A death occurred earlier this month that should not go unremarked. Randolph W. Thrower, an attorney who headed the Internal Revenue Service from 1969 to 1971, died on March 8 at the age of 100.
What makes Thrower remarkable is the manner in which he lost his job. President Richard Nixon sacked him because Thrower refused to use his office to punish Nixon’s enemies.
If only we had such a taxman now.
“Mr. Thrower’s unusual legal background — as a federal tax law expert and a lawyer for death row inmates in Georgia, most of them black, in the Jim Crow era — helped garner wide support from lawyers’ groups and lawmakers when Nixon nominated him for I.R.S. commissioner,” the New York Times reported. “And though his tenure was short, he was instrumental in two historic overhauls of American tax policy: revoking the tax-exempt status of private schools that excluded blacks, and passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969, which he helped draft. The legislation eliminated some loopholes for the rich and exempted many poor people from federal taxes altogether.”
But he’ll be most remembered for what he didn’t do.
“The end came in January 1971, after Mr. Thrower requested a meeting with the president, hoping to warn him personally about the pressure White House staff members had been placing on the I.R.S. to audit the tax returns of certain individuals,” the Times reports. “Beginning with antiwar leaders and civil rights figures, the list had grown to include journalists and members of Congress, among them every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970, Mr. Thrower told investigators years later.”
Thrower honestly believed that Nixon didn’t know about the pressure to use the IRS against the White House’s political opponents. He soon found out how wrong he was.
His request for a meeting received two responses.
“The first was a memo from the president’s appointments secretary saying a meeting would not be possible; the second was a phone call from John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s domestic affairs adviser, telling him he was fired,” the Times explains.
Recently retired Lois Lerner does not head the IRS. But as far as investigators can tell, she’s neck-deep in the IRS scandal, which saw that agency targeting President Barack Obama’s enemies.
A recent Republican report found, in fact, that she was instrumental in the effort to silence critics of Obama and the Affordable Care Act, according to the Washington Examiner:
“Lerner, in emails to other IRS officials, wrote about ways to highlight the agency’s scrutiny of Tea Party applicants, despite secrecy laws, by provoking groups to challenge IRS rulings in a court case,” the newspaper reports. “She called for a Washington, D.C.-based, ‘multi-tier review’ for Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status.”
Lerner has continued to plead her Fifth Amendment rights before Congress.
That frustrates Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., when the report clearly “offers detailed evidence about steps she took to crack down on organizations that exercised their Constitutional rights to free political speech,” he says.
Oh, for another Randolph W. Thrower.