Dr. Car­son lat­est con­ser­va­tive tar­geted by IRS

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JOHN SOLOMON AND BEN WOLF­GANG

Tea party groups, Franklin Gra­ham, Chris­tine O’Donnell, a pro-mar­riage group. And now Dr. Ben Car­son.

The list of con­ser­va­tives tar­geted by the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice for au­dits, tax-ex­empt re­views or tax pri­vacy breaches keeps grow­ing, rais­ing fresh ques­tions in Wash­ing­ton about whether a scan­dal the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has blamed on bu­reau­cratic in­com­pe­tence and co­in­ci­dence may in fact in­volve some­thing more ne­far­i­ous.

The lat­est rev­e­la­tion came Thurs­day from Dr. Car­son, the r e n own e d neu­ro­sur­geon who told The Wash­ing­ton Times that he was tar­geted for an au­dit just months af­ter he gave a speech in front of Pres­i­dent Obama that chal­lenged A m e r i c a ’s lead­er­ship. The agency re­quested to re­view his real es­tate hold­ings and then con­ducted a full au­dit.

In the end, the IRS found no wrong­do­ing, Dr. Car­son said, but it raised his sus­pi­cions about be­ing sin­gled out for his speech.

“I guess it could be a co­in­ci­dence, but I never had been au­dited be­fore and never re­ally had any en­coun­ters with the IRS,” Dr. Car­son said in an in­ter­view. “But it cer­tainly would make one sus­pi­cious be­cause we know now the IRS has been used for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses and there­fore ac­tions like this come un­der sus­pi­cion.”

Me­lanie Sloan, head of the watch­dog group Cit­i­zens for Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Ethics in Wash­ing­ton (CREW) and a for­mer Jus­tice Depart­ment prose­cu­tor dur­ing the Clin­ton years, said she had not been that con­cerned about the IRS re­views of the grow­ing num­ber of tea party groups but the story of Dr. Car­son’s au­dit raised red flags.

“I have not been par­tic­u­larly per­suaded in the past with the IRS tar­get­ing of the tea party groups. But this one seems a lit­tle odd. This cer­tainly raises ques­tions that I as­sume some­one will be­gin to in­ves­ti­gate,” she said.

Dr. Car­son, whose rise from poverty and

“I guess it could be a co­in­ci­dence, but I never had been au­dited be­fore and never re­ally

had any en­coun­ters with the IRS. But it cer­tainly

would make one sus­pi­cious be­cause we know now the IRS has been used for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses and

there­fore ac­tions like this come un­der sus­pi­cion.”

med­i­cal work with pe­di­atric pa­tients were cel­e­brated in the movie “Gifted Hands,” is the lat­est in a grow­ing num­ber of high­pro­file fig­ures to come for­ward and claim they were im­prop­erly tar­geted by the IRS.

The Rev. Franklin Gra­ham and oth­ers have said ei­ther they or their or­ga­ni­za­tions were sin­gled out by the IRS, while for­mer Se­nate can­di­date Chris­tine O’Donnell said she was au­dited and that some­one used the IRS sys­tem to ac­cess her pri­vate tax in­for­ma­tion.

On Wed­nes­day, the Na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mar­riage an­nounced that it would sue the IRS, say­ing it has ev­i­dence that some­one within the agency leaked the group’s donor list to its po­lit­i­cal en­e­mies in 2012.

As in the other in­stances, the or­ga­ni­za­tion claims no one at the IRS has been held re­spon­si­ble.

Calls to the IRS went unan­swered Thurs­day. Much of the agency’s staff has been fur­loughed as a re­sult of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down.

In the past, the IRS has de­clined to dis­cuss spe­cific au­dits, cit­ing pri­vacy laws. Such in­stances typ­i­cally come to light only when in­di­vid­u­als or busi­nesses di­vulge that they’ve been tar­geted.

That was what hap­pened this week. Dur­ing a speech in Alabama, Dr. Car­son made a vague ref­er­ence to hav­ing his first “en­counter with the IRS.”

The en­counter came just four months af­ter his speech in Fe­bru­ary at the Na­tional Prayer Break­fast, an ad­dress that brought him into the na­tional spot­light and one in which he de­cried the “moral de­cay and fis­cal ir­re­spon­si­bil­ity” of the U.S. in re­cent years.

Since then, he has elec­tri­fied the con­ser­va­tive world and fu­eled talk of a pres­i­den­tial run with speeches and other works, in­clud­ing his weekly col­umn for The Times.

Dr. Car­son said IRS agents con­tacted him in June and asked to look at his real es­tate hold­ings. Af­ter find­ing noth­ing that con­cerned them, the agents in­formed him that they were con­duct­ing a full au­dit of his fi­nances and asked to go back an ad­di­tional year to re­view his records, he said.

They ended the re­view in Au­gust af­ter find­ing no prob­lems.

“They told me ev­ery­thing was in good stand­ing and left,” Dr. Car­son said.

Asked whether he thought the au­dit was a re­tal­i­a­tion for his speech, Dr. Car­son quipped: “I guess I’m sur­prised it took them that long.”

He said the more se­ri­ous is­sue is that the IRS has been politi­cized — “some­thing that never should have hap­pened” — and that leaves all of its ac­tiv­i­ties open to sus­pi­cion.

In­deed, Dr. Car­son isn’t the first high­pro­file con­ser­va­tive fig­ure to come un­der fire from the IRS.

Ear­lier this year, Ms. O’Donnell — a for­mer Se­nate can­di­date from Delaware who rose to promi­nence amid heavy tea party back­ing — re­vealed to The Times that she, too, had been au­dited and also had her per­sonal tax in­for­ma­tion breached.

Ms. O’Donnell’s tax records were ac­cessed by David Smith, an in­ves­ti­ga­tor with Delaware’s Di­vi­sion of Rev­enue.

Rev­e­la­tions about that ac­cess, which took place in March 2010, spawned an in­quiry by the U.S. Trea­sury Depart­ment and de­nials by Delaware of­fi­cials that any­thing in­ap­pro­pri­ate had taken place.

It also has spawned a con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tion spear­headed by Sen. Chuck Grass­ley, a pow­er­ful Iowa Repub­li­can.

Ms. O’Donnell’s story, which also in­cludes an er­ro­neous lien placed on a home she no longer owned, broke just as the IRS in­spec­tor gen­eral ac­knowl­edged that at least four politi­cians or po­lit­i­cal donors have had their per­sonal tax records im­prop­erly ac­cessed since 2006. One of those cases in­volved a will­ful vi­o­la­tion of fed­eral law.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment has de­clined to pros­e­cute any of the cases.

Also this year, Mr. Gra­ham, son of leg­endary evan­ge­list the Rev. Billy Gra­ham, wrote a let­ter to Mr. Obama in which he ac­cused the IRS of tar­get­ing two of his non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses.

Mr. Gra­ham heads the Billy Gra­ham Evan­ge­lis­tic As­so­ci­a­tion and Sa­mar­i­tan’s Purse, a world­wide relief group.

In his let­ter, Mr. Gra­ham said he be­lieves “some­one in the ad­min­is­tra­tion was tar­get­ing and at­tempt­ing to in­tim­i­date us.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Dr. Ben Car­son said he had “en­coun­ters” with the IRS af­ter he gave a speech in front of Pres­i­dent Obama that chal­lenged Amer­ica’s lead­er­ship.

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