio ads to influence elections were from conservative groups to benefit Republican candidates

(2)  Beginning in March 2010, when the Tea Party movement was the rage, the IRS more closely scrutinized certain organizations applying for tax-exempt status under sections 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code by focusing on groups with certain words in their names. IRS staffers began flagging applications from groups with politically themed names like “We the People” and “Take Back the Country.” Staffers also targeted groups whose names included the words “Tea Party,” “patriots,” and “912” (a movement started by Glenn Beck). Those flagged applications were then sent to specialists for a more rigorous review than is typical. (This info, this timeline, came from a draft report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, May 2013).

In May 2010, some employees of the “Determinations Unit” of the Cincinnati office of the IRS, which is tasked with reviewing applications pertaining to tax-exempt status, began developing a spreadsheet that became known as the “Be On the Look Out” (“BOLO”) list.

The list, first distributed in August 2010, suggested intensive scrutiny of applicants with names related to a number of political causes, including names related to the Tea Party movement and other conservative causes. Eventually, IRS employees in Ohio, California, and Washington, DC applied closer scrutiny to applications from organizations that:

  • referenced words such as “Tea Party“, “Patriots”, or “9/12 Project“, “progressive,” “occupy,” “Israel,” “open source software,” “medical marijuana” and “occupied territory advocacy” in the case file;[34][35]
  • outlined issues in the application that included government spending, government debt, or taxes;
  • involved advocating or lobbying to “make America a better place to live”;
  • had statements in the case file that criticized how the country is being run;
  • advocated education about theConstitution and the Bill of Rights;
  • were focused on challenging thePatient Protection and Affordable Care Act—known by many as Obamacare;
  • questioned the integrity of federal elections.

Over the two years between April 2010 and April 2012, there was an increase of applications for 501(c) tax-exempt status – from 1,500 applications to more than double that amount, 3,400.  The government (controlled by Democrats) took notice.  The IRS essentially placed on hold the processing of applications for 501(c)(4) tax-exemption status received from organizations with “Tea Party”, “patriots”, or “9/12” in their names. While apparently none of these organizations’ applications were denied during this period, only 4 were approved. During the same general period, the agency approved applications from several dozen presumably liberal-leaning organizations whose names included terms such as “progressive”, “progress”, “liberal”, or “equality.  Only 3 groups were targeted had the word “occupy” in their name.

Tea Party groups targeted by the IRS for scrutiny and delay were forced to provide such information as:

  • Names, addresses, and emails of all their members
  • Names, addresses, and emails of everyone who has ever attended any of their meetings
  • The names of the donors, contributors, and grantors. If the donor, contributor, or grantor has run or will run for a public office, identify the office. If not, please confirm by answering this question “No”.
  • The amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.
  • How did the group use these donations, contributions, and grants. Provide Details.
  • A copy of every presentation given by every speaker at their meetings
  • A copy of the flyer or announcement for each meeting
  • Copies of all materials passed out at all meetings
  • Biographies of every speaker at their meetings
  • “Provide the following information for the income you received and raised for the years from inception to the present. Also, provide the same information for the income you expect to receive and raise for 2012, 2013, and 2014.”
  • Copies of any contracts the group is a party to
  • Copies of all training materials the group has used or will use with the Koch Foundation
  • Copies of stories and articles that have been published about the organization and/or any of its members.

Organizations were told that if the information was not provided, they would not be certified as “tax-exempt.”  And even if all the information was provided, the IRS would scrutinize it and further delay the application by following up with probing questions. For example, The Coalition for Life of Iowa, a pro-life group, was asked to “Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3). Please explain in detail the activities at these prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your group spends on prayer groups as compared with other activities of the organization.”

(3)  In June 2011, Lois Lerner, Director of the director of the Exempt Organizations Unit of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reportedly became aware of what was going on and directed staffers to change to how they vetted nonprofit applications.

(4)  By the spring of 2012, so many conservative groups had complained about the IRS harassing them that Republicans in Congress took notice. Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) sent the IRS a letter asking why it was targeting Tea partiers, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) held a hearing in which he grilled then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee, over the agency’s treatment of conservative groups. Shulman denied that his agency was targeting conservatives, and the controversy remained quiet until Lerner’s apology (in May; see below).

(5)  In early May 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Michael McKenney, released a preliminary audit report confirming that the IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify potential political cases, including organizations with Tea Party in their names. The final report would be released on May 14.

(6)  On May 10, in advance of the public release of the audit findings, Director of the IRS Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, Lois Lerner, “apologized” for what she termed were “absolutely inappropriate” actions by the IRS. She would then blame the actions on lower-ranked employees out of a Cincinnati office.

(7)  On May 12, Republican and Democratic lawmakers called for a full investigation of the IRS. At a  press conference the next day, President Obama called the charges “outrageous” if true, and said those responsible should be held accountable.  On May 14, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered the Justice Department to begin an investigation as to whether the conduct amounted to criminal behavior.

(8)  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found gross violations. His investigation found that of the 296 total conservative non-profit applications reviewed in the audit conduct in December 2012, no work at all was conducted on them for at least 13 months. Of those 296 applications, 108 had been approved, 28 were withdrawn by the applicant because of frustration and seeming harassment, none had been denied, and 160 were left open – without moving them forward – for more than three years and spanning two election cycles, During that time, the organizations were hit with burdensome questions and numerous requests for more information.

