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Sunday, September 25, 2016

House Committee Hears Testimony From Victims Of IRS ‘Scandal’

In Tuesday’s episode of the ongoing IRS “scandal,” the House Ways and Means Committee met with representatives from six organizations that were targeted by the IRS during their application process for 501(c)(3) or 501 (c)(4) tax exempt status.

The at-times emotional testimony from the witnesses were not dissimilar—allegations of long waits for responses from IRS officials on the status of their applications, odd and intrusive questions about the content of the groups’ public prayers and protests, and requirements that they refrain from targeting groups like Planned Parenthood, as well as the depletion of already low funds during the lengthy tax-exemption process were shared by all six.

Ways and Means Committee chairman Rep. David Camp (R-MI) said in his opening statement, “At its core, this investigation is about how and why the IRS was empowered and allowed to use a broken tax code to abuse individuals based on their beliefs—and seemingly only based on their beliefs.” The comments from committee members demanded accountability, offered sympathy regardless of political affiliation, and ensured that justice would be served at all levels of the IRS.

One of the witnesses, Karen L. Kenney of the San Fernando Valley Patriots in Encino, CA, detailed her unjust experience of discriminatory tactics at the hands of the IRS. Her critical advice for the government agency: “I think the IRS needs to fix its labeling machine. We’re the San Fernando Valley Patriots, not Occupy Oakland.”

The recommendations from the witnesses to members of Congress were mostly to arrest and charge those responsible. One witness, Kevin Kookogey, the president and founder of Linchpins of Liberty: An American Leadership Development Enterprise, even suggested impeaching President Obama for his “Nixonian” tactics.

Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) said, “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It should not be.” Other Democrats had slightly different opinions.

Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) said in his statement, “None of your organizations were kept from organizing or silenced. We are talking about whether or not the American public will subsidize your work. Each of your groups is highly political.”

In a contentious rebuttal, Paul Ryan (R-WI) discarded his planned statements in order to address McDermott. Ryan reiterated the same old message alleged by every GOP leader—conservative groups fell victim to a Democratic administration that targeted and impeded these groups from obtaining tax-exempt status solely based on their political views.

In fact, during Kevin Kookegey’s testimony, he stated, “I believe that the present administration—through its agency, the IRS—is engaged in an exercise to coerce us to submit to the administration’s desire to fundamentally transform America, and in so doing it is wreaking havoc and destruction on human liberty.” He continued, “Delaying the granting of our tax-exempt status because of our political views or conditioning our rights on how we choose to exercise them is a violation not only of our Constitution, but of the laws of Nature and Nature’s God. Rather than engaging us in debate, this administration—through its agency, the IRS—has attempted to penalize and destroy those who hold opposing views.”

What Republicans failed to acknowledge is the list of progressive groups also targeted by the IRS. Representative John Lewis (D-GA) asked “where was the outrage” when progressive groups were targeted in the same way during the Bush administration? Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY), in agreement with Lewis, submitted a full list of targeted progressive groups for the record.

Tuesday’s hearing had a little bit of everything—empathy for the “ victims,” blame for the political opposition, overuse of the word “scandal,” and of course the the predictable calls for the president’s impeachment.

What was noticeably absent were any suggestions to fix the real problem.

In 2010, the Supreme Court sided with the conservative group Citizens United and in effect opened up a loophole for groups to file for 501 (c)(4) status and run political ads without having to disclose their donors. Since that decision, the number of such applications has increased tremendously.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes discussed this issue saying, “Now, here is the thing the IRS appears to have done unequivocally wrong, that we all agree was absolutely inexcusable. They reacted to all this by targeting one part of the ideological spectrum in looking at whether this flood of new applicants passed the smell test. Being skeptical about a new wave of wolves in sheep’s clothing invading the non-profit game was entirely appropriate.” This is precisely what seems to be the real issue, the actual “scandal” at the IRS—but the effect of an overflow of applications on a drowning IRS staff is consistently ignored.

Instead of productive discussion to solve this issue, what we see is a lot of what was displayed at Tuesday’s hearing. A lineup of witnesses made up solely of individuals from conservative groups called upon by the House Republican majority to criticize and discredit the Democratic administration — and as usual, no discussion of a pragmatic way to fix the system.

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

  • Lynda Groom

    The groups got the tax exempt status they wished. They have little to complain about, but of course politics could not possible have anything to do with the charade being played out. Why is the fact that none of these organizations had to wait for approval before acting as a tax exempt entity not being discussed? It is way past time to stop whining and be thankful that they are getting away with skirting the wording of the tax law. That is the real scandal being ignored by the talking heads in Washington. We the taxpayers are providing subsidies for political groups who are using loopholes to avoid following the intention of the laws. None, from any political point of view, should be allowed to get away with this nonsense. Playing the victim card is an insult to the committee and to the American people.

    • RobertCHastings

      ALL such groups, regardless of party affiliation, are inappropriately labeled if their purpose is to “educate” politically, a goal several of the witnesses attested to. As a Democrat, I don’t want my tax dollars going to the support of an organization whose purpose is to do away with the Democratic Party. Republicans, I am sure, feel the same way. It must be noted that among those who filed such complaints, the only organization that DID NOT receive the coveted tax-exempt status was one affiliated with Democratic ideals.

