There are reasons for political actors not to use the power of government against their opponents. Other than that it’s wrong, I mean. Pragmatic reasons, the most important of which is that there’s no such thing as a permanent majority and any instrument of power you wield against your opponent can be used against you. That’s why President Obama’s broad interpretation of “necessary and proper” use of his executive power or Senate Majority Leader Reid’s “nuclear option” are imprudent. If waiving the employer mandate is a legitimate exercise of executive power, then why isn’t waiving the individual mandate? Why not just waiving the entire PPACA?
The editors of the Chicago Tribune remind us of why the IRS’s highly selective use of it powers may not work out as intended:
Conservatives are naturally upset by what they perceive as an effort to silence them. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the rules “would essentially allow the IRS to bully and intimidate Americans who exercise their right of free speech.”
But the proposal has drawn strong criticism from plenty of liberal groups too. The Sierra Club said it “harms efforts that have nothing to do with politics, from our ability to communicate with our members about clean air and water to our efforts to educate the public about toxic pollution.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said it “could pose a chilling effect on issue advocacy” to the disproportionate detriment of “small, poor nonprofits that cannot afford the legal counsel to guarantee compliance.” Labor unions, which do not fall under the regulations, fear that someday they will be included.
The simplest way for nonprofits to stay out of trouble, of course, would be to simply shut up. So the likely — and unhealthy — consequence will be to reduce the amount of advocacy and educational information available to the public, not only about elections but about all sorts of policy issues.
Taking the fun out of abuse of power is well within the Congress’s ability, even within the House alone’s ability. They don’t need a by-your-leave from the Supreme Court. If we didn’t have such a cowardly, feckless, useless Congress we would have a lot more rule of law.