If you refuse to pay $1 million in federal taxes over two decades, you should expect to go to prison. If you announce your intent to resist, you might even get a visit from large numbers of heavily armed U.S. marshals. And if you have any doubt on either score, visit the Justice Department website or request a jailhouse interview with Ed and Elaine Brown.
But when it comes to the case of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his 20-year crusade to "liberate" $1 million from the United States Treasury into his own bank account, the state's top Republican leaders refused to tell their constituent to simply pay up as federal courts have ordered.
Instead, Senator Dean Heller and Governor Brian Sandoval blamed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for seeking to collect on Bundy's long overdue federal grazing fees, the same ones paid by routinely 16,000 other ranchers. As hundreds of supporters and armed militia members gathered to support Bundy, Governor Sandoval protested the same kind of "First Amendment areas" long used at the Republican and Democratic national conventions. Last week, Sandoval complained:
"No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly."Please read below the fold for more on this story.
On Wednesday, Senator Heller took a similar line:
"I spoke with BLM Director Kornze this morning to express great disappointment with the way that this situation is being handled. I told him very clearly that law-abiding Nevadans must not be penalized by an over-reaching BLM. After hearing from local officials and residents, and receiving feedback from the Nevada Cattlemen's Association in a meeting this morning, I remain extremely concerned about the size of this closure and disruptions with access to roads, water and electrical infrastructure. I will continue to closely monitor this situation, and urge the BLM to make the necessary changes in order to preserve Nevadans' constitutional rights."As for the gun-toting throng that converged in support of Bundy, Governor Sandoval asked only for their "restraint" while declaring "the ability to speak out against government actions is one of the freedoms we all cherish as Americans." It was only after the BLM called off its roundup of Bundy's cattle that Heller asked anything of the militia mob at all:
"The dispute is over, the BLM is leaving, but emotions and tensions are still near the boiling point, and we desperately need a peaceful conclusion to this conflict," Heller said. "I urge all the people involved to please return to your homes and allow the BLM officers to collect their equipment and depart without interference."The Republican interference with the ability of federal officials to merely collect the revenue owed to the government may be sad, but it isn't surprising. For over two decades, the GOP has targeted the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), slashing its budget and cutting its staff. Along with fiery rhetoric denouncing the IRS as "the Gestapo" and worse, Republicans have helped create an atmosphere in which Uncle Sam loses roughly $500 billion a year—about the size of the annual federal budget deficit—to tax fraud, evasion and underreporting. And it certainly doesn't help matters when Republicans on the House Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation hold a Congressional hearing on years-old cases titled "Threats, Intimidation and Bullying by Federal Land Managing Agencies."