Johnnie Walters, IRS commissioner under President Richard M. Nixon, dies at 94

Johnnie Walters, IRS commissioner under President Richard M. Nixon, dies at 94
In a recorded conversation in the Oval Office on May 13, 1971, Richard M. Nixon laid out for his aides the job qualifications for the next commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service. … โ€œI want to be sure he is a ruthless son of a bitch, that he will do what heโ€™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,โ€ the president told H.R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, according to a transcript published years later in The Washington Post. โ€œNow itโ€™s as simple as that. If he isnโ€™t, he doesnโ€™t get the job.โ€

The man who got the job was Johnnie Walters, a fellow Republican then serving as assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Departmentโ€™s tax division. … Mr. Walters said he did not know of the presidentโ€™s demands when he became commissioner on Aug. 6, 1971. Once in office, by all accounts, he refused to participate in the administrationโ€™s attempts to use the tax agency for political purposes โ€” most notably, to intimidate through audits or threatened audits the individuals on the Nixon โ€œenemies list.โ€

Mr. Walters took office at a time of particular consternation among Nixon administration officials. They had found his predecessor โ€” Randolph W. Thrower, who died in March at 100 โ€” insufficiently cooperative with their efforts to make appointments and intimidate adversaries. … The president bitterly recalled being audited during the Democratic administration of President John F. Kennedy, who had defeated him in the 1960 election. In the run-up to Nixonโ€™s 1972 reelection campaign, White House counsel John W. Dean III furnished Mr. Walters with the administrationโ€™s โ€œenemies list,โ€ naming hundreds of individuals to be targeted for tax investigations.

โ€œI was so shocked,โ€ Mr. Walters told The Post years later. โ€œDuring the Kennedy years, things were done that shouldnโ€™t have been done. But this would have ruined the entire tax system. I said, โ€˜John, do you realize what youโ€™re doing? If I did what you asked, itโ€™d make Watergate look like a Sunday school picnic.โ€™ โ€

[Source: Washington Post]