On June 4, several leaders of organizations that were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. They told of the abusive treatment they received, invasive and illegal questions, and long delays in processing their organizations’ applications for tax-exempt status.
Video of the session is available on C-SPAN’s website. Oral statements of the organization leaders start at about 00:15:40, including an emotional and compelling statement by Becky Gerritson, president of the Wetumpka, Alabama Tea Party at 00:47:00. Note that these people represent hundreds of groups who were unfairly targeted by the IRS as they requested tax-exempt status.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, one of the committees investigating the IRS scandal. In case you missed it, he spoke at the June 4 hearing, responding to the members of these conservative groups. After these quite moving and no doubt sincere statement, McDermott made rather startling and odd remarks that included some misstatements of fact as well as seeming to expect the group members to tell him what questions the IRS should have asked them, instead of the obviously inappropriate, and in some cases criminal, questions and demands that the groups received.
While saying that the IRS made a mistake in targeting conservative groups, he as much as blamed the groups themselves for their troubles because they requested tax-exempt status.
I’m not terribly familiar with Mr. McDermott’s work, but here he sounds more like a McDoofus. A few observations about his statement:
1. Tax exemption is not a government subsidy.
2. Organizations with 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status are allowed to engage in political activity, provided it is not their main activity.
3. Determining the proper level of scrutiny of organizations seeking tax-exempt status is not the responsibility of the organization, but the Congress and the IRS. The IRS has standard means of determining such status, and the questions and demands made to the organizations targeted far exceeded the established norms, which properly should be applied to all organizations seeking this status, whether conservative, liberal, or whatever.
4. The IRS scandal is serious enough that “fixing the problem” must include a thorough investigation to find out precisely what happened, who ordered what, and who up the chain of authority knew about it and when.
5. What the IRS did was beyond “mistakes,” and resulted in material harm to hundreds of groups and individuals, for which the agency must be held accountable.
6. The groups represented by the witnesses did nothing wrong in applying for tax-exempt status.
7. Contrary to some excuse makers, there were not more such applications than usual during the time frame represented by this scandal.
McDermott appeared June 5 on Fox News’ “America Live with Megan Kelly,” and rudely accused Kelly of “putting words in my mouth; stop it!” when she had merely asked him about his remarks.
After McDermott’s remarks at the hearing, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), 2012 GOP Vice-Presidential nominee, used his time to respond to McDermott’s ill-advised remarks instead of asking his planned questions:
As the many scandals of the Obama Administration continue to develop, McDermott has done nothing to help the crisis of trust in the government, and seems to exemplify the fortress mentality of Obama and his defenders. In their wisdom, America’s founding fathers warned that government cannot be trusted on the basis of good intentions, but must be restrained. Therefore, they gave us the Constitution, which, if followed, will do the job. But a determined, lawless administration will find ways to, at least temporarily, get around its wise restrictions.