Former IRS Commissioner reflects on Nixon's "enemies list."
Johnnie M. Walters, a commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard M. Nixon who left office after refusing to prosecute people on Nixon’s notorious “enemies list,” died on Tuesday at his home in Greenville, S.C. He was 94. ...From a USA Today profile, May 2013
Nixon had fired his first IRS commissioner, Randolph W. Thrower, for resisting White House pressure to punish political opponents. Mr. Thrower, who served from 1969 to 1971, died at 100 in March. ...
Mr. Walters had not been told of Nixon’s other job requirements, as revealed in a White House conversation recorded on May 13, 1971. “I want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what he’s told, that every income-tax return I want to see I see, that he will go after our enemies and not go after our friends,” the president said.
Mr. Walters failed to follow this script — which was unknown to him — when John W. Dean III, the White House counsel, summoned him to his office on Sept. 11, 1972. Mr. Dean handed him the “enemies list” of 200 people, most prominent Democrats, whom he wanted investigated.
"I was shocked,” Mr. Walters said in a 1997 interview with The Washington Post. “John, do you realize what you’re doing?” he remembered saying. “If I did what you asked, it’d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.” ...
Several days later, Mr. Walters went to his immediate boss, Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, showed him the list and recommended that the IRS do nothing. Mr. Shultz told him to lock the list in his safe.
By Sept. 15, Nixon had been told of Mr. Walters’s reluctance to follow instructions. “Why the hell did we promote him?” H. R. Haldeman, the White House chief of staff said, according to a tape. Nixon told Mr. Dean, “You’ve got to kick Walters’s ass out first and get a man in there.” The president added that Mr. Shultz needed to make sure that Mr. Walters left if he wanted to keep his own job.
Mr. Walters gave the list to Laurence N. Woodworth, chief of staff of Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. He wrote in his 2011 book, “Our Journey,” that this was the most important thing he did, “because then we could say with absolute certainty that IRS never began any audit or investigation of any name on that list because of the list.”
Mr. Walters testified to various committees investigating alleged Nixon misdeeds. He left office in April 1973.
Nixon sought to use the enemies list to target his opponents and he wanted to use the IRS to achieve that goal, Naftali said.
"The story is interesting because the IRS wouldn't do it," he said. "It didn't happen, not because the White House didn't want it to happen, but because people like Johnnie Walters said 'no.'"
Walters said he was stunned in 1972 when White House counsel John Dean gave him an envelope containing an "enemies list" of about 200 prominent Democrats.
The election was approaching and he understood that the White House wanted the Democrats "investigated and some put in jail" Walters would write later in his book, Our Journey.
"I said to him, 'John, do you know what you're doing?' " Walters recalled. "He said, 'No, what do you mean?'"
Walters, in disbelief, walked out with the enemies list. A couple of days later, he showed the list to Secretary of the Treasury George Shultz, his boss, and said that in his opinion the IRS should do "absolutely nothing" with it.
Shultz glanced at the list, threw it back across his desk and indicated that Walters should lock it up in his safe and do nothing further, Walters wrote.
He personally sealed the list, locked it in the safe and told no one at the IRS he had it.
"We did not touch a single person on that list," he said.
. . .
"I'm distressed at what's happening and particularly with IRS," said Walters, a lifelong Republican. "IRS must be run nonpolitical. Our tax system otherwise will fail and we can't afford that."
I wonder if there's anyone at the IRS today who would say "no" if asked to audit the President's perceived enemies?