Great America

Justice Department Protects Its Own from Tax Prosecution

The Department of Justice doesn’t care what the little people think. It doesn’t have to.

Only “little people” go to jail for not paying taxes, notorious New York socialite Leona Helmsley is said to have quipped before being prosecuted for tax evasion. Helmsley wasn’t wrong, she just misjudged her status. Had she been an assistant U.S. attorney, she might have been right.

Once again, the Department of Justice has protected its own from the laws it enforces against the little people it rules. A new investigative summary further demonstrates that it maintains privileged status for its own. Some have taken to calling it the Department of “Just Us.”

An assistant United States attorney (an “AUSA”) fits on a pay scale topping out at $170,700 per year plus a locality adjustment for the cost of living. An AUSA stationed in San Francisco making a base salary of $170,000 rakes in an additional 41 percent in a locality to plus-up his total income to a total salary of just under $250,000. When you factor in the benefits, retirement, and training expenses, it takes a small army of taxpayers just to pay for one AUSA.

The Office of Inspector General wrote of one of these AUSAs:

The OIG investigation substantiated the allegation that the AUSA willfully failed to file federal individual income tax returns for three consecutive years in violation of federal law and federal ethics regulations, and owed more than $31,000 in federal taxes for that taxable period. The OIG also substantiated that the AUSA willfully failed to file state individual income tax returns, in violation of state law, and owed more than $600 in state taxes for that same taxable period . . . .Federal and state prosecution of the AUSA was declined.

Before we little people see our first earned dollar, our paychecks are devoured by taxes. For most people, it’s one of their largest expenses. But what would happen if a taxpayer just decided not to pay taxes? Suppose we just called our respective HR departments and said, “Hey, we changed our minds. We don’t want to pay taxes.” We would be laughed at before being reminded that tax evasion is a crime. But not this AUSA’s HR department. They processed three years of payroll before an outside tip led the Office of Inspector General to stop the scheme.

For we little people, the HR department would refuse to stop withholding taxes unless we filed new paperwork lying to the HR department. Ordinary citizens know not to claim their cats and goldfish as dependents. But if we’re willing to risk an almost inevitable criminal prosecution, we might be able to eliminate or substantially reduce withholding by falsifying paperwork.

But then what would we do when it’s time to file a tax return? Would we have to lie to the IRS to keep the scheme going? Not this assistant U.S. attorney. This one just skipped filing a return. For three years. While working as a criminal prosecutor. That would be a crime outside the U.S. Department of Justice. But, once again, for those inside the velvet rope of the Department of Justice, breaking the law almost never leads to criminal prosecution.

It’s hardly the first time. Eric Felten of RealClearInvestigations inventoried the declined prosecutions from just one year of the Justice Department’s internal reports of wrongdoing by its employees. Remember when Justice Department attorneys framed former Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)? The prosecutors kept their jobs without facing even a light suspension.

Remember when then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe repeatedly lied to investigators about an election-meddling leak of highly-sensitive investigative information in October 2016? Prosecution declined.

One supervisory FBI analyst kept illegal child pornography on his devices. Prosecution declined.

The Department of Justice shares its privilege with political allies. The declined prosecutions often fall within an obvious political pattern.

Selectively enforcing tax law is extremely dangerous to the legitimacy of any government. This latest revelation is yet another indication that the Department of Justice has become totally untethered from constitutional oversight by the little people (voters) who are supposed to allocate real power through elections.

Unlike the intelligence community, the Department of Justice has a robust Office of Inspector General who routinely exposes misconduct within its ranks. But when the OIG reveals misconduct within the Justice Department, nothing happens. The perpetrators slither away before being fired and/or never face criminal consequences that normal people would face.

The Department of Justice doesn’t care what the little people think. It doesn’t have to.