The Lois Lerner Curve | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Lois Lerner Curve
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Corrupt countries, where the rule of law is weak and political pilfering is common, are poor countries. Entrepreneurs and investors cannot safely start or finance businesses in states that don’t respect property rights and honor contracts, or that use the levers of the government to go after political opponents. And it’s not as though America doesn’t have a corruption problem. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, the U.S. comes in at number 19, behind most of the rest of the First World.

For anyone following the Lois Lerner scandal, that’s not surprising. What should be surprising, perhaps, are her defenders. Lerner tampered with IRS nonprofit applications, and revealed them only when an Inspector General was about to report on them. Then the cover-up began. The IRS put out a story that blamed the shenanigans on low-level Cincinnati employees. We were told that the IRS hadn’t picked on conservative any more than liberal groups. All lies. Then Lerner pled the Fifth, and her emails mysteriously disappeared. 

Not to worry, the Left tells us. Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post beseeches us not to “sacrifice civil servants for the sake of short-term political optics.” From on high, Rachel Maddow proclaims that “to continue to believe this story has merit and deserves to be taken seriously is deeply, painfully foolish.” About Lerner’s refusal to testify, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York primly observed that “I would like very much for her to testify, but she pleaded the Fifth Amendment and she has the Constitutional right to do so. I pledged my loyalty to the Constitution when I was sworn in.” Predictably, the whistleblower, Inspector General Russell George, found himself under attack.

When a federal agency such as the IRS goes after free market institutions, such as the Tea Party groups whose applications were held up, there’s always an element of self-protection. After all, there wouldn’t be much left of that big IRS building on Constitution Avenue if the Tea Party had its way. “Why does baloney resist the grinder?” asked William F. Buckley.

However, there’s another reason why the Lois Lerner scandal was to be expected: we have an excess, not an insufficiency, of laws. Now, we do need laws to police corruption of the obvious sort, such as bribery and extortion. But anti-corruption laws can cause more corruption than they prevent when they rely on complicated five-point standards of the kind loved by Anthony Kennedy and law school professors, with balanced and nuanced rules that seek to apply a scalpel to tasks better suited to an earthmover. We end up giving politicized bureaucrats a weapon to use against their opponents. It’s like handing a match to a giddy pyromaniac.

[[{“type”:”media”,”view_mode”:”media_original”,”fid”:”96315″,”attributes”:{“alt”:””,”class”:”media-image”,”height”:”281″,”style”:”float: right;”,”typeof”:”foaf:Image”,”width”:”350″}}]]I call this the Lois Lerner Curve. With few laws policing corruption, there’s a lot of it. Then, as law enforcement increases, corruption declines, down to point zero on the curve. Thereafter, however, additional laws result in more corruption, because citizens and bureaucrats alike become lost in the complexity and enforcement is unevenly applied.

If’s there’s one thing tyrannical regimes believe in, it’s the law. Vladimir Putin doesn’t just lock people up. Rather, he accuses them of corruption, tries them, and sentences them to prison, thus proving that Russia stands steadfast against corruption. Mikhail Khodorkovsky was a tax cheat, you see, and in Ukraine so was Yulia Tymoshenko. The problem isn’t isolated in Eastern European basketcases. Why, we Americans almost elected a felon in the 2012 presidential election. Remember when Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Stephanie Cutter, suggested that the Republican nominee had committed a crime under federal securities law? “Either Mitt Romney, through his own words and his own signature, was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the SEC, which is a felony,” she said, “or he was misrepresenting his position at Bain to the American people to avoid responsibility for some of the consequences of his investments.” The charge went nowhere, except as one more element in an ugly campaign. What was remarkable, however, was that no one noted how the U.S. had flirted with a descent into Khodorkovsky territory. 

We’ve already been there, mind you. In 1996, Republican Al Salvi ran for the U.S. Senate in Illinois against Dick Durbin. Salvi had contributed $1.1 million of his own money to the campaign, as he had every right to do. The Federal Election Commission objected, however. As Salvi recently recounted to the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, an FEC official “told him the case would be dropped if he promised never to run for office again.” That official was Lois Lerner.

We’re seeing it now too, in the prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza for breaking an election law. Last May, D’Souza pleaded guilty to exceeding campaign contribution limits by parking money under the names of two other people. The other people in question were D’Souza’s mistress and her cuckolded husband, which makes one wonder about D’Souza’s judgment. Still, now he’s a felon, and one can’t help wondering whether there were political motives behind efforts to jail one of the most prominent critics of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

I think of this when I read about proposals for campaign finance reform. Sure, there’s room for cleaning up the pay-for-play politics of crony capitalism and the gerrymandering that makes most Congressional seats into fiefdoms for life. And there are well-meaning people, like Harvard’s Larry Lessig, who for honest motives want to limit campaign spending. Whatever their intentions, however, what they would do is take our election laws up the right-hand side of the Lois Lerner Curve, resulting in more corruption. Lurking behind them are Lois Lerner’s duplicitous partisans, the bare-knuckled street fighters who seek to end the scandal of Republican money in politics, and who would give us a country as free of corruption as Russia. They are scoundrels in the cause of honor, whores who clamor for morality, thieves in defense of property rights. 

Was that a little rough, just now? Then let me remind you about True the Vote, the conservative vote-monitoring organization led by Catherine Englebrecht. True the Vote trains volunteers to record and report on suspicious voter registrations. We’re not talking about the New Black Panthers with their baseball bats, but nevertheless Rep. Elijah Cummings opened up a congressional investigation into the group. His staffers wrote to Lois Lerner about it, and subsequently the IRS questioned its tax-exempt status. In in short order Engelbrecht’s business was visited by the FBI, ATF, and OSHA. She testified about this in February, and what’s interesting is how Democrats treated her. Cummings questioned her about her possible racist motives, and Gerry Connolly complained of McCarthyism and mocked her “paranoia” for thinking the audits might have been politically motivated.

Remember that next time a moderate conservative “reformer” proposes a bipartisan collaboration with Democrats to rid us of the scourge of political corruption. 

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