Each day it seems we’re treated – if that’s the right word for it – to a new and depressing headline about mistreatment of conservative groups and individuals by the IRS. We’ve not yet plumbed the depths of the scandal, but already it seems to be one of the most shocking and fundamentally offensive domestic political scandals in a generation, undermining the public’s trust in government.
Of course, from the conservative perspective growing public skepticism in government might be the silver lining in this mess, but I digress.
North Dakotans shouldn’t be surprised by this new evidence of our nation’s executive branch using supposedly non-political branches of government to achieve political ends. About the time the IRS began harassing President Obama’s political enemies, here in North Dakota a federal prosecutor appointed directly from the Democrat National Committee was pursuing blatantly political criminal charges against a group of oil companies.
Tim Purdon, whose appointment from the Democrat power structure to the Justice Department was unprecedented as far as this observer can tell, definitely brought his politics with him to his new job. One of Mr. Purdon’s first priorities as US Attorney for North Dakota was to file criminal charges against six oil companies under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act after roughly two dozen dead birds found near their production areas. This was the result of a months-long investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
That Purdon’s charges, filed in August of 2011, were a waste of federal resources was obvious from the start. A person could probably find more dead waterfowl in the ditches along the state’s highways on any given day resulting from collisions with motor vehicles than Purdon and his investigators were able to find at oil sites in the state after months of searching.
If accidentally killing a duck is a federal crime, then anyone who has ever pried one from the grill of their car is a criminal.
But Purdon’s attempted prosecutions – which were laughed out of federal court months after they were filed – weren’t just misguided. They were thoroughly political too, because even as Purdon attempted to prosecute oil companies for a few dead ducks, wind power companies that are slaughtering birds wholesale are not only avoiding prosecution but getting special permission from the federal government to kill those birds.
“The Obama administration has charged oil companies for drowning birds in their waste pits, and power companies for electrocuting birds on power lines,” reported the Associated Press last month. “But the administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly.”
If the double standard weren’t clear enough in action, consider these words from former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent Tim Eicher, also quoted by the Associated Press: “What it boils down to is this: If you electrocute an eagle, that is bad, but if you chop it to pieces, that is OK.”
The Obama administration is applying a thoroughly political double standard to these companies. We can debate about whether or not existing federal laws protecting waterfowl and other birds is appropriate as written – this humble observer feels they are far too broad – but that doesn’t give government officials latitude to change how the law is enforced based on who they’re enforcing it against.
That doesn’t meet the standards we’ve set for ourselves, as a society, when it comes to equality under the law.
We all know how enamored the Obama administration is with green energy, given the subsidies and mandates he supports for the industry. We all know that President Obama is far less impressed with fossil fuel energy, given the higher taxes and stiffer regulations he proposes for that industry. So when the President, by and through the federal prosecutors he appoints, treats one industry better under the law than another, that’s an abuse of political power that’s really no less odious than what we’ve seen uncovered at the IRS.
The IRS scandal may be sexier, it may have captured the nation’s attention in a bigger way, but sadly it represents nothing all that new for the Obama administration which has been positively Nixonian in its wielding of government power.