Clearly, the IRS was abusing its power.  Clearly, the Obama administration was abusing its government power to silence political opposition.

(9)  In early May, following the Inspector General’s report, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-OH), began an investigation into the IRS. Additionally, the House Committee on Ways and Means expanded its ongoing 2011 investigation into possible IRS political targeting.

On May 22, 2013, in her opening statement to the Oversight Committee, Lois Lerner stated: “I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations. And I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.” Lerner then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to testify.

House Republicans dismissed Lerner’s invocation of the Fifth Amendment as ineffective, with chairman Issa (R- OH) stating: “You don’t get to use a public hearing to tell the public and press your side of the story and then invoke the Fifth.”  Democrats characterized the contempt proceeding as a “witch hunt” geared toward the 2014 midterm elections.

(10)  In June 2013, the IRS revealed that it had selected political groups applying for tax-exempt status for intensive scrutiny based on their names or political themes. In other words, they were intentionally targeting conservative groups – particularly ones with the name “Tea Party” or “Patriot” or “912” in their name. It admitted that it improperly frustrated and held up their applications. Judicial Watch has recently confirmed (thanks to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act) that the targeting began in 2010.

(11)  In August 2013, Democratic congressman Chris Van Hollen (Md) filed suit against the IRS seeking to overturn a rule that had been on the books since 1959 which allowed social welfare groups to engage in political activity. For 54 years, the IRS has respected that rule and has allowed 501(c)(4) groups to engage in political activity, as long as it wasn’t their primary mission. That rule has been widely interpreted as allowing such tax-exempt groups to spend 49% of their money on politics — without disclosing where that money came from.

It was this 1959 IRS rule that was at the center of Tea Party scandal.

However, more insidiously, the law suit had a lot to do with the greater flexibility granted to groups to engage in political expression with the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision.. This case overturned many previous restrictions on political campaign spending and allowed nearly unlimited and often anonymous spending by corporations and other groups to influence elections. Some Tea Party leaders began forming political action committees as offshoots of their 501(c)-tax-exempt organizations –  501(c)(4) groups – to spend money to influence elections or at least to become politically involved.

So, in 2012, Obama won re-election, although very narrowly.  Tea Party groups were actively speaking out against Obamacare and his bail-out policies, and everything else. And now they have been empowered to continue being active, by the Citizens united decision. Tea Party groups started raising money and pouring money into what is called “anonymous politics” –  not being part of the Republican or Democratic parties. Ordinary citizens, exercising their right of political expression in groups (where there is more power than being exercised at the individual level).

In September 2010, it was reported by The New York Times that almost all of the biggest players among third-party groups, in terms of buying television time in House and Senate races since August of that year, have been 501(c) organizations, and their purchases have heavily favored Republicans….     Remember, the Tea Party movement essentially started in 2009 – 2010.  [CNBC’s Rick Santelli was on the floor of Chicago’s mercantile exchange in Feb. 2009, ranting about the government’s bail-out policy and announced: He urged all capitalists to join him to start a new Tea Party movement].

Between 2010 and 2012, the number of applications the IRS received each year seeking 501(c)(4) certification doubled, many being Tea Party groups and other conservative groups. Democrats became worried. By early 2012, House and Senate Democrats started pressuring the IRS to scrutinize 501(c) non-profit applications and make sure they aren’t seeking the status to engage in political activity.

Van Hollen, who was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, by filing the lawsuit sought to force the IRS to draft new rules requiring that the tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups strictly comply with the section of the IRS code that requires such groups to be “operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare.”  Van Hollen and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to limit conservative 501(c) non-profit groups from pouring money into political campaigns.

Apparently, Van Hollen didn’t like how Democrats were responding to the emerging scandal which had just broken 2 months earlier and was hoping to emphasize the point that under the Obama administration, the IRS was merely trying to resolve the legal issues surrounding political activities by tax-exempt groups and return to the intention of the IRS code for tax exemption – to further social work.

Jay Sekulow and his American Center for Law & Justice, represented 41 Tea Party groups and sued the IRS over what he called “Political Targeting.” He said that Van Hollen’s agenda raises “serious First Amendment issues.”

Sekulow said: “Political speech is protected by the First Amendment.  Anonymous pamphleteering is as old as our country, and deserves just as much constitutional protection.”  He also said: “If Van Hollen wants to change the code, he should do that through the legislative process” and not try to by-pass the rightful branch, the legislative branch, by going to the improper branch, the judicial branch (or the federal courts).

(12)  On January 15, 2014, the FBI announced that it had found no evidence warranting the filing of federal criminal charges in connection with the affair. The FBI stated it found no evidence of “enemy hunting” of the kind that had been suspected, but that the investigation did reveal the IRS to be a mismanaged bureaucracy enforcing rules that IRS personnel did not fully understand. The officials indicated, however, that the investigation would continue.

Disturbingly, in February, while the investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) was ongoing, President Obama stated there was “not a smidgeon of corruption” at the IRS.

