Can Congress Stop Federal Agencies From Running Riot Over Your Liberties? Yes. – Guest Essayist: George Landrith
News reports of federal agencies abusing the rights of Americans and violating the law have become all too common. It is no longer plausible for defenders of big government to argue that these abuses are simply a few isolated incidents. We have witnessed a veritable parade of lawless abuses from all corners of the federal government.
For most of the last six years, the Senate ran interference for the Administration and the national media largely ignored the abuses of their ideological allies. But even in this dangerous and unaccountable age, the Constitution’s genius divides power in such a way as to limit the abuse of power — provided we are smart enough to rely upon the wisdom of the Constitution.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) systematically targeted conservative groups seeking nonprofit status. But when caught, top officials lied about it under oath, and destroyed evidence in violation of the law. The Administration agreed to “investigate” the matter and assigned a high dollar Obama donor to oversee the investigation. This does not even pass the laugh test and is simply more evidence that the federal government has become corrupt and is abusing its power and our rights.
While less well known, the IRS also sent out letters to donors of conservative nonprofit groups informing them that their donations might be subject to the estate and gift tax. This, of course, has never been the law and donors of liberal groups were not threatened with the imposition of another tax on their contributions. But the point was to discourage donors from giving to conservative causes. This — just like the more well-known IRS violations of law — is criminal. Yet, these deeply abusive and illegal actions are what define the IRS in the 21st Century. Now, the IRS seeks to get the law changed so that the abuses and illegalities of the past six years will be legalized and formalized. This is compelling evidence of how thoroughly corrupt the leadership at the IRS has become.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has asserted regulatory powers clearly denied it in the law. A top EPA official, Al Armendariz, likened his enforcement philosophy to the practice of ancient Roman soldiers who in recently conquered territories crucified random victims simply to instill terror in the populace and gain their fearful cooperation. Let that sink in for a moment. Not in North Korea, but in America, a government official bragged that his enforcement philosophy mirrors the ancient practice of torturing and executing people simply to subjugate the populace to their authority. Interestingly, the corrupt mainstream media said he “didn’t mean his comments to sound quite how they did.”
Even the liberal Washington Post editorial board had to concede that “The EPA is earning a reputation for abuse.” To make matters worse, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson contrived an illegal ruse and a fake identity — Richard Windsor — as her email alter ego so that she could conduct illegal EPA business in secret and avoid both public disclosure and congressional oversight of her agency’s illegal actions.
In the Eastern District of New York, the U.S. Attorney’s office violates the law, abuses its discretion, and systematically denies victims of massive fraud schemes their legal right to restitution while aiding the criminal to keep his guilt out of the public eye making it easier for him to find new victims and repeat his crimes. To make matters worse, the government does all of this in secret and hopes to silence those who seek to bring these abuses to light.
Loretta Lynch who now seeks confirmation as the next Attorney General of the United States oversaw and participated in these abusive and even illegal practices as both theActing U.S. Attorney and then as the actual U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. When asked about these practices in written questions after her confirmation hearings, she dissembled and misrepresented her role in those abuses. These attempts at deception not only show her contempt for the law and the Senate, but also are strong evidence of her own conscienceness of guilt.
The pages of many books could be filled recounting examples of abuses perpetrated by federal government agencies. Some of the abuses are raw power grabs where agencies assert powers they simply do not constitutionally possess. Other abuses involve federal agencies misusing the awesome power of government to single-out and punish political opponents or reward political allies. Sadly, there is now a widespread culture of corruption and abuse.
The sad fact is when power is obtained, it is all too often misused. This is why the Founders placed limits on government and built in so many checks and balances. They understood that power was likely to be abused. They mistrusted government power and understood that once in power, people tend to grab for more power and misuse the power at their disposal. Therein lies the genius of the Constitution — it divides power and builds in many checks and balances.
It would be foolish to trust this Administration to curb its own abuses. At the very least, it is the primary beneficiary of the abuses. And at worst, it is entirely possible that the highest levels within the administration formulated and directed these abuses. Certainly, the unprecedented stonewalling and even the systematic and active protection of those who were caught red-handed in the abuses only raises more serious questions.
Congress must actively use its constitutional powers to reign in the abuses of rogue federal agencies. The power of the purse, the powers inherent in congressional oversight, and new legislation must be used aggressively to punish abusive agencies for their abuses and crimes and prevent future occurrences. Agency officials who violate the law, must be held personally accountable. In the business world, businesses and executives who break the law are held accountable. There is no reason why government should be held to a lower standard than business. Yet, today they are held to almost no standard at all.
If Lois Lerner, who oversaw many of the IRS’s worst abuses, had ever believed that she might lose her home and retirement, and go to jail for systematically abusing the awesome power of the federal government to violate the fundamental Constitutional rights of so many Americans, she would not likely have been so quick to trample on those rights. But because she saw it as a riskless endeavor, she was willing. And so far the Administration has protected her from accountability for her crimes.
Congress must use the full measure of the powers given it in the Constitution to combat the abuses of the executive branch. Things have simply gotten too far out of hand to hope that a few embarrassing headlines will shame these serial abusers into behaving in a lawful fashion. Anything short of aggressive action by Congress will only result in more abuses. That is precisely why the Founders drafted the Constitution as they did — power is divided and shared so as to make it more difficult for power to be abused — provided those who have some of that shared and divided power will act upon it.
But the truth is, in a representative democracy, we generally get what we deserve. So why do we have so much abuse of power? Ultimately, because the people put up with it and actively side with those who champion abusive government. We cannot decry government abuses on the one hand, and on the other, decry those who use our constitutional system of checks and balances to stop those abuses. Yet, that is precisely what the profoundly corrupt mainstream media does. And sadly much of the populace foolishly follows suit.
The Founders expected the branches of government to keep each other in line. Those contests between the executive and legislative branches would naturally involve friction and even some rough politics at times. But that was all by design and far better than settling such disputes by violence or anarchy or by giving in to those who abuse power and trample on the people.
If America wants good government, it must be willing to accept some dynamic and even contentious political battles between the branches. But if the media and the public mindlessly insist that everyone simply “get along,” then they sow the seeds of the demise of their own freedom. And they become the despot’s strongest ally.
George Landrith is the President of Frontiers of Freedom.
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