Opinion: Op-Eds

Audited Virginia farmer faces more thuggery

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Virginia,Op-Eds,Taxes,Agriculture,Corruption,IRS,Analysis

Martha Boneta's lifelong dream — her pursuit of happiness — was to be a farmer.

Since purchasing Liberty Farm in Fauquier County, Virginia, where she grows organic vegetables and has over 160 rescued livestock on her small farm, her life has been a series of harassment and bullying by people in power.

The latest trouble is that her house in the nearby, charming village of Paris, which has been placid ever since Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson bivouacked nearby during the Civil War, was vandalized. The same day, she was harassed at her farm by strangers in a Georgetown-registered car.

Ten days earlier Martha had gone public about an IRS audit. Journalist Kevin Mooney broke the story that Boneta was audited by the IRS last year after a series of disputes with the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Fauquier County government.

It was later shown that the audit was disclosed to at least one Fauquier County official, perhaps feloniously.

Martha's disputes brought her national attention because of her willingness to stand up to ridiculousness. She was cited and threatened with $5,000 fines for hosting a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls without an "events" permit from the county.

Citizens from around the state rallied behind the farmer and held two "pitchfork protests." Earlier this year, the Boneta Bill was introduced in the Virginia General Assembly.

The popular bill provided remedies for farmers against unruly government officials, but was defeated by Richmond lobbyists.

Martha bought her farm subject to a conservation easement held by the PEC, a group so well-financed that it once beat Disney's attempt to build a Civil War theme park in Northern Virginia.

Mooney interviewed PEC board member Margaret "Peggy" Richardson, who was the IRS commissioner under Bill Clinton. She resigned under a cloud after dozens of conservative nonprofit organizations were audited.

Asked about the IRS audit of Boneta coming on the heels of legal disputes between the farmer and the PEC, Richardson said, "Coincidences do happen."

But this audit has shown to be no coincidence. A Fauquier County supervisor blabbed about the audit two days after the notice was signed at the IRS and six days before Boneta received it. That shows collusion.

The supervisor is Richardson's friend and neighbor, and a former PEC board member.

Emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that county officials seemed obsessed about Boneta after she had stood up to the PEC's wayward and bullying approach to enforcing its easement.

Then in 2011 the county concocted an ordinance restricting farm sales that was enforced only against Boneta. She was cited for selling such things as emu-feather necklaces and homemade pies without a "special administrative farm sales permit," even though such sales complied with Virginia law.

Fauquier County seemed to be using the force of government to carry out the PEC's agenda. In cloistered meetings, Fauquier officials praised the PEC's efforts against the Boneta Bill, and vice versa.

Boneta did not report the recent vandalism to the sheriff. During her legal disputes with the PEC, she reported that wires at her farm had been cut. Six months later, an unusual stretch of time, she was charged with filing a false police report. The case against her was thrown out.

When the county sent an official to her farm without a warrant under the auspices of investigating a zoning infraction, the official was accompanied by one armed deputy. Two more armed deputies soon arrived on the scene even though there was no threat of an incident.

Boneta is undaunted and has gotten more private security including a bulletproof vest.

Exposure of IRS abuse and government thuggery against everyday people who tangle with power is exploding. It is no coincidence that Americans in record numbers fear government.

Internal Revenue Code section 7213:

It shall be unlawful for any officer or employee of the United States or any person described in section 6103(n) (or an officer or employee of any such person), or any former officer or employee, willfully to disclose to any person, except as authorized in this title, any return or return information (as defined in section 6103(b)).

Any violation of this paragraph shall be a felony punishable upon conviction by a fine in any amount not exceeding $5,000, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution, and if such offense is committed by any officer or employee of the United States, he shall, in addition to any other punishment, be dismissed from office or discharged from employment upon conviction for such offense.

Mark J. Fitzgibbons is co-author with Richard Viguerie of "The Law That Governs Government."

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