(13)  On April 9, the House Committee on Ways and Means voted to send a letter to the Department of Justice referring former IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois G. Lerner for criminal prosecution. The Committee’s nearly three-year investigation uncovered evidence of willful misconduct on the part of Ms. Lerner.   In particular, the Committee found that Ms. Lerner used her position to improperly influence IRS action against conservative organizations, denying these groups due process and equal protection rights under the law.  The Committee also found she impeded official investigations by providing misleading statements in response to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  Finally, Lerner risked exposing, and it was actually alleged (even in a lawsuit) that she did expose, confidential taxpayer information, in apparent violation of IRS section 6103 by using her personal email to conduct official business.

(14)  Two months later, on June 13, the IRS notified Republican congressional investigators that it had lost Lerner’s emails from January 2009 to April 2011 because of a mid-2011 computer crash.  The emails were under subpoena as part of the congressional investigation. June 19, the IRS said that the damaged hard drive containing Lerner’s missing emails had been disposed of more than two years prior.

On July 9, 2014, Republicans released an April 13, 2013 email from Lerner in which she cautioned colleagues to “be cautious about what we say in emails.”

(15)  On September 5, the IRS said it lost additional emails of five workers under congressional investigation, blaming computer crashes. These five workers include two people based in Cincinnati who worked on Tea Party cases.  According to the IRS, the crashes all predate congressional investigations and had occurred between September 2009 and February 2014.

(16)  On September 5, 2014, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released its report on the scandal, finding that inappropriate screening criteria were definitely used but concluded that there was no intentional wrongdoing or political bias in the use of the criteria.  A few months later, in December, Chairman Issa released a new report that found that “the IRS’s inability to keep politics out of objective decisions about interpretation of the tax code damaged its primary function: an apolitical tax collector that Americans can trust to treat them fairly.”

(17)  In January 2015, the US Senate requested that the White House produce all communications it has had with the IRS since 2010.

(18)  On August 5, 2015, the Senate Finance Committee released a report that concluded that management at the IRS had been “delinquent in its responsibility to provide effective control, guidance, and direction over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status filed by Tea Party and other political advocacy organizations” and that it was only guilty of poor planning and oversight.

(19)  In October 2015, the Justice Department notified Congress that there would be no charges against the former IRS official Lois Lerner or against anyone else in the IRS. The investigation found no evidence of illegal activity or the partisan targeting of political groups and found that no IRS official attempted to obstruct justice. The DOJ investigation did find evidence of mismanagement and Lerner’s poor judgement in using her IRS account for personal messages but said “poor management is not a crime.”

(20)  Four days after the Justice Department closed its investigation, 19 members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee led by the Committee’s Chairman, Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), filed a resolution to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Those sponsoring the impeachment resolution to remove Koskinen from office accused him of failing to prevent the destruction of evidence in allowing the erasure of back-up tapes containing thousands of e-mails written by Lois Lerner, and of making false statements under oath to Congress. In a statement released by the Committee, Chaffetz said Koskinen “failed to comply with a congressionally issued subpoena, documents were destroyed on his watch, and the public was consistently misled. Impeachment is the appropriate tool to restore public confidence in the IRS and to protect the institutional interests of Congress.”

(21)  Last month, as part of an ongoing investigation into the IRS scandal and an ongoing inquiry by Judicial Watch, the government released names of 426 organizations which had been improperly targeted by the IRS because of their politics. Another 40 were not released as part of the list because they had already opted out of being part of the class-action suit. That total is much higher than the 298 groups the IRS‘ Inspector General identified back in May 2013, when investigators first revealed the agency had been subjecting applications to long and potentially illegal delays, and forcing them to answer intrusive questions about their activities.

(22)  Courts have already ruled against the IRS.  For example, in 2016, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did so and noted in its ruling: “501(c)(4) groups may not collect tax-deductible donations, but they may engage in relatively unfettered political advocacy, including election advocacy. 501(c)(4) groups range from national organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Rifle Association, and the Sierra Club—to local neighborhood associations.”

(23)  There has been a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch and its investigation into the scandal continues. It has just received almost 700 pages of documents (61% redacted) under the Freedom of Information Act which proves the scheme by the Obama administration to target Tea Party groups into silence and inactivity in political elections. Its current lawsuit is seeking at least 7000 pages of documents related to the IRS scandal that have been hidden from Congress and the American people. The IRS, under the Obama administration, intentionally sought to restrict Tea Party activity and especially in political elections.

Responding to the lawsuit, Thomas Kane, Deputy Assistant Chief Counsel for the IRS, wrote in a sworn declaration that Lerner’s Blackberry was “removed or wiped clean of any sensitive or proprietary information and removed as scrap for disposal in June 2012.”   In a USA Today opinion column, James S. Robbins wrote, “For a scandal that is frequently derided as ‘fake,’ it is amazing how often real evidence disappears. The disappearing act is so frequent, it is reasonable to wonder whether it is really a systematic attempt to destroy evidence of abuse of power.”

(24)  The current US Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, has been asked by Congressional Republicans to re-evaluate the evidence against the IRS and against Lois Lerner and re-open the investigation.  At present, Sessions seems noncommittal on the matter.  Taxpayers deserve to know that the DOJ’s previous evaluation was not tainted by politics. 

