Sicking the taxman on your political opponents is becoming quite the vogue in our hemisphere:
If you want to publicly criticize Argentina’s government, make sure all your tax filings are in order.
That was the thinly veiled message President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner sent Wednesday near the end of a speech broadcast on all national television and radio stations. Reiterating her standard criticism that media “operations” are depressing Argentinians with gloom-and-doom stories, she derided an article published last Sunday. (She didn’t say this, but the paper that ran it was Clarín, the country’s largest-circulation daily.) In the story, the owner of a real-estate agency, one of its directors and an employee were quoted complaining that recent government measures essentially blocking the sale of foreign currency to citizens had paralyzed their business.
Kirchner then dropped this bit of information: the firm in question hasn’t filed taxes since 2007 and neither has the director quoted in the story, whom she named.
How did she know? She had called up the head of the tax agency to ask, and this, too, she openly revealed on Wednesday’s broadcast.
…Kirchner’s statement on Wednesday was different: by saying that she had called the taxman out of supposed concern for the real-estate agency, she unabashedly established cause and effect: you criticize me; I punish you. Was there a better way for her to flex muscle than signal that Argentina’s government agencies are at her beck and call and say so with no shame?
Not cause-and-effect, but coincidental,
Strassel: Obama’s Enemies List—Part II
First an Obama campaign website called out Romney donor Frank Vandersloot. Next the IRS moved to audit him—and so did the Labor Department.
Mr. VanderSloot has since been learning what it means to be on a presidential enemies list. Just 12 days after the attack, the Idahoan found an investigator digging to unearth his divorce records. This bloodhound—a recent employee of Senate Democrats—worked for a for-hire opposition research firm.
Now Mr. VanderSloot has been targeted by the federal government. In a letter dated June 21, he was informed that his tax records had been “selected for examination” by the Internal Revenue Service. The audit also encompasses Mr. VanderSloot’s wife, and not one, but two years of past filings (2008 and 2009).
Mr. VanderSloot, who is 63 and has been working since his teens, says neither he nor his accountants recall his being subject to a federal tax audit before. He was once required to send documents on a line item inquiry into his charitable donations, which resulted in no changes to his taxes. But nothing more—that is until now, shortly after he wrote a big check to a Romney-supporting Super PAC.
Two weeks after receiving the IRS letter, Mr. VanderSloot received another—this one from the Department of Labor. He was informed it would be doing an audit of workers he employs on his Idaho-based cattle ranch under the federal visa program for temporary agriculture workers.
Perhaps all this is coincidence. Perhaps something in Mr. VanderSloot’s finances or on his ranch raised a flag. Americans want to believe the federal government performs its duties without fear or favor.
Only in this case, Americans can have no such confidence. Did Mr. Obama pick up the phone and order the screws put to Mr. VanderSloot? Or—more likely—did a pro-Obama appointee or political hire or career staffer see that the boss had an issue with this donor, and decide to do the president an unasked-for election favor? Or did he or she simply think this was a duty, given that the president had declared Mr. VanderSloot and fellow donors “less than reputable”?
As a commenter in the latter article put it,
Here is the problem. Despite living an exemplary life and keeping all of your affairs in order and legal to the best of your abilities, because the laws are so outrageously complex and of such breadth and volume that it is impossible to know them and thus adhere to them, everyone who has any arrangement beyond the most simple can likely be found, upon thorough investigation, to be in violation of something. For this reason, getting audited can be problematic, despite honest attempts to stay compliant. Thus, people rightly fear being singled out and becoming an audit target.
Criticisms of “what have you to hide?” are a simpleton’s response to such fears. Nowadays, managing a business or any enterprise is fraught with big and little gotchas in every conceivable corner.
Not a good trend.
Not good at all.
Cross-posted in The Green Room.