Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Revelations that the IRS targeted Tea Party and Patriot groups applying for nonprofit tax status has rocked the Obama administration and resulted in one high level official's departure. Earlier this evening, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller was ousted in the wake of scandal that pits a powerful federal government against political opponents. Conservative groups, including the Kentucky 9/12 Project, had their nonprofit applications stalled for an unusually long period. All the while IRS officials were probing into donor lists, political affiliations and media relationships. The IRS also asked many invasive questions–questions not asked of other groups. In case there is any confusion here, let me be clear: the U.S. government targeting political opponents is not acceptable. It is in fact illegal and a violation of civil rights.

Now, another scandal is emerging. The Justice Department wrongly seized telephone records of Associated Press reporters purportedly to find a leak. No search warrant. No statutory authorization. Just another powerful agency flexing its muscles at the expense of civil liberty. In communist China this would be OK, but not in the United States. The two scandals are related in that laws have been violated by an entity that apparently believes itself to be above the law. The federal government should not be using its power and authority to squeeze political opponents. It has no business looking into donor lists or questioning media relationships. Nor should it be treating media outlets as suspected criminals and seizing their phone records. The last time the executive branch did things like this it led to a president's impeachment. When denials and cover-ups follow claims that "I am not a crook," we will know that the era of Obamagate will have  begun in earnest.