    • stcroixcarp

      Now the tea party is the “victim”. I thought it was their strategy to BLAME the victim. Well, those folks have only themselves to blame. If they weren’t continually screaming about taxes and how they have to pay too much and that taxes are the same as stealing, they wouldn’t find themselves being “targeted” by the same agency they target with their vitriolic rhetoric. Suck it up tea party! Act like real men! You deserve any harassment you get.

    • Mark Forsyth

      They are like the bitchy,whining, crying child who needs to be given a real reason to cry.Too bad we can’t prosecute the gop/t bag obstructionists for pretending to work in government.

    • Howard15

      Lynda,
      You seem to know what you are talking about. What is the benefit of being tax exempt? What is the benefit of applying for this status if you get it anyway. I have heard that donations to these organizations are not tax deductible. Is that true?

  • atc333

    If people took the time to listen to the “purposes” and agendas of these groups, they would discover it is for “educational” goals, specifically, to politically “educate” and “program” children and younger generations into the radical right’s political agenda.

    This is for a very specific political purpose, somewhat reminiscence of the system used by the operators of a infamous “youth group” in Europe in the late 30s and early 40s,* but on a much lesser scale, getting them while they are young to instill a specific political viewpoint, and attitude towards other members of society.

    The Far Right has the Constitutional right to form these groups, but do not expect me, as a US Citizen to agree to “tax exempt” status for an obviously political organization which sole purpose is to educate (read “program”) children with only radical right political dogma as they are reaching adulthood.

    Stop and think about this. The IRS may have been wrong in delaying approval or denial of their applications, but after hearing these organizers goals and purposes in their own words, which disclosed their very specific political purpose to”educate our youth” to adhere to their specific view of our government, and our Constitution, the IRS was absolutely correct in questioning their entitlement to tax exempt status.

    *Hitler Youth who programmed the German Children to accept and implement Hitler’s “Master Race” mass exterminations, and world domination. .

    • I agree, and I think comparing our political organizations to their Third Reich cousins is appropriate. What amazes me is the indifference of most voters to this issue. Why do we allow political organizations, and Churches, to enjoy tax exempt status. We are, in effect, subsidizing organizations whose only purpose in life is to influence the ideological convictions and values of those who are unable to form opinions based on facts and demonstrable record, and not only are they getting away with it, they claim victimhood when someone challenges their subliminal rights.

  • docb

    Whining ‘victim-hood’ women and indignant little white male popinjays…Not a thing there that bring solutions..typical repub bagger overreach and waste of tax payer$$$$!

    Let us know when the baggers bring real witnesses that can bring solutions..till then ..all partisan crap all the time!

  • latebloomingrandma

    So one witness complains about the awful tax system. Republicans—are you stepping up to the plate with tax overhaul legislation? No? Just keep complaining and have no solutions. . I don’t think that’s actually your job description. I hear now that the well touted and important immigration bill is now stymied. No wonder the President is so frustrated. There are a bunch of adolescents in Congress.

    • Mark Forsyth

      At least you can occasionally get an adolescent to do something constructive.These dolts on the hill are inexcusable.

  • Mark Forsyth

    As usual,no notion at all of how to fix the situation.But let them find a new hoodwink or a pig in a poke to offer the American People and it will happen lickety split.

  • Mark Forsyth

    These bastards would be more productive if they picked their noses.

  • Is the House planning to hold hearings over the insults and threats made by Tea Party members to ethnic minorities during the last 4.5 years? Are they planning to investigate the attempts by Republican Governors and legislatures to make it as difficult as possible for minorities to vote? The latter is a lot more important than unscrupulous politicians being investigated for lying in their tax exempt applications…which should also be investigated!

  • Allan Richardson

    These “hearings” are show trials like Joe McCarthy’s and are rigged to show off testimony without evidence. The IRS is prohibited by law from DEFENDING itself from any such charge without PERMISSION from the parties making the charge! So a few Republican activists thought they were targeted for audit because of their beliefs; are they sure it was not because they were skating close to (or over) the edge in their tax shelter schemes? More Republicans than Democrats; possibly because with less income and simpler returns, the Democrats are not involved with as many tax shelter schemes? Tea Party groups being “audited” for non-profit status; possibly because their name is a sign that they PLAN and INTEND to break the law, both by not paying taxes themselves and by allowing donors to disguise political contributions as charitable gifts? If the SIGN on the building says “bank robbers’ secret hideout” the building probably IS the hideout! Or at least that would be a reasonable assumption for the police to make.

    Because of the Tea Party fraud, MY TAX DOLLARS are being taken to finance the political party OPPOSED to my beliefs, while being HONEST, I only donate to MY party from after-tax dollars. I would not only want to let the IRS off, I would like to give these agents MEDALS for enforcing the law as it was intended. And if they find some liberal groups guilty of fraudulent use of non-profit status, I can live with that, and I surely would not want to make a Congressional inquiry out of it.

    Again, the Republican philosophy is that laws are there for OTHER people to obey; try to enforce the laws against THEM and they are being “persecuted.”

  • Howard15

    I like the lady who got up there and was literally crying and then proceeded to tell us she was approved for her tax break. What was she crying about? How was she damaged?