TARGETING POLICIAL OPPOSITION IS TYRANNY –

The IRS scandal was egregious and conservatives should be enraged. I would say all Americans should be enraged but judging from the conduct of Democrats, they seem to be fine with anything that shuts up a conservative – even if it means denying their basic constitutional rights.  But an assault on the rights of one group in the end will be an assault on everyone’s rights down the road. Looking the other way while the government violates the rights of certain citizens is a dangerous thing. Allowing the government to get away with it is worse.  Allowing the government to silence political opposition is to put our free society at risk.

As President Harry Truman once warned: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”  [In a Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States, August 8, 1950]

References:

Audit Report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, “Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review.”  Referenced at:  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201310053fr.html

Diane Rufino, “How Quickly Trump’s Tax Return Story Has Disappeared,”  Forloveofgodandcountry blog, April 23, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://forloveofgodandcountry.com/2017/04/23/how-quickly-the-trump-tax-return-story-has-disappeared/

IRS Targeting Controversy, Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IRS_targeting_controversy

“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals: Another Court Ruling Confirms IRS Illegally Targeted Tea Party and Conservative Groups,” CEI.org, November 21, 2016.  Referenced at:  https://cei.org/blog/another-court-ruling-confirms-irs-illegally-targeted-tea-party-and-conservative-groups

Andy Kroll, “The IRS Tea Party Scandal Explained,” Mother Jones, November 21, 2013.  Referenced:  http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/irs-tea-party-scandal-congress-nonprofit-obama

Stephen Dinan and Seth McLaughlin, “House Republicans Derail Impeachment Effort Against IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, IRS Commissioner,” The Washington Times, December 6, 2016.  Referenced at:  http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/6/john-koskinen-irs-commissioner-spared-impeachment-/

David Barstow, Russ Bruettner, Susanne Craig, and Megan Twohey, “Donald Trump Tax Records Show He Could Have Avoided Taxes for Nearly Two Decades,” The New York Times, November 2, 2016.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/02/us/politics/donald-trump-taxes.html

Adam Liptak, “Is It Illegal to Publish a President’s Tax Returns,” The New York Times, March 15, 2017.  Referenced at:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/us/politics/trump-tax-returns-legal-precedent.html

Daniel John Sobieski, “Rogue IRS Felons Vindicate Trump,” American Thinker, March 16, 2917.  Referenced at:  http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2017/03/rogue_irs_felons_vindicate_trump.html

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SAVE THE REPUBLIC! Rethinking the American Union of States for the Preservation of Republicanism

SECESSION - Separate or Die (head, the federal government, is chopped off)

by Diane Rufino (citing Donald Livingston in his book Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century), July 26, 2016

The purpose of this article is three-fold:  First, I want to be provocative and get readers thinking.  Second, I wish to educate the reader on our founding principles. And third, I hope to encourage the reader to read the book Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century, written in part and edited by Donald Livingston, founder and president of the Abbeville Institute.  I enjoyed the book immensely and wanted very much to help get the word out.

I think the best way to encourage one to read the book Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century is to hook him or her using one of the more thought-provoking themes of the book. And so, this article is composed in great part using selected portions from one of the chapters in that book which I found most interesting – “American Republicanism,” authored by Livingston), with a discussion of nullification, interposition, secession, and federalism by myself.  Credit, of course, goes first and foremost to Professor Livingston.

Article IV of the US Constitution guarantees to every State in the Union “a Republican form of government.”  It is known as the “Guarantee Clause.”  It has not been widely interpreted, but constitutional scholars think it ensures that each State be run as a representative democracy or a dictatorship, preventing any initiative to change a State constitution to provide such.  The Supreme Court has essentially acknowledged that it doesn’t have the slightest idea what it means, has been reluctant to specify exactly what a “republican form of government” means and has left the clause devoid of meaning.  Historically, however, republics have had distinct characteristics, namely that its citizens make the laws they are to live under, that there is a Rule of Law, and that the republic itself be relatively small with respect to population and territory, to ensure that representation is meaningful.

The American system of 1789 was not a republic. It was a federation of republics – each state itself a republic – but the Union itself was not a republic. “A federation of republics is not itself a republic, any more than a federation of country clubs is not in and of itself a country club.” Under the Constitution of 1787, the central government could rule over individuals but only under the powers delegated to it by the sovereign States. All other powers of sovereignty belong to the States, expressly reserved through the Tenth Amendment, by the natural law of sovereignty, and contractually by force of the compact theory characterizing the Constitution. Given this framework, the final safeguard for a truly republican form of government for the people in America was, and could only be, some form of lawful resistance to the concentration of coercion in the federal government, which includes state interposition, nullification, or secession. These remedies are included in the “reserved powers” belonging to the States.

Nullification is a legal theory that holds that a State has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that State has deemed unconstitutional. If the authority for the federal government only comes from the highly-contested and debated powers that the States agreed to delegate from their reservoir of sovereign powers, as listed in the Constitution, any federal law, policy, action, or court decision that exceeds such grants of power is “null and void” and lacks enforcement power. Since the federal government will always seek to support and enforce its laws and actions, it must be the States, as the parties to the Constitution and the ones which suffer the usurpation of powers with each unconstitutional action, which must rightfully declare “unconstitutionality” and prevent them from being enforced on a free people. Because the right of nullification is not prohibited by the Constitution (nor is it even addressed), it is reserved by the States under the Tenth Amendment.

