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After IRS scandal: Right-wing fear of government isn't paranoid

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Commissioned by Attorney General Robert Kennedy and penned by labor leader Victor Reuther, the 24-page memo detailed “possible Administration policies and programs to combat the radical right.”

Reuther defined the “radical right” as “bounded on the left by Senator Goldwater and on the right by [John Birch Society founder] Robert Welch.” And he suggested plenty of ways for the government to curtail the right’s influence, from putting conservatives on the attorney general’s subversive list to using the Federal Communications Commission to limit their airtime.

But the administration’s real power, Reuther argued, lay with the IRS. Conservative media and organizations needed money to function. Therefore, “action to dam up these funds may be the quickest way to turn the tide” against right-wing groups.

He called for revocation of organizations’ tax-exempt status, a tactic similar to the approach which the IRS is currently under fire for possibly employing. Reuther also suggested the IRS investigate corporations that advertised in right-wing media, contending they were peddling propaganda rather than selling products.

Finally, Reuther hinted conservative donors and media personalities should be audited, noting “there is the big question whether [they] are themselves complying with the tax laws.”

While it is unclear whether the memo served as the basis for policy, during the Kennedy administration the IRS cracked down on “ideological organizations” and the FCC targeted conservative broadcasters.

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