Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon

Overview

John Andrew’s groundbreaking exploration of one of the most mysterious of all government agencies takes its title from Chief Justice John Marshall’s famous dictum, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” Mr. Andrew confirms what many have suspected for a long time: that presidents, political appointees, and bureaucrats have attempted to use the Internal Revenue Service to punish their enemies. The author combed the papers of presidential staff, IRS officials, congressional critics, and the Watergate Special ...

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Overview

John Andrew’s groundbreaking exploration of one of the most mysterious of all government agencies takes its title from Chief Justice John Marshall’s famous dictum, “The power to tax is the power to destroy.” Mr. Andrew confirms what many have suspected for a long time: that presidents, political appointees, and bureaucrats have attempted to use the Internal Revenue Service to punish their enemies. The author combed the papers of presidential staff, IRS officials, congressional critics, and the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and petitioned under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain IRS documents. What he discovered was a series of projects and investigations that at times resemble a spy thriller. Beginning with the Kennedy administration’s Ideological Organizations Project, which investigated, intimidated, and challenged the tax-exempt status of right-wing foundations, Mr. Andrew traces the ways Democrats and Republicans alike used the IRS to accomplish political goals during the 1960s and early 1970s. Seemingly innocuous names like Operation Leprechaun and Project Tradewinds, together with an array of intelligence and surveillance activities, formed a pattern of abuse that threatened the foundations of American political culture. In one of the most powerful and sobering passages of the book, Mr. Andrew chronicles the IRS’s Special Service Staff, which carried out activities that were more extensive and intrusive than Nixon’s infamous Enemies List—yet received scant coverage in the media. He also offers important revelations about Nixon’s ties to organized crime through Bebe Rebozo. Power to Destroy is a shocking analysis of how political influence has corrupted the IRS, and how the agency’s own crusade for secrecy hides its operations from public scrutiny, even from congressional committees responsible for overseeing its activities.

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Editorial Reviews

Washington Times
Political dynamite.”
Journal of Cold War Studies
An invaluable portrait of a renegade government agency seldom studied by researchers...kudos.
— John Sbardellati
CHOICE - P. Fisher
“Andrew provides a noteworthy historical account of the possibility of using administrative agencies in abusive ways and demonstrates the need to be dilligent against government violation of individual civil liberties.”
Stanley I. Kutler
“Powerful, trenchant, and ultimately wise.”
Shelley Davis
“In this illuminating and shocking work, John Andrew knocks down the wall shielding the IRS from public scrutiny.”
Lewis L. Gould
“Stunning and fascinating...based upon mind-boggling research and presented with the balance and insight that marked all of Andrew's work.”
Journal of Cold War Studies - John Sbardellati
An invaluable portrait of a renegade government agency seldom studied by researchers...kudos.
American Free Press
“Power to Destroy is a shocking analysis of how political influence has corrupted the IRS, and how the agency's own crusade for secrecy hides its operations from public scrutiny, even from congressional committees responsible for overseeing its activities.”
Choice
Andrew provides a noteworthy historical account of the possibility of using administrative agencies in abusive ways and demonstrates the need to be dilligent against government violation of individual civil liberties.
— P. Fisher
Insight
“Written by a distinguished historian and political liberal...citing a wealth of freshly uncovered documents...new evidence.”
Journal Of Cold War Studies
An invaluable portrait of a renegade government agency seldom studied by researchers...kudos.
— John Sbardellati
CHOICE
“Andrew provides a noteworthy historical account of the possibility of using administrative agencies in abusive ways and demonstrates the need to be dilligent against government violation of individual civil liberties.”
— P. Fisher
The Washington Times
“Political dynamite.”
Washington Times
Political dynamite.
American Free Press
...A shocking analysis of how political infulence has corrupted the IRS...
Insight
Written by a distinguished historian and political liberal...citing a wealth of freshly uncovered documents...
Journal Of American Taxation Association
...A factually intensive account ....Fascinating ....Worthwhile.
Choice Magazine
Andrew provides a noteworthy historical account....Highly recommended.
Publishers Weekly
As historian Andrew (Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society) shows in this dense study, during the 1960s and '70s the White House used the power of taxation to attack enemies-and reward friends-with relative impunity. President Kennedy, for example, started an "Ideological Organizations Project" that used the IRS to challenge the tax-exempt status of (and thus choke off the funding from) such right-wing opponents as the John Birch Society. Johnson often promised tax favors to wealthy individuals who could deliver votes. But these abuses pale in comparison to the corruption of the Nixon administration, which used the IRS to persecute people on the president's notorious "Enemies List." At Nixon's request, the IRS launched audits and investigations of a host of real and imagined opponents, including the Jerry Rubin Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism (which funded Seymour Hersh's reporting on the My Lai massacre) and the Center for Corporate Responsibility. The basic intent, Nixon aide John Dean wrote, was to "use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies." Though known to Watergate prosecutors, these abuses went largely unreported in the mainstream media because they weren't sexy enough for the general public. That, unfortunately, is also the problem with this book. The minutiae of IRS procedures, combined with an incredibly large cast of characters (mostly bureaucrats), makes it less than gripping. Andrew nonetheless presents an important and serious study of one of the least understood agencies in the federal government. (Oct) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
Andrew (a professor of history at Franklin & Marshall College until his death in 2000) documents how the Internal Revenue Service has been used by White House officials to punish political enemies and how its culture of political secrecy has hindered any efforts to rein in abuses of power. From the Kennedy administration's Ideological Organizations Project to Nixon's political enemies list, the volume indicts the IRS for attacking individuals at the behest of presidents and other powerful political figures and also for conducting its own secret and illegal intelligence and surveillance activities. Judging from his difficulties in obtaining documents for researching the book, Andrew is less than sanguine about the successes of reform efforts over the years. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
A sordid tale of the abuse of presidential power by Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, an abuse enthusiastically enabled by snooping accountants.