Interposition is another claimed right belonging to the States. Interposition is the right of a State to oppose actions of the federal government that the state deems unconstitutional by in order to prevent their enforcement.  The very definition of a tyrannical government is one that imposes unconstitutional actions on its citizens. Tyranny is arbitrary rule. Interposition is the actual action, whether legislative or otherwise, to prevent an unconstitutional federal law or action from being enforced on its people. The most effective remedy against unconstitutional federal action, as emphasized by both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, is nullification together with interposition. Interposition finds its roots in the Supremacy Clause.  While the Constitution and the laws made in pursuance are considered the supreme law of the land, laws (and other actions) not grounded in rightful or legitimate Constitutional powers are not supreme and the States are well within their powers to prevent such usurpation of government power belonging to their sphere of authority.

Secession, like nullification and interposition, is not prohibited by the Constitution (or even addressed), and hence, is a reserved right of the States.

Nullification and interposition were invoked in 1798 by Kentucky and Virginia to identify the Alien & Sedition Acts as unconstitutional and to prevent citizens of those states from being imprisoned essentially for their exercise of free speech and press. Secession was threated in 1815 by Massachusetts after it characterized Jefferson’s embargo against Great Britain and his Louisiana Purchase and then Madison’s War of 1812 as a history of abuses against the North, with an intent to further the interests of the South. All three States’ Rights’ remedies were regularly invoked in the antebellum period, in every section of the Union, to assert State sovereignty and to constrain the central government. As of 1860, the central government was out of debt and imposed no inland taxes. It existed simply off a tariff on imports and land sales. The Supreme Court was tightly constrained in its exercise of judicial review. It challenged the constitutionality of acts of Congress only twice – in Marbury v. Madison (the Judiciary Act of 1789) and the Dred Scott decision (the right of a slave to challenge his status in a non-slave state when brought there by his master). States and localities in almost all States in the North refused to comply with the Fugitive Slave Act (nullification), either by statue or by civil acts of disobedience, and most strikingly, the Wisconsin legislature and the State Supreme Court in 1854 and 1859 outright challenged the constitutionality of the Act (citing coercion of the states and state officials). South Carolina nullified the Tariff of 1828, citing the improper nature of the tariff, changing it from an ordinary tariff (for revenue collection for the government) to a protectionist tariff (to provide direct funding of “improvements” for the North, as well as other enormous benefits), and claiming it was nothing more than a federal scheme to directly enrich the North at the great expense of the South.

Today, it is taught and it is believed that the “checks and balances” in the American system are only those between the president, Congress, and the Supreme Court. We know about the veto procedure, the ratification process for treaties, appointments (including federal court justices) and judicial review (this last check is not in the constitution actually but a creature of the Supreme Court itself!)  The purpose of our Separation of Powers and our series of checks and balances is to prevent the consolidation of power in any one branch of government and any one group of representatives.  But only a very limited number of Americans understand and appreciate that the greatest check on the consolidation of power comes from the unique design feature of our government established by the States and our Founding Fathers in the conventions and debates creating the Constitution – and that is Federalism.  Federalism is idea that real power is shared by the members of the “federation,” which are the States, with the creature they created (the federal government), which is the reservoir of powers expressly delegated to it by the US Constitution.  Federalism is a “sharing” or “division” of power among sovereigns in order to prevent concentration and tyranny.  The idea is that the government, as a sovereign with very limited and expressly delegated powers, and the States, as sovereigns retaining all other powers of government, will jealously guard their sphere of power and will watch, ever-so-vigilantly, the actions of one another.  What more effective check on government power could there be !!  Sovereign versus sovereign, which is what the term “dual sovereignty” refers to.  Or, as I like to refer to this design feature: “Titan versus Titan” (a reference to Greek mythology).  Alexander Hamilton, in a speech to the New York Ratifying Convention on June 17, 1788, explained it this way: “This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them.”

Sadly, this most effective check on consolidation of power in DC has been effectively eroded – mainly at the hands of the US Supreme Court.  The checks from the States on central authority in the form of nullification, interposition, and secession have now been ruled out.  And this is just another way of saying that the federal government can define the limits of its own powers. And that is what the American colonists and ratifiers of the Constitution drafted in Philadelphia in 1787 meant by “absolute monarchy.”

Ask yourself this:  Which branch of government ruled out the essential and natural remedies of nullification, interposition, and secession?  The answer is the US Supreme Court, supporting the ambitious plans of the federal government and improperly relying on Marbury v. Madison (1803) and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution for authority. For a State to treat its decisions with less than full support would bring the full resources of the federal government into its backyard. It’s happened before. Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Rather than interpreting the Constitution, which pretty much is its sole task, the Supreme Court has redefined a new political and government system, one that is quite different from the one entrusted to us by our framers and founders.

