“I love my country, but I fear my government” once struck me as a bit paranoid. However, recent accounts of citizens who’ve fallen into bureaucrats’ crosshairs is a reminder that “just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after me.”
Consider these examples of government run amok:
• Oregan ranchers Steven and Dwight Hammond face five years in a federal prison after two controlled burns drifted past their property boundary and onto federal property. Judges ruled that one fire might have caused $100 in damage to federal land while another “burned about an acre.”
Still, the Hammonds who, even prosecutors admit, “have done wonderful things in their community,” were prosecuted under a federal anti-terorrism law that mandates a five-year minimum sentence.
Incidentally, Hammonds’ real “offense” may be repeatedly rejecting the federal government’s attempts to buy their property.
• Department of Justice agents, armed with automatic weapons, twice raided Gibson Guitar in Nashville, herding employees into a parking lot, seizing $1 million in merchandise, and shutting down production by the maker of the famous Les Paul electric guitar.
DOJ didn’t advise Gibson of the charges, claiming that the warrant was sealed. Gibson was alleged to have illegally imported wood from India and Madagascar, despite producing documents to the contrary.
Ultimately, Gibson agreed (under threat of criminal prosecution) to pay a $300,000 fine and make a “donation” of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group selected by the Obama administration.
Ironically, other guitar makers who use the very same wood were never raided or threatened. Gibson’s CEO donates to Republicans; its chief competitor’s CEO donates to Democrats.
• Several Republican donors were targeted by federal agencies after donating to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign or SuperPAC.
Frank VanderSloot, founder of Melaleuca wellness products, was one of eight Romney donors singled out by President Obama’s campaign. VanderSloot and his wife were then audited by the IRS. A week later, Department of Labor audited VanderSloot Farms, and a few months later, the IRS targeted another of his companies.
None of the investigations found evidence of wrongdoing, but the actions cost VanderSloot $80,000 to defend himself. Others on “Obama’s enemies list” say their families and businesses have been hurt and embarrassed by these politically-motivated “investigations.”
Harvey Silvergate, author of Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, writes that government officials use the law’s ambiguity to selectively target citizens. “If they are eyeing you and they look closely enough at your daily activities, they can find something,” he told Forbes.com.
• Similarly, the IRS admitted to leaking confidential donor information from the National Organization for Marriage (which opposes same-sex marriage) to the Human Rights Campaign (which supports same-sex marriage).
Now, as California Attorney General Kamala Harris demands that right-leaning nonprofits turn over confidential lists of donors’ names and addresses, anyone who cares about our First Amendment freedoms should be alarmed. This is the state where foes of Proposition 8 (defining marriage as one man, one woman) infamously used public information to vandalize homes, businesses and churches of Prop 8 donors, calling into question whether campaign disclosure laws threaten freedom of speech.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 1958 that Alabama could not force the NAACP to produce a list of its donors because doing so would unconstitutionally trample the right to freedom of association. Later after President Nixon wanted the IRS to target political enemies, Congress passed laws to prevent disclosure of confidential tax information by government officials.
Thanks to Judicial Watch, we now know that the IRS recently targeted numerous right-leaning nonprofits, including U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in order to “investigate” their donors.
Regardless of which party is in charge, the bureaucrats remain entrenched. Giving government broad authority to arbitrarily disrupt people’s lives isn’t simply unjust – it’s un-American.