It’s not news, exactly, that the Internal Revenue Service has been asked or ordered to do things beyond the strict terms of its mandate. It’s not news that the IRS has been enthusiastic in expanding its powers and reluctant to account for its activities. Andrew’s contribution in this too long, too slow narrative—cobbled from drafts the late Franklin & Marshall College historian (Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society, not reviewed) left behind—is to examine just how systematic the use of the federal tax authority for political (and sometimes personal) reasons has been. Though Kennedy was not the first president to do so, he and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, made widespread use of the IRS in targeting dissident organizations and individuals, many on the extreme right—and for good reason, given that Kennedy, Andrew asserts, had received 34 death threats from right-wingers in Texas in early 1961 alone. Lyndon Johnson expanded the Kennedy IRS’s Ideological Organizations Project to embrace proto-Christian right ventures, such as billionaire H.L. Hunt’s Life Line Foundation and, with the help of intelligence agencies, the antiwar left. But, Andrew shows, it was Richard Nixon who perfected the use of the tax agency as an instrument of political suppression, fulfilling Chief Justice John Marshall’s observation that "the power to tax involves the power to destroy." Nixon’s infamous enemies list became an agenda of sorts for the IRS’s since-disbanded Special Service Staff, but the president’s zeal for catching one archenemy, Democratic NationalCommittee chairman Lawrence O’Brien, had unintended consequences; the IRS’s investigations, Andrew writes, brought up uncomfortable evidence of Nixon’s own involvement with "an array of underworld characters and mobsters"—and, Andrew adds, led directly to the Watergate burglary.

Sizzling good stuff such as this, though sometimes buried in detail, will keep many readers moving along through Andrew’s pages. Could it all happen again? Bet on it.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566634526
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 10/1/2002
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 1.46 (d)

Meet the Author

John A. Andrew III died shortly after completing the writing of Power to Destroy. He was professor of history at Franklin & Marshall College and the author of Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society and The Other Side of the Sixties, among other books.

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Table of Contents

Foreword
Introduction: Researching the IRS 3
1 The Early 1960s: A New Role for the IRS? 11
2 The Ideological Organizations Project 25
3 Prime Target: Billy James Hargis and the Christian Crusade 45
4 The Ideological Organizations Project: Lessons Learned 58
5 Foundations, Politics, and Wright Patman 75
6 Robber Barons and Spies 93
7 Foundations: The Continuing Struggle 113
8 Politics, Two-way Mirrors, and Wiretaps in the Johnson Years 138
9 Jimmy Hoffa, Senator Long, and the IRS 166
10 The Nixon Years: Tawdry Tales and Tattered Principles 179
11 The Enemies List 201
12 Dangerous Relationships: The Rebozo-Hughes-O'Brien Connection 225
13 The Special Service Staff: An IRS Enemies List 250
14 The SSS: In the Trenches and Under Fire 274
15 Operation Leprechaun: Sex and Politics in South Florida 297
16 Cleaning Up 314
Notes 323
Index 369
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