When authority taken by the federal government falls outside of the enumerated powers, it makes no sense to ask the federal government to rule on whether the federal government has the power or not. The States, the ones which debated and ratified the Constitution for THEIR benefit, have no umpire on the bench.  As historian Tom Woods points out, if the federal government is allowed to hold a monopoly on determining the extent of its own powers, we have no right to be surprised when it keeps discovering new ones.

So, it is no surprise that the Supreme Court consistently and steadily handed down decision after decision to strip the States’ of their natural remedies against the Titan seeking to subjugate them – the federal government. Again, the Supreme Court is itself a branch of the very government that seeks to benefit from the consolidation of power it wants by weakening the States.  What better way to get the States to calm down and get in line?

Thomas Jefferson was skeptical of the federal judiciary and warned that they had the greatest potential to undermine republican government. In 1823, he wrote: “At the establishment of our Constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions nevertheless become law by precedent, sapping by little and little the foundations of the Constitution and working its change by construction before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life if secured against all liability to account.”

If you believe, as most Americans seem to believe (because of government indoctrination), that States no longer have the rights of nullification, interposition, and secession because of the action of one man, a virtual dictator, Abraham Lincoln, then you must reconcile the fact that no State any longer enjoys a republican form of government, as guaranteed in Article IV. That is, they no longer enjoy a republican form of government under any historical understanding of what such a government is nor under the vision of our founders. That notion has now decayed into a legal fiction.

But if the States are not republics, what are they?  Donald Livingston argues that the answer was given by Alexis de Tocqueville in his assessment of the French Revolution. According to de Tocqueville, the French revolution was intended to overturn the monarchy and return power to the people by creating a republic but in reality, it fundamentally changed nothing. The coercive government of the monarchy was simply replaced by a different type of coercive government.  The monopoly over government and land created by Kings (Divine Right of Kings) is a doctrine that embodies two bodies of the king. This duality is symbolized by this famous phrase: “The King is dead! Long live the King!” The first body of the king was the flesh and blood; the mortal body.  The second body was the monopoly, or the artificial corporation, established by birth-right and familial ties. Both bodies are coercive in nature since they are not “of the people” and can never truly represent them. When de Tocqueville said that the French Revolution fundamentally changed nothing, he meant that all that it did was kill the first body of the king. It left the second body of the king intact, merely changing its name from the “Crown” to the “Republic.” The revolution merely replaced the person of the king with a fictitious “nation-person.” In other words, what was created after the French Revolution was an absolute monarchy without the monarch; a regime that had all the major defects of a monarchy but none of the benefits. The post-French Revolution era of “republics” would increase government centralization beyond the wildest dream of any monarch. The German economist, Hans Hoppe, estimates that before the mid-nineteenth century, monarchs, as bad as they might have been, were never able to extract more than 5-8 percent of the gross national product (GNP) from the people, whereas “republics” have been able to exploit over 60 percent.

In his war to prevent Southern independence, Lincoln and the perversely-named “Republican” Party destroyed the two American institutions that had made true republicanism possible in a region on our continental scale – State nullification and secession. Without these rights, there can be no practical check to centralization and oppression of government, and hence, no practical way to ensure that the People of the several States are guaranteed a republican form of government.

Is it possible to have an exceedingly large republic, such as the size of our current-day United States?  British philosopher David Hume once considered the question of a large republic. He proposed the first model of a large republic in his essay “Idea of a Perfect Commonwealth,” which was published in 1792.  Hume’s model did not physically seek to divide territory up physically into individual sovereigns but rather to decentralize government power so as to preserve the human scale demanded of republican self-government. The question is whether this can realistically be done.

Hume agrees with the republican tradition that “a small commonwealth is the happiest government in the world within itself.” But Hume’s model of a large republic, in contrast to the historically small republic, would be to order the large republic in such a way as to have all the advantages of a little republic. The question is whether Hume’s model is translatable to the real world: Can the size of a republic be expanded without destroying those values unique to republican government (self-government and the rule of law) that require a human scale.

Hume’s idea of a large republic is something of the size of Great Britain or France. (Remember his essay was written in 1792!)  As a comparison, Great Britain is approximately equivalent in size to Wyoming and France is approximately equivalent in size to Texas. In Hume’s model, the republic is divided into 100 small republics, but with a national capital. Each of these small republics is then divided into 100 parishes. The members of each parish meet annually to elect 1 representative. This yields 100 representatives in each small republic’s legislature. The legislature selects from among its members 10 magistrates to exercise the executive and judicial functions of the republic and 1 senator to represent the republic in the national capital. That yields 100 senators, from among which 10 are chosen to serve as the national executive and judiciary.

Laws would be proposed by the national senate and passed down to the provincial republics or ratification. Each republic has one vote regardless of population, and the majority rules. To free the provincial legislature from having to vote on every trivial law, a bill can be sent instead to the ten provincial magistrates in each republic for ratification.

How does Hume’s large republic compare to the “highly-centralized regime” that the United States has become today?  Hume’s republic has 100 senators in the national capital representing the individual States, as we do. But the legislative body representing the nation of individuals is located in the several capitals of the provincial republics. This provides three essential advantages.  First, it provides a better and more republican ratio of representation to population. Hume’s republic is the size of Britain, which in his time had some 9 million people; yet his regionally dispersed legislature jointly yields 10,000 representatives.  [100 x 100].  By contrast, the United States has 305 million people, which is 34 times as many inhabitants. Its representative body contains not 10,000 representatives but only 435 representatives – a number that Congress capped by law in 1911.  Hume’s large republic provides a ratio of 1 representative for every 900 people, and so it is of a republican scale.  This is very important !!  The United States’ system provides 1 representative for every 700,000 people, which is not even remotely within a republican scale.

