When I became a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I looked forward to the opportunity to relay Georgians’ questions and concerns about this Administration’s dangerous activities.
What I did not anticipate was how many scandals and serious missteps by the Administration would demand the Committee’s immediate attention in the first few months of my tenure as Georgia’s Congressman from the Ninth District. [Watch Fox News interview with Rep. Collins here].
Today’s hearing focused on the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report released last week. This report revealed that the IRS has been targeting specific groups applying for tax-exempt status – specifically, those that included “patriot” or “tea party” in their name, or were working to reduce federal growth, high taxes, or merely educate fellow citizens concerning the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
The TIGTA report indicates that the IRS delayed these groups’ applications and gathered a significant amount of private information that was completely unnecessary for the IRS’ purposes. Targeted groups were asked to provide everything from donor lists and Facebook posts to descriptions of organization members’ prayers.
No one – including the witnesses who testified before the Committee today and a recent Judiciary hearing – has been able to offer a clear answer to me how an IRS agent could justify asking anyone about something as personal as the content of their prayers. IRS tax-exempt organizations office head, Lois Lerner, even went as far to claim her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination so she wouldn’t have to testify today.
This is no matter of partisan politics; it is a fundamental question of whether individuals employed by federal agencies will be required to operate within the boundaries of our laws and Constitution, or are free to use their position to promote their personal agenda. The TIGTA report was produced exclusively by the Treasury Department – not congressional Republicans or tea party groups. Civil servants within the federal government identified these misdeeds.
Each Member of Congress – regardless of his or her political affiliation – has a responsibility to expose anyone in the federal government that engages in political intimidation. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, as well as other Committees in the House and Senate, have already begun this important work.
But I understand that politics can sometimes cloud the investigative process, which is why I believe the appointment of an independent investigative body is the best way to proceed in this matter. The individuals responsible for the IRS’ policies and practices related to discriminating against certain tax-exempt groups must be identified and removed from their positions of public trust as soon as possible.
Americans have put up with an arrogant Administration that has picked winners and losers using their hard-earned tax money for the last four and a half years. But the IRS scandal crosses a line that Americans simply aren’t willing to tolerate. Individuals at the IRS clearly sought to influence the 2012 elections, and that must never be allowed to happen again. No federal employee, no matter where they work, should be permitted to target another American just because he or she has different political beliefs.
Georgians won’t stand for it, and neither will I.
Reprinted with permission of ZPolitics. For more go to ZPolitics.com