by IBD Editorial Staff     •     Investor’s Business Daily

After a year’s stalling by the IRS, the Senate Finance Committee has released its bipartisan report, denouncing the tax-collection agency’s partisanship and incompetence. When are these people going to jail?

The Senate report wasn’t entirely satisfactory, given that its criticism was primarily in the compromise language of “gross mismanagement” to describe the agency’s targeting of Tea Party dissident groups.

Using legal technicalities to silence and repress political dissent under the color of the nation’s most feared enforcement agency isn’t mismanagement. It’s a crime.

It’s incompatible with democracy and it shatters public confidence in the rule of law. It’s the very crime the State Department is now condemning in Venezuela: the use of legal technicalities to halt popular opposition candidates from running for office. Until now, this kind of activity has had no precedent in our country, and it must be stopped before it becomes the standard.

This is far from mere incompetence or gross mismanagement. It was a highly competent operation to silence dissent. Yet no one has been sanctioned or punished, despite there being laws on the books dating back to the beginning of a professional civil service, that forbid and punish partisan motives in what should be impartial law. Already some observers believe the IRS swung the last election for the Democrats with these activities.

Not only did the IRS target Tea Party groups with unconscionable delays and intrusive questions, it went for their families, too. Young Bristol Palin learned yesterday that just being the daughter of former Alaska Gov. and Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin put her in the IRS’ sights. Sarah Palin’s father was targeted, too.

The agency also obstructed justice, first falsely claiming that its illegal targeting was only the work of rogue agents in its Cincinnati office. Then, as that lie fell apart, IRS moved to destroy evidence in the thousands of missing emails on IRS tax exempt organizations chief Lois Lerner’s computer. Conveniently for them, it was declared lost forever in a hard drive crash — until it wasn’t.

Now it’s relying on its allies in the Senate and among anti-Tea Party Democrats in the House for cover, having them declare it incompetence, not a crime.

Allies? Yes. IRS top executive John Koskinen is a major financial contributor to Democrat campaigns, having donated nearly $100,000 to Democrats since 1979. And the National Treasury Employees Union, the IRS agents’ union, is an even more notable donor to Democrats, with 94% of its members donating to leftists, and the 150,000-strong union itself endorsing Obama for president both in 2008 and 2012.

Lerner herself called Tea Party members “crazies” and spewed other anti-GOP insults in her emails.

To say that the IRS didn’t have an interest in repressing dissent and was just unwittingly incompetent is ridiculous. IRS bureaucrats saw an illicit advantage for their Democrat friends — and wrongly took it.

That’s illegal, and it demands a strong response from the law if the agency ever expects to recover public confidence. If it doesn’t care enough about that, well, then what difference is there between the U.S. and a lawless banana republic?

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