by digby

The TV is obsessed with the anti-tax nut who flew his plane into a building because he didn't know how to account for a piano on his tax returns. Or something. from the looks of it, he's a fairly typical anti-government crank whose incoherent combination of grievances sounds as if it would be perfectly at home at your average tea party.

But I was intrigued by his reference to an early affiliation with a group that held "tax code readings" in California because I had a vague recollection of some scam a friend of mine had been involved with. Here's what this man wrote in his "manifesto":

My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early ‘80s. Unfortunately after more than 16 years of school, somewhere along the line I picked up the absurd, pompous notion that I could read and understand plain English. Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having ‘tax code’ readings and discussions. In particular, zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful “exemptions” that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy. We carefully studied the law (with the help of some of the “best”, high-paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business), and then began to do exactly what the “big boys” were doing (except that we weren’t steeling from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God). We took a great deal of care to make it all visible, following all of the rules, exactly the way the law said it was to be done.

The intent of this exercise and our efforts was to bring about a much-needed re-evaluation of the laws that allow the monsters of organized religion to make such a mockery of people who earn an honest living. However, this is where I learned that there are two “interpretations” for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us… Oh, and the monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws; the inquisition is still alive and well today in this country.

That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000+, 10 years of my life, and set my retirement plans back to 0. It made me realize for the first time that I live in a country with an ideology that is based on a total and complete lie. It also made me realize, not only how naive I had been, but also the incredible stupidity of the American public; that they buy, hook, line, and sinker, the crap about their “freedom”… and that they continue to do so with eyes closed in the face of overwhelming evidence and all that keeps happening in front of them.

A little googling brought it back:

Tax protesters usually evade taxes and sometimes commit acts of violence, but a number of people involved in the tax protest movement have also engaged in a variety of scams and frauds designed to capitalize on the beliefs of other tax protesters and the greed of ordinary citizens. Though they generally believe in the anti-tax rhetoric they preach, a variety of groups and individuals have worked actively to defraud others through the marketing of bogus trusts, "untax" kits or other devices that would ostensibly allow people to avoid paying income taxes.

Perhaps the most famous such tax protest organization was the California-based Your Heritage Protection Association, which, at one point in the early 1980s, could boast nearly 19,000 members. Its leader, Armen Condo, taught followers how to file papers claiming they were exempt from income taxes and urged them to pay a portion of those taxes to his organization as dues. Condo collected around $2 million before being arrested and convicted of mail and tax fraud in 1982, after which YHPA gradually died off. However, the YHPA was followed by the Pilot Connection Society, founded by Phillip and Marlene Marsh of Fresno, California. The Society sold "untax" kits to members from all 50 states, collecting more than $10 million in fees and dues before the Marshes and five associates were arrested on a variety of charges in 1993 -- with members in other states arrested subsequently

IIRC, this group was one of those "common law" groups that set up mirror governments and declared that the "sovereign" state of wherever didn't have to abide by the US Constitution. They are also loosely affiliated with the Posse Comitatus white supremacists, militias and other garden variety Anti-government fringers. It's all part of that great American wingnut tapestry.

Obviously, I'm just guessing that one or both of these scams are what this guy was referring to, but it fits. If it was, then this fellow was not only an anti-tax loon, he was a victim of anti-tax loons, which makes him a double dupe.

Update: A little bit more about the "Your Heritage Protection Association" scam.