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Unacceptable, illegal, outrageous, a blatant abuse of power, and a breach of trust – all terms appropriately used to describe the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) recent admission that they targeted various conservative groups for additional scrutiny as they applied for tax-exempt status.
The IRS is required to remain non-partisan in the enforcement of America’s tax laws. Targeting groups based on political leanings, whether they are conservative or liberal, is inappropriate and a violation of the constitutional rights of these groups. I am very concerned that the IRS’s actions may have been an attempt to intimidate organizations that disagree politically with the Administration.
Conservative groups across the nation were impacted by this targeting, resulting in lengthy paperwork requirements, prying questions, and delays in their applications for tax-exempt status. This hits close to home. Organizations here in Virginia were subject to IRS scrutiny, including a Tea Party group in the Shenandoah Valley. I have been demanding answers from the IRS since I was contacted by this group last year about the delay in their application with the IRS.
Over the past few weeks, we have seen many inconsistencies in reports from the Administration on this issue. Serious questions remain surrounding the origin of the directive to carry out this scrutiny and exactly what the White House knew and when. During a congressional hearing on the issue this week, Lois Lerner, IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, invoked her Fifth Amendment right and refrained from answering any questions. This only raises more questions about what exactly the IRS has to hide. One thing is clear, whether the responsible party is high-level or low-level officials, in Cincinnati or Washington, they must be held accountable for their actions. All signs point to this being a result of politically-motivated actions by the IRS. It is imperative that we get to the bottom of what really happened.
Along with investigative hearings by the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I have demanded that the Department of Justice conduct a thorough investigation into this matter, including why Congress was not notified when IRS officials and senior White House staff became aware of this issue. I also have serious concerns about the leak of information by the IRS about these targeted groups to the liberal, investigative website ProPublica and whether that resulted in any criminal violations of the law.
The misconduct of the IRS has done very little to instill trust and faith in the federal government. The Administration owes the American people an in-depth investigation of this matter and real answers regarding the IRS’s blatant abuse of power. I will continue to push for these answers and hold the IRS fully accountable for their actions.