Joseph Farah, Professional Victim
WorldNetDaily's editor is so wedded to his story about an allegedly Clinton-instigated IRS audit that he's not about to let the facts get in the way.
By Terry Krepel
Joseph Farah has his story, and he's sticking to it.
The WorldNetDaily editor has loudly claimed for years that he was the victim of a Clinton-era Internal Revenue Service audit done in retaliation for his anti-Clinton conspiracy-mongering. He's at it again in his April 29 column, and it's clear that Farah is willing to steamroll the facts to hang on to the juicy parts of his story.
Farah starts his column with a gross distortion, claiming that "Sens. Byron Dorgan, John Kerry and Richard Durbin are trying to deep-six an investigation into Bill Clinton's abuse of the Internal Revenue Service." The truth is that the senators sponsored an amendment to stop funding an independent counsel investigation that began way back in 1995 as a probe of Clinton-era housing secretary Henry Cisneros, who left office in 1997. Cisneros pleaded guilty in 1999 to lying to federal authorities about money paid to a mistress and paid a $10,000 fine.
So if Cisneros left office eight years ago and dealt with his charges six years ago, why is this investigation still going on, and why has it cost $21 million to date? Because the focus of the investigation creeped toward checking "whether anyone in the Clinton administration had attempted to obstruct justice during the probe," according to The Washington Post. Apparently, it has creeped toward Farah's little neck of the conspiratorial woods.
Farah's mythmaking continues in the second paragraph: "In 1996, my news organization at the time, the Western Journalism Center, was audited by the IRS. The rationale? We had dared to investigate and report on corruption by the president of the United States in an election year!"
First, the Western Journalism Center which Farah co-founded and under whose umbrella WorldNetDaily was created -- is not a "news organization"; it is a conservative nonprofit group. (It seems to still be active as its web site is still operational, but it has done nothing worth promoting of late, otherwise WND would have certainly told us about it.)
Second, The WJC's most notable accomplishment is not its reporting on "corruption by the president of the United States" but its symbiotic relationship with conservative billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife, who donated $330,000 to the group in 1995. The Columbia Journalism Review reported in 1996 that the WJC promoted the reporting of Christopher Ruddy, then a reporter for Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, about the death Vince Foster, advancing the theory (discredited by no less than Kenneth Starr) that Foster was murdered, presumably by Bill Clinton. The WJC helped to finance Ruddy's travel expenses, bought him a cell phone and purchased ads in The Washington Times to reprint his stories.
Farah's claim about the WJC being audited as an act of political retaliation is one he has had trouble making in court, despite (or perhaps because of) having Larry Klayman as an attorney. In 2000, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a federal court's dismissal of the WJC's lawsuit against the IRS, ruling that the statute of limitations had run out prior to WJC's filing of its lawsuit and that the WJC did not go through the normal IRS remediation process. In 2001, Klayman and the WJC filed another lawsuit against the IRS, alleging the agency failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request to turn over internal documents that refer to WND, WJC or Farah.
WND's December 2000 article on the appeals court ruling played up a debate over when the statute of limitations expired and prominently claimed that the court avoided "the central issue of whether or not a politically motivated audit constitutes a violation of a group's civil rights." But the story also contradicts earlier information; it claims that donations are the WJC's "only source of income," but the 1996 Columbia Journalism Review article points out that the WJC was selling various "special Vince Foster reports," including a compilation of Ruddy's stories for $12 and a "riveting new video documentary" co-produced by Ruddy for $35.
Additionally, a 2000 study by a joint congressional committee, formed in response to complaints by the WJC and other groups, found "no credible evidence" that the IRS was biased against anti-Clinton groups, according to a March 16, 2000, Palm Beach Post article. The report also stated that the IRS had also audited organizations that "would be considered supportive of the Clinton administration."
Unsurprisingly, Farah didn't agree with the results of the study, claiming that the committee's chairman, Rep. Bill Archer, was "a nice guy winding down a long career in Congress" and was afraid to take on the Clinton White House.
In his column, Farah also claims that "Dorgan, Kerry and Durbin are trying not only to kill an independent counsel investigation that nailed Clinton's buddy Henry Cisneros, but they are trying to ensure a report is never released and that all evidence gathered be destroyed." That is a lie; the amendment says no such thing. The independent counsel completed his report in August 2004 and has submitted it to the three-judge panel overseeing the independent counsel. Those judges will decide whether to release the report, not Congress.
On top of all these easily disprovable lies and distortions, Farah piles on one more: "I don't expect to see Bill Clinton or the IRS officials involved in his caper to be punished. But I would like to discourage future administrations from abusing power and targeting other victims."
In fact, Farah has been silent about similar alleged abuses by the Bush administration. Just before the 2004 election, the IRS began an audit of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which NAACP officials have called politically motivated because the group has criticized Bush policies.
Additionally, groups receiving government funds have been audited -- some repeatedly -- for no other apparent reason than for expressing opposition to Bush administration policies. For instance, a group called Advocates for Youth, which promotes sex education and receives grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was audited three times in one year by the CDC, apparently because it has spoken out against abstinence-only sex education, which Bush officials favor. The group has received CDC grants for 15 years and had never been audited before.
What has Farah said about these incidents? Not a word -- no expression of concern, no show of support -- even though their story appears just as plausible as Farah's.
If Farah is so willing to lie and distort about things that can be easily fact-checked, why should anyone trust that the rest of his story is true? And if he won't lift a finger to help others in the same situation, why should anyone believe him when claims he wants to keep such alleged abuses from happening again?