And if you are thinking that this unrepublican character of the United States can be remedied by abolishing the law setting the cap at 435 and increasing the number of representatives in the US House, you will need to understand that judging by the size of legislatures around the world, 435 is just about the right size for a lawmaking body. Everything in nature has a proper size for optimum functionality. A cell can only grow to a certain size (a certain volume-to-cell-surface ratio) so that it can absorb nutrients, eliminate waste, and respire most efficiently. A jury of 12 is perfectly suited to determine the facts of a case; a jury of 120 would be dysfunctional.  When the first US Congress met in New York in 1789, there were 65 representatives. There was 1 representative for every 60,000 people. James Madison thought that was an inadequate ratio to adequately represent the people in a republic. When the number of representatives was capped at 435 in 1911, the population in the United States was 93,863,000. That means that there was 1 representative for every 215,777 inhabitants. If we were to use the same ratio that was used in 1789 – 1: 60,000 – there would be over 5,000 members in the House of Representatives. This would be impossibly large for a lawmaking body. Size does matter.

So, if the number of representatives in Washington DC cannot be increased as the population increases, then we have clearly reached the point where talk of republican self-government is utterly meaningless.  We are merely a republican in name only. In the not too distant future, the population of the United States will reach 435 million. This would yield one representative for every million persons.  Who could honestly believe a regime under this system could be described as a republic?

The point is that a country can literally become too large for self-government.  It becomes unresponsive to the people because its representatives cannot possibly represent the interests of all its constituents.

If the United States has indeed reached the point of political obesity, then the only remedy would be to downsize. The United States will need to be downsized either through peaceful secession movements or through a division into a number of federative units forming a voluntary commonwealth of American federations – an idea that Thomas Jefferson was fond of.

For the moment, let’s put peaceful secession aside (which would divide the Union into distinct territorial jurisdictions or would create individual, independent sovereigns).  Suppose that the United States adopts such a model as Hume’s large republic. This would require abolishing the House of Representatives in Washington DC (Yay!) and transforming the State legislatures into a joint national legislature. The Senate would propose legislation to be ratified by a majority of the States, each State having one vote.

Consider trying to enact the unpopular legislation passed in 2009 and then 2010 under such a model. Of course, I’m referring to the Bailout bills and the stimulus packages of 2009 and then the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or grossly referred to simply as the “Affordable Care Act’; or aptly named “Obamacare”) of 2010. A strong majority of Americans opposed the bailouts for the monster banks whose corrupt and inept policies caused the financial meltdown in 2009, the economic stimulus packages that they knew wouldn’t work, and Barack Obama’s healthcare plan of some two thousand pages, rushed through after secret meetings and secret deals and with publicly-acknowledged privileges given to some states and not others, and admissions by its leading supporters (Democrats) that they hadn’t even read it.  To this should be added that many believe that Congress has no constitutional authority to bailout businesses, let alone arbitrarily choosing which ones to provide federal aid, nor to impose a national healthcare plan, regardless whether it is good or not and whether or not it would help certain citizens out. Now, had these bills been sent down to the State legislatures for debate and ratification, as required by Hume’s large republic model, their defeat would have been so certain that they probably would never have even been proposed in the first place.

The second advantage presented by Hume’s model is that by dispersing the national legislature among the provincial republics (the smaller republics), he has eliminated the corruption that inevitably comes from putting the House of Representatives and the Senate in the same place. The number of representatives in Washington is 435 in the House, and 100 in the Senate– for a grand total of 535 lawmakers. A majority of this number is only 269. This small number rules 305 million people. And the majority can be even less, since both houses can lawfully operate, and they often do, with a mere quorum. A quorum majority of both houses of Congress is only 135 !!

Consider also that the US Supreme Court, centered in DC, a branch of the federal government, with justices who are appointed according to political and ideological lines – and not for proven understanding and adherence to the Constitution – has usurped the traditional “police powers” of the States, which it exercises for the health, safety (including law enforcement), welfare, education, religion, and morality of its citizens. The police powers exercised by each individual State for the benefit of its own people is the very essence of republican life. Nine unelected Supreme Court justices with life tenure – by only a vote of 5-to-4 – make major social policy for 305 million people. Political issues that are reserved to the States, such as abortion, marriage, and voter integrity laws, have been taken out of the policy arena and magically transformed into “constitutional rights.” This means, in effect, that the Court can rewrite the Constitution at will, entirely by-passing the process specifically provided for in Article V (ratification of any alteration/amendment of the Constitution by a ratification by three-fourths of the States).  Again, to think that five members of a high court can usurp lawmaking authority from the legislature (popularly-elected), can usurp powers from the States, and can transform the meaning and intent of the Constitution from the bench rather than the lawful process specifically put in place for the People themselves to define the limits of their government and we are still a republic is ludicrous.

