IRS scandal hearings: Impressions from the Aggrieved Party

hearing-irsOver the last two weeks I have had the privilege of attending two congressional hearings in our nation’s Capitol on the IRS scandal – the House Ways & Means Committee (chaired by Rep. Dave Camp) and the House Oversight Committee (chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa).

I am deeply troubled by what I heard during these hearings as well as what I have personally experienced as one of the victims of the IRS’ methodical and deliberate targeting of our organization and that of hundreds of other conservative groups who dared to exercise their First Amendment rights.

Sitting through over six hours of hearings, there were moments of hope and optimism intertwined with outrage, frustration and anger.

Ways & Means Committee Hearing

When news of the IRS’ actions initially broke, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle rushed in front of the cameras to denounce the IRS’ behavior, express outrage and promise a thorough investigation and resulting accountability. But once the main stream media cameras flickered, and the monotonous streaming of C-SPAN cameras ensued, many Democratic congressmen in the Ways & Means hearing, realizing that the public had likely tuned out, began to reveal an attitude in their line of questioning that sought to rationalize, justify and deflect. From repeated references to the fact that former President George W. Bush appointed IRS Commissioner Shulman (the old “blame Bush” argument) to their decrying a lack of resources for the IRS or the complexity of the tax code, many Democrats chose to pontificate rather than to grill acting Commissioner Miller.  It seemed to me that each Congressman’s five minutes would have been best used in questioning the witness who was at the center of the scandal.

Throughout the Ways & Means hearing there was an obvious contempt and disrespect for the Committee displayed by acting Commissioner Miller.  Before the hearings began I watched Mr. Miller as he joked and laughed with his staff, leading one to conclude that he had very little concern for the matter at hand. One could surmise that if there was true regret for one’s behavior, an attitude of humility and remorse would have been displayed. Unfortunately, there was never any such indication with Mr. Miller.  Additionally, his most regular answer was “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” when challenged by Congress.

There were four other highlights during the Ways & Means hearing worth noting:

  • Acting Commissioner Miller surprised Congressmen when he stated he was still employed at the IRS for a few more weeks.  Recall that earlier in the week President Obama announced Miller’s resignation with great fanfare – leading many Americans to believe that Miller had been fired immediately.  Rather, Miller is being allowed to work out a notice – hardly what I would call being held immediately accountable.
  • Miller admitted that he and Lerner had discussed planting the question that led to Lerner’s infamous “apology” at an ABA conference on May 10.  By resorting to this scheme, it appeared that Miller and Lerner were attempting to preempt the IG audit report by several days, perhaps hoping to drop the news on a Friday afternoon in a manner that the media wouldn’t focus an excessive amount of attention on the issue.
  • In an indirect reference to the IRS’ major role in implementing Obamacare, Rep. Tim Griffen stated:  “… our most expansive federal powers have been given to our most intrusive agency.”  Wow, that says it all and should cause every American cause for alarm.
  • The most rousing speech of the hearing was delivered by Rep. Mike Kelly and many of us in attendance erupted in applause at Kelly’s impassioned comments.  It can be viewed here:

House Oversight Committee Hearing

While the House Ways & Means Committee hearings revealed the unfortunate partisan schism that all too often exists in Washington, the House Oversight Committee hearings showed a unanimity of bi-partisan outrage and condemnation, with a corresponding level of scrutiny and questioning from both sides of the aisle. In fact, one of the most scathing line of questioning came from Democratic Congressman Steven Lynch.  His not so veiled threat to both the former Commissioner Shulman and other IRS witnesses at large was that “there will be hell to pay if the IRS continues to stonewall!”  Here is the clip:

But I get ahead of myself.

Perhaps the most significant testimony of the entire Oversight Committee hearing was the one that was never heard.  On May 10, IRS Director Lois Lerner dropped her bombshell “apology” – a contrived and planted “non-apology.”  Yet, while Lerner headed up the tax exempt unit that is prominent in the scandal, and it appears she was directly involved and/or aware of the Agency’s stripping of citizens’ constitutional rights based on their beliefs, Ms. Lerner was all to eager and willing to assert her Fifth Amendment rights:

I would contend that Lerner could be the poster child for one of the viruses infecting our government today – Bureaucratic Elitism!

Other key highlights from the Oversight hearing were:

  • Commissioner Shulman made 118 visits to the White House during the timeframe in question.  Despite this high number of visits, Shulman claims that he never discussed the tea party targeting matter with anyone at the White House.
  • The Inspector General’s report substantiated that the IRS did in fact: 1) Target Tea Party groups, 2) Delayed them, and 3) Subjected them to unnecessary scrutiny.
  • The IG performed an Audit, not an Investigation.  Audits, focused on efficiencies and compliance, are much less intense than Investigations, which look for violations of federal criminal law.  Based on what was discovered during the Audit, it appears the IG has likely moved to a full blown Investigation of the IRS.

One other interesting side note was information that I received about former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.  A number of Congressional Democrats were eager to point out that Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush, suggesting or insinuating that a Republican was over the agency that targeted conservatives.  However, I learned that its commonly known in Washington that Shulman is a Democrat.  One bio online I found on Shulman indicated he contributed $500 to the Democratic National Committee in 2004.

While this is just a quick recap of the two hearings, what is clear to me is that the harassment and intimidation did not stem from just “two rogue agents in Cincinnati” as IRS Acting Commissioner Larry Miller would have us believe.  Further, the unconstitutional behavior was not even from a singular agency – the IRS.  Rather, as was referenced in the hearings as well as other reports, conservative groups and individuals were harassed, intimidated and subjected to illegal behavior by multiple government agencies including, but not limited to, the IRS, EPA, FBI, ATF, OSHA, DOJ, and Department of Labor.

So while President Obama may feign outrage at the behavior of one of HIS agencies, the reality is that there is a pattern of political targeting and oppression by Obama’s agencies against those that dare to speak out against the President’s policies or agenda.  Americans should understand that the focus of Obama’s team was not just Tea Party groups but also Jewish groups, Catholics, pro-life organizations, voter rights groups, Baptist churches, businessmen who supported Romney and even individual citizens who led some of the above groups.

I would contend that if ever the Tea Party movement has been vindicated, it is now.

Let’s remember that the movement began as a grassroots-initiated non-partisan outcry against the deliberate, irresponsible, and unconstitutional policies of our Federal Government that have contributed to its continued growth in size and power.

Does not this scandal and the others brewing in DC validate the above statement?

So, if you are like millions of other Americans who are disgusted with a government that would violate the law in targeting its own citizens, don’t sit on the sidelines.  Step up now.  Let your voice be heard.  Don’t listen to a media that has contributed to much of what is wrong with Washington.  Rather, visit your local tea party group and make your own decision about them.  I’m confident you will find that you share many of their values.

Let’s demand that those responsible for this “rogue government” be dismissed from their posts.  America – We can do better!