Congressman Jim Bridenstine Demands Answers on IRS Harassment Scandal

16 05 2013
Congressman Jim Bridenstine (OK-1) stands with Rep. Paul Broun (GA), Senator Ted Cruz (TX), Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), and others listening to Jenny Beth Martin, founder of Tea Party Patriots, at a news conference today at the Capitol.  Martin said, “Government agents have used the IRS as a weapon to silence speech, harass innocent Americans, and perhaps sway elections.”

Congressman Jim Bridenstine (OK-1) stands with Rep. Paul Broun (GA), Senator Ted Cruz (TX), Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), and others listening to Jenny Beth Martin, founder of Tea Party Patriots, at a news conference today at the Capitol. Martin said, “Government agents have used the IRS as a weapon to silence speech, harass innocent Americans, and perhaps sway elections.”

Washington, DC – Congressman Jim Bridenstine is taking a leadership role in pursuing the truth behind IRS targeting of conservative organizations during the 2012 election cycle.

Mr. Bridenstine drafted a letter on Friday to be sent to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, who has ultimate authority over the IRS, seeking further information on this matter.  The letter has been co-signed by over 100 Members of Congress.

Bridenstine joined Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (MN) in a press conference at the Capitol today to denounce IRS harassment of conservative organizations.  Also participating were Senators Ted Cruz (TX), Mike Lee (UT), Rand Paul (KY) and Mitch McConnell (KY), several other Members of Congress, and representatives of targeted organizations: Jenny Beth Martin, Tea Party Patriots; Amy Kremer, Tea Party Express; Jordan Sekulow, American Center for Law & Justice; Todd Cefaratti, TheTeaParty.Net; Adam Brandon, FreedomWorks; Niger Innis, TheTeaParty.Net; Diane Belson, Laurens County Tea Party; and Tom Zawistowski, Ohio Liberty Coalition.

On Friday, May 10th, the Associated Press published a disturbing report in which officials from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) admitted that they singled out conservative political organizations claiming tax exempt status for additional scrutiny and investigation.

Ms. Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax exempt groups, admitted that at least 75 organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax exempt status.  While she acknowledged that actions were clearly violations of IRS policies, she laid the blame on “low-level workers” in the Cincinnati IRS office.  She failed to clarify at the time that Cincinnati is not a minor regional office but rather the IRS national office that handles all tax exempt organizations.

Ms. Lerner’s statements directly contradicted the testimony of then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee in March 2012.  At the time, Mr. Shulman stated unequivocally that “there is absolutely no targeting” and that “this is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax exempt status.  In a reversal, on Wednesday the Administration demanded the resignation of Steven Miller, the current Acting Director of the IRS.

The inappropriate and intimidating investigation tactics included probing questions about organizations’ board members, officers, employees, and their families.  There were also demands for extraordinary detail on employee training, vending, and advertising.  Among other IRS demands, they required lists of “all issues important to your organization” with requests to “indicate your position regarding each issue.”  Tea Party organizations reported requests for complete lists of all the books their staffs had read in the prior 12 months with book reports on each.

Congressman Bridenstine said, “The resignation of Steven Miller does not relieve this Administration from its culpability for creating a political culture that generates harassment and abuse of power by institutions that should be apolitical.”

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