Dispersing the legislatures among provinces would not necessarily get rid of government corruption, which is one of the biggest problems with a consolidated government. However, it would not exist on the same scale and of the same intensity that we see in DC today. Hume’s national legislature sits jointly in the 100 provincial capitals.  That means that a lobbying interest must deploy a much greater number of lobbyists and over greater distances. In addition, it would be much more difficult for representatives to coordinate with each other to buy and sell votes, as is routinely done in Congress today. With such a large republic, representatives would be more cautious and frugal in spending taxpayer money. After all, the 10,000 dispersed representatives who live in the same neighborhood with their constituents would have to look them in the eye and would have to answer to them.

Third, Hume provides a number of checks to prevent a faction from dominating the whole. If the senate rejects a proposed law, only 10 senators out of 100 are needed to veto that decision and forward the bill to the republics for consideration. Laws thought to be trivial can be sent from the senate to the ten magistrates of the republic for ratification instead of calling on the whole legislature. But only 5 out of 100 provincial representatives are needed to veto this and call for a vote of their legislature. Each (small) republic can veto legislation of another republic and force a vote on the matter by all the republics.

Should the United States be divided up into provincial republics – into a “federation of republics” – in order to provide a true republican form of government to its people?  Thomas Jefferson thought so.  George Kennan, esteemed historian and American diplomat (crafted the US policy of containment with respect to the Soviet Union) also thought so. In his autobiography, Around the Cragged Hill, Kennan argued that the United States has become simply too large for the purposes of self-government. As he argued, the central government can rule 305 million people only by imposing one-size-fits-all rules that necessarily result in a “diminished sensitivity of its laws and regulations to the particular needs, traditions, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and the like of individual localities and communities.”  Kennan passed away in 2005.  That the lives, property, income, and fortunes of 305 million Americans should be the playthings of an oligarchy in Washington that can act by a majority in Congress of only 269 (and 135 if acting by a quorum) and that the essence of republican life – religion, morals, education, marriage, voting rights, law enforcement, and social welfare – should be decided by nine unelected Supreme Court justices is something no free, liberty-minded people should tolerate.

Of course, there is the other option – secession and the formation of individual republics, not held together in federation form. It is said that secession should and must be ruled out because it causes war and it will necessarily involve bloodshed.  But that is not necessarily true. Of course it will depend on the ambitions of the administration in Washington DC, in particular, the president.  We would hope that we should never again suffer the likes of another Abraham Lincoln. But there are many examples of states that have seceded peacefully, including a number of Baltic states from the former Soviet Union. Norway peacefully seceded from Sweden in 1905 and Singapore did so from the Malaysian federation in 1965.  Eventually, if things don’t change and freedom’s flame is close to being extinguished, secession may be the remedy to save the American experiment. Additionally, it may be the only way to save the US Constitution – by putting it in the hands of a people who will take care of it and be much more vigilante with its limited powers and its checks and balances than Americans have been.  When 11 Southern States seceded from the Union in 1860-61 and formed the Confederate States of the American, they, as a Union, established a new constitution. This would be the third constitution that Americans made for themselves, and in most respects, it was far superior to the one of 1787 – they backed out of.  It included several provisions which would have made it much more difficult for the central government to concentrate and usurp power. Had Lincoln respected the States’ right of self-determination (as proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence), we would have had the unique opportunity to compare, side-by-side, how each Union of States (North or South) fared under their constitutions.  The point is that secession gave the People (acting in State conventions) the opportunity to correct the defects in the Constitution that caused them to be oppressed by government. The question will be: when that time comes (and maybe it is already here), will we have the Will to Secede!!  Already, between 19-34% of Americans (ranked by State), now believe we would be better if States peacefully left the Union.

Donald Livingston closes his discussion of “American Republicanism” with this summary: “When a healthy cell grows too large, it divides into two cells. It is the cancerous cell that no longer knows how to stop growing. That artificial corporation, created by the individual States over two centuries ago, called the “United States” has, over time, metastasized into a cancerous growth on a federation of continental scale, sucking republican vitality out of States and local communities. The natural chemotherapy for this peculiar condition is and can only be some revived form of State interposition, nullification, or secession. If these are rejected out of hand as heresies (as our nationalist historians have taught since the late nineteenth century), then we can no longer, in good faith, describe ourselves as enjoying a republican style of government.

American secession

 

Again, I encourage everyone to read the entire book – Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century.  Aside from Donald Livingston, accomplished authors and academics Kent Masterson Brown, Dr. Thomas DiLorenzo, Dr. Marshall DeRosa, Yuri Maltsev, and Rob Williams also contributed chapters.

 

References:

Donald Livingston, ed., Rethinking the American Union for the Twenty-First Century, Pelican Publishing Company, 2013.

Poll:  One in Four of Americans Want Their State to Secede, but Why?  –   http://blogs.reuters.com/jamesrgaines/2014/09/19/one-in-four-americans-want-their-state-to-secede-from-the-u-s-but-why/

Poll: A Quarter of Americans Want Their State to Secede –   http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/poll-seccession

Poll:  One in Four of Americans Want Their State to Secede –   http://dailycaller.com/2014/09/19/poll-one-in-four-americans-want-their-state-to-secede/

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