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The Crusade for Trump’s Tax Returns Turns Mccarthyist


House Democrats have pulled out every stop trying to get six
years’ worth of President Trump’s tax returns. Their efforts have
been relentless and should alarm every American who cares about the
security and privacy of their own tax documents and the personal
information they contain.

Let’s start with some facts. During the February 7, 2019
hearing that House Ways and Means Committee
Democrats held on Trump’s tax returns, the witness list contained
zero former IRS commissioners. That was the first indication that
Democrats were not interested in actually learning whether or not
the IRS had found any evidence of tax fraud by Trump, which might
have led to a criminal referral to the Justice Department. Indeed,
to date, no former IRS official with knowledge of Trump’s finances
has come forward to accuse the president of tax fraud or

House Democrats’ efforts
are reminiscent of the HUAC witch hunts many years ago.

No experts from the privacy and civil liberties communities were
invited to the February 9 hearing either. That’s significant
because if anyone familiar with the Lois Lerner episode from Barack Obama’s
presidency had been in attendance, committee members would have
been reminded that IRS officials have on their own gone after
groups across the political spectrum for wholly inappropriate
reasons. And who says this congressional quest for individual tax
returns will stop at the presidential level?

Indeed, there is a well-documented history of congressional
committees using tax return data for political witch hunts.

On July 14, 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7933-A, which gave the Dies
Committee—predecessor to the infamous House Un-American
Activities Committee (HUAC)—access to the tax returns of
individuals, groups, and businesses that the committee suspected of
having communist connections. The committee chairman, Democrat
Martin Dies of Texas, misused that authority to hound individuals
and groups that he alleged—never with credible documentary
evidence—to be in league with Soviet Russia. Dies went so far
in October 1939 to order his investigators to raid the offices of the League for Peace and
Democracy to seize not only tax information but membership and
contributor rolls. He later published the names of 600 federal
employees who were League members.

Between 1938 and 1975 (when it was finally abolished by
Congress), HUAC either attempted to obtain or actually utilized
sensitive personal information on American citizens to conduct
anti-communist persecutions that destroyed the professional and
personal lives of thousands of citizens. The irony is that the
current chairman of the Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee,
civil rights veteran Congressman John Lewis, was one of those
targeted for political repression by the federal government.

Clearly, John Lewis is not an evil man; he’s one of the kindest,
most decent public servants I encountered during my decade as a
House staffer. But he and his colleagues are falling into the same
pit of unhinged antipathy towards President Trump that Gingrich-
and later-era Republicans fell into vis-a-vis President Bill
Clinton. Republicans paid a political price for their irrational
hatred and partisan pursuit of Clinton. Now Democrats are
positioning themselves for the same kind of fall, all while setting
a dangerous and civil liberties-threatening precedent.

No IRS official, current or former, has surfaced to claim that
Trump has cheated or is cheating on his taxes. If Democrats doubt
the integrity of the career government employees responsible for
evaluating Trump’s finances, then they should identify and subpoena
them. To date, they have not done so, which leads me to believe
that this is a purely political vendetta against a president
viscerally hated by the opposing party.

No chief executive or congressional committee should have the
power to use the tax returns of individuals for partisan or
political purposes—ever. As I see it, there’s only one way to
ensure that never happens: eliminate the personal income tax and
replace it with a national sales tax. Experts such as
Dean Stansel
Stephen Moore
, and
David Burton and Dan Mastromarco
have made this case for over
20 years. The abuses cited above—from the Dies Committee to
the Lois Lerner/IRS episode—make the move all the more urgent

Any legislation for this switchover should include a provision
directing the IRS to purge all IT systems of individual taxpayer
info, and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) should
be tasked with conducting a back-end audit to ensure that all
individual taxpayer data has been destroyed. Doing so would make
sure the government never harbors tax information that could be
misused in the first place, a goal all of us should share.

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