by Johnnie Mac Walters
In 1971 embattled President Richard M. Nixon sought to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon to investigate and punish his “enemies.” Tapes of White House conversations reveal that Nixon wanted as Commissioner “a ruthless son-of-a-bitch that he will do what he is 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.” Attorney General John Mitchell recommended one of his assistants, a specialist in tax law, Johnnie McKeiver Walters, for the key post.
Walters was confirmed as Commissioner of Internal Revenue in August of 1971 and served until 1973. Apparently neither Nixon nor Mitchell ever spoke with Walters to ensure he would aid them as they desired. In fact, Walters was “shocked” when White House counsel John Dean presented him with an “enemies list,” and he refused to politicize the IRS as Nixon wanted. When presidential domestic advisor John P. Ehrlichman confronted Walters about his “foot-dragging tactics” in regard to ordered audits, Walters told Secretary of the Treasury George P. Schultz that he could “have my job anytime he wanted it.” In an administration largely remembered for its abuse of power, Walters stands apart for his steadfast performance under pressure.