We need more answers about IRS abuse of power
On May 10th, America learned that the IRS – perhaps the most frightening of all government agencies – has been singling out and targeting conservative groups, including Tea Party groups. This admission from the IRS confirms what many of us had already suspected. The IRS has, in fact, been delaying our applications and harassing those of us who wanted to form local Tea Party chapter organizations. In some extreme cases, the IRS went after Tea Party local leaders and audited their family members. President Obama said the IRS’s actions are “unacceptable.” He’s right, but these actions are also un-American and un-Constitutional.
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, which includes the right to political speech and the right to associate and form groups with other like-minded individuals. The Tea Party movement, which began organically in 2010 in response to government excess, has attracted millions of regular Americans. The Tea Party movement is, at its core, the embodiment of the American spirit. The Tea Party movement sprang up in response to the government’s abuses of its powers, and this latest stunt from the IRS confirms for many of us why the Tea Party is so necessary.
In response to this outrageous revelation, the House Ways & Means Committee immediately held a hearing to question Steven Miller, the former acting commissioner of the IRS who resigned because of the scandal, but only one month before his term would have ended. The questions at the hearing covered a broad spectrum: When did you learn about this targeting? What actions did you take after learning about this issue? Why did you previously lie to the Ways & Means Committee? Why did you mislead the American people about this problem? But Mr. Miller is apparently suffering from temporary amnesia because the only answer he offered was: “I don’t remember.” The systemic abuse of power that took place for nearly three years at the IRS is simply too far-reaching and widespread for Mr. Miller to get away with not remembering what took place.
Americans expect that our government will enforce its laws and rules – especially its tax laws – with fairness and equal application. Congress needs to keep asking questions and demanding more substantive answers than the evasive responses Mr. Miller provided.
THE IRS TARGETS TEA PARTY PATRIOTS
I. OVERVIEW OF THE IRS SCANDAL & IMPACT ON TEA PARTY PATRIOTS
- Timeline: According to the IG report, the IRS began targeting conservative organizations, especially Tea Party groups, in February of 2010. The IRS agents were directed to target organizations with the words “patriot” or “tea party” in the names.
- IRS Dishonesty: In 2011, the Ways & Means Committee conducted a hearing based on initial reports that conservative and Tea Party organizations were being targeted. At that time, the IRS commissioner lied and said there was absolutely no targeting taking place, even though he had already been briefed about the process and knew that it was his agency’s policy to single out conservative groups and delay or deny their application process.
- Lack of Accountability: Since the public learned about this about this problem, there has been very little accountability taken by anyone in the Administration or in the Executive Branch. Although Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS, resigned, he testified before the Ways & Means Committee on May 17th and denied there was any political agenda or any significant wrong-doing.
- Immense Scope of the Problem: We have learned that nearly 500 groups around the country were affected by this policy of targeting conservative organizations. We are continuing to learn about other organizations that were harassed, and we are just now beginning to see that the IRS misused its audit authority to single out individuals associated with TPP, as well as their small businesses.
- Challenges TPP Groups Have Experienced: Because Tea Party Patriots groups were targeted, many were unable to fundraise and Tea Party Patriots local groups and the national group lost membership and donors as a direct consequence of this illegal practice at the IRS.
- Pervasive Culture of Fear: The IRS’s policy of targeting Tea Party groups has had a chilling effect. Dozens of TPP state coordinators have said that they were too afraid to submit their applications after they learned about what other groups were experiencing.
II. AN EXTRAORDINARY ABUSE OF POWER
- It is a well-known truth that the “power to tax is the power to destroy.” Tea Party Patriots groups know this by experience now.
- The Internal Revenue Services is, perhaps, one of the most feared government agencies because of its immense power to audit and repossess people’s assets. The American public has the right to expect their tax laws to be enforced in a transparent and equal way, irrespective of the individual’s personal convictions or group memberships and associations.
- The IRS has crossed a line and set a precedent where individuals and their businesses may be targeted and harassed based solely on their political views or volunteer memberships.
- This large-scale abuse of power is illegal, unacceptable, and unconstitutional. The IRS’s actions are entirely inconsistent with our Founding Fathers’ vision for a government that would be accountable to the people.
III. THE CRITICALLY IMPORTANT ROLE OF THE TEA PARTY PATRIOTS
- The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, which the Supreme Court has consistently said includes the right of association. Americans have the right to form groups and associations for the purposes of political education and civic engagement.
- Tea Party Patriots is a national organization that exists for the purpose of encouraging grassroots involvement in holding the government accountable. One of TPP’s core beliefs is that our government should be constitutionally limited. The IRS scandal illustrates just how important the Tea Party Patriots’ mission is.
- Although TPP has been targeted and harassed over the past three years by our government, we will continue our work, educating the public about the Constitution and also reining in the scope of the federal government.