Freedom Under Siege
Just a week after the President extolled the benign virtues of big government and told university students to ignore those who warn of its dangers, Americans woke up to headlines that this government has been targeting groups and individuals that it doesn’t like for intimidation and harassment.
I appreciate the president’s sudden interest in getting to the bottom of this. But I must remind the House that more than a year ago, I and other members rose on the floor to warn of these tactics directed at Tea Party groups by the IRS.
At the time, the administration responded by saying that this was just a normal backlog.
Now we know that was a deliberate and premeditated lie.
It now appears that nearly 500 conservative groups were subjected to invasive review and intimidation. The IRS demanded the names of every participant at every meeting these groups held over a period of years, transcripts of every speech given at those meetings, what positions they had taken on issues, the names of their volunteers and donors — and in some cases their families — and copies of privileged communications they had with elected officials. In some cases, the person filing the request was then subjected to a personal income tax audit.
There is no way to estimate the number of additional groups that were discouraged from organizing because of these tactics. Meanwhile, it appears that leftist groups had their applications routinely approved. The impact this had on the 2012 election is incalculable.
We are also learning that these tactics extended well beyond a few low-level rogue employees in Cincinnati.
Lois Lerner, the official in charge of tax exempt organizations for the IRS was awarded more than $42,000 in bonuses while she was directing what the president now calls outrageous behavior.
Highly intrusive and unwarranted demands for information also originated from the Washington, D.C., office and at least two satellite offices in California.
Dr. Anne Hendershott, a Catholic sociologist, professor and writer came under a personal income tax audit after she exposed a George Soros front group masquerading as a grass-roots Catholic organization. She said the questions put to her during a grueling audit were largely political. This occurred from the New Haven, Conn., office.
It appears that evangelical groups were also targeted, as were Jewish groups supporting Israel.
Nor was this misconduct limited to groups applying under Section 501.
There is now reason to believe that IRS officials leaked confidential tax information to top officials in the Obama campaign, and to liberal groups such as Pro-Publica and the Huffington Post, which may then have illegally published that information.
During the campaign, Austan Goolsbee and Harry Reid appeared to reference confidential tax information involving Charles and David Koch and Mitt Romney, only to back off when pressed for the source.
Nor does this conduct appear to be limited to the IRS.
Shortly after businessman Frank Vandersloot was attacked by the Obama campaign for his support of Mitt Romney, he came under audits by both the IRS and the Labor Department.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute has just released a damning survey of fee waivers granted by the Environmental Protection Agency under the Freedom of Information Act. Left-leaning groups had their fees waived 92 percent of the time. Conservative groups just the opposite – about 7 percent of the time.
And this week it also became clear that the FBI is using general warrants — banned by the Fourth Amendment — to rifle through the phone records of Associated Press reporters with a clear intention to intimidate whistle blowers and to obstruct the operation of a free press.
We are seeing a pattern of conduct throughout this administration that is absolutely toxic to a free society: government using its powers to intimidate private citizens who are simply trying to take part in the public policy debate.
This cries out for a full investigation by the Congress, and I utterly reject the notion that the ritual naming and firing of a few hapless scapegoats is sufficient. Every government employee who abused their power must be identified, exposed, disgraced, dismissed and debarred from ever again holding a position of authority or trust within this government.
Tom McClintock represents the 4th Congressional Distict.