Scowling face of the state
As soon as the Constitution permitted him to run for Congress, Al Salvi did. In 1986, just 26 and fresh from the University of Illinois law school, he sank $1,000 of his own money, which was most of his money, into his campaign to unseat an incumbent Democrat congressman.
He lost his campaign. Today, he should be invited to Congress to testify about what happened 10 years later when he was a prosperous lawyer and won the Republican Senate nomination to run against a Democrat congressman named Dick Durbin.
In the fall of 1996, at the campaign's climax, Democrats filed with the Federal Elections Commission charges against Salvi's campaign, alleging campaign finance violations. These charges dominated the campaign's closing days. Salvi spoke by telephone with the head of the FEC's Enforcement Division, whom he remembers saying: “Promise me you will never run for office again, and we'll drop this case.” He was speaking to Lois Lerner.
After losing to Durbin, Salvi spent four years and $100,000 fighting the FEC, on whose behalf FBI agents visited his elderly mother demanding to know, concerning her $2,000 contribution to her son's campaign, where she got “that kind of money.” When the second of two federal courts held that the charges against Salvi were spurious, the lawyer arguing for the FEC was Lois Lerner.
More recently, she has been head of the IRS Exempt Organizations Division, which has used its powers of delay, harassment and extortion to suppress political participation. For example, it has told an Iowa right-to-life group that it would get tax-exempt status if it would promise not to picket Planned Parenthood clinics.
Last week, in a televised House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., Salvi's former law partner, told the riveting story of the partisan enforcement of campaign laws to suppress political competition by distracting Salvi and entangling him in bureaucratic snares.
House Republicans should use their committee chairmanships to let Lerner exercise her right to confront Salvi and her other accusers. If she were invited back to Congress to respond concerning Salvi, would she again refuse to testify by invoking her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination? There is one way to find out.
Durbin probably would have defeated Salvi without the assistance of Lerner and of the campaign “reforms” that have produced the FEC's mare's nest of regulations and speech police that lend themselves to abuses like those Salvi experienced. In 2010, Durbin wrote a letter urging Lerner's IRS division to pay special attention to a political advocacy group supporting conservatives.
Lerner, it is prudent to assume, is one among thousands like her who infest the regulatory state. She is not just a bureaucratic bully and a slithering partisan. Now she also is a national security problem because she is contributing to a comprehensive distrust of government.
Government requires trust. Government by progressives, however, demands such inordinate amounts of trust that the demand itself should provoke distrust. Progressivism can be distilled into two words: “Trust us.” The antecedent of the pronoun is: the wise, disinterested experts through whom the vast powers of the regulatory state's executive branch will deliver progress for our own good, as the executive branch understands this, whether or not we understand it.
Lois Lerner is the scowling face of this state, which has earned Americans' distrust.
George F. Will is a columnist for The Washington Post and Newsweek.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Eagle egg breaks, parents abandon nest
- Rogue Catholics in Society of St. Pius X to reopen West End church
- Players respect coach, refuse to blame Johnston
- Couple taken into custody after 8-hour standoff in Hempfield
- Pirates notebook: Locke makes bid for final rotation spot, Tabata cut
- Cal U women win Division II national title with 86-69 win
- Pa. woman charged with forging docs to claim she was an attorney
- Penguins coach Johnston’s mother dies
- Strike planned at ACMH Hospital in East Franklin on Tuesday
- Norwin High School health teacher charged with selling heroin
- Monessen man facing trial for resisting arrest