My VIP for this week is Jenny Beth Martin, a founder of Tea Party Patriots. She sent a warning that the new law authorizing 87,000 new IRS agents could be the beginning of another effort to target conservatives as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was doing in 2013. In a phone interview with The Daily Signal, Martin warned about bureaucrats who are not held accountable. She said they would encourage other bureaucrats to “think that they are able to abuse the law in an even more egregious manner and get away with it.” She continued with this statement:
What concerns me is what we’re hearing right now with these 87,000 new IRS agents, they have such enormous power, they can garnish wages, they can levy bank accounts, they can put liens on your property.
In his article at The Daily Signal, Douglas Blair explained that conservatives accused the IRS in 2013 of “unfairly targeting their organizations as they sought IRS approval for tax-exempt status.” He continued with the following information.
The agency admitted it had selected specific groups applying for tax-exempt status – either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) – for additional and intense scrutiny based only on their names and political affiliations.
Most of the time, the IRS targeted conservative groups, looking for words in their names such as “freedom,” “liberty,” and “patriots.”
Conservative organizations were forced to endure years of waiting to receive information from the IRS regarding their applications.
“I believe that we applied in 2010 and then that we did not hear back until about 2012,” Martin, 52, recalled. “So [it took] almost two years, which is odd because normally you get an approval very quickly.”
And when conservative groups did hear back, she said, they were subjected to onerous questioning that went far beyond what was necessary to determine whether they qualified as tax-exempt organizations.
“They wanted to know what was said at our events. They wanted to have access to the back end of our website so they could read stuff on our website,” Martin said of the IRS questions. “So they were asking for things that were outside of what they should have been asking for.”
Congress stepped in to investigate after “the allegations that the IRS was targeting conservatives” was too bad to ignore. While testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, then-IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman said that the IRS was not targeting conservative groups. He resigned later that year.
You might remember that Lois Lerner, then director of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Unit, testified to the House committee on May22, 2013, that she had “not broken any laws” or “violated any IRS rules or regulations.” She “cited her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself and refused to testify further.”
After the committee “called Martin to testify about how her group had been targeted by the IRS, the IRS decided to “approve the tax-exempt status for Tea Party Patriots.” Martin said that the final approval took more than a year to take place, but “they called our attorneys, telling us it was approved the day before I was testifying before Congress about it.” Final IRS approval took two and half years.
Lerner resigned from the IRS, but Martin said that no other “government employees responsible for dragging their feet in scrutinizing conservative groups never received any punishment.” They “broke laws” but “were never held accountable.”
The bottom line for Martin is that the people in government agencies and departments must be held accountable when they break the law. Otherwise, there will continue to be “a chilling effect on speech and a chilling effect on the First Amendment.” Americans see the continuing pattern of targeting conservatives, and they continue to lose faith in the government. This faith in government will not be restored until lawless government employees are held accountable.