The Abuse of Power by the IRS

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 18, 2013
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Taxes


I thank the gentleman from Texas.

Mr. Speaker, the power to tax is the power to destroy, and so when you have the government using that taxing power to target individual Americans based on their exercise of First Amendment rights, that really is the utmost seriousness in terms of the threat that that represents to constitutional government.

I received a letter from one of my constituents a couple of weeks back named Carole McManus, and she is a leader in a conservative group in northeast Florida. They are basically dedicated towards educating about constitutional government, individual freedom, the rule of law, and traditional American principles. I would think that that would be something that we would be applauding, especially in this day and age.

Well, they had to go through this situation with the IRS. So they submitted an application and they waited for a month, 3 months, 6 months, a year. It took 18 months for the IRS to respond to their inquiry; and when the IRS responded, did they approve the group, as would be a matter of course, particularly for groups that were recognized as representing a liberal perspective? No. They were given a list of very intrusive questions about the operation of their group.

I actually saw this firsthand during the 2012 election, because I went just to shake hands with folks one night just to see how people were doing, and all the group leaders were scared that I was there because they didn't want to get hit by the IRS. They didn't want to do anything wrong.

And so what the IRS was able to do by stretching this out, by submitting all these intrusive questions, they really chilled these folks from feeling confident in being able to exercise their First Amendment rights. And they did look scared about what could happen to them just because I happened to show up even though it was not a partisan event. I was shaking hands and we were talking about this stuff.

So I appreciate the gentleman from Texas organizing this hour.

The frustrating thing about it is, yes, you may have impropriety in any given administration, but what we have now with the IRS is we have a lot of career bureaucrats who have their own ideological bent. We have people like Lois Lerner, who take it upon themselves to target groups that they think deserve targeting. And the problem with that is nobody ever elected Lois Lerner to anything. Essentially, she is a nameless, faceless bureaucrat that you have just got to hope the point of view that you are trying to pursue is not one that she finds objectionable.

That lack of accountability, not knowing whether the

bureaucracy will come down on you, that is a problem with the IRS. That is a problem in any of these agencies, quite frankly.

So I think the more that Americans understand the threat that is posed by a runaway bureaucracy, I think the better. I would like to see some far-reaching reforms so that we are protecting taxpayers and we are protecting American citizens in the exercise of their right.

And you know what? If the bureaucracy steps out of bounds, there ought to be consequences for that. The idea that somehow Lois Lerner is going to retire with full pay and benefits and not be held responsible at all, even though she couldn't even testify in front of the Oversight Committee, I think that rubs a lot of Americans wrong.

So I thank the gentleman from Texas for organizing this. I really appreciate the attention that you have focused on this issue.

Mr. FLORES. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida for that heartfelt testimony today. I would also like to thank him for his years of service in the United States Navy and as a current member of the United States Naval Reserve. We appreciate having people like this that serve our country.

It is a shame that Americans who serve their country, whether they are in Congress or just a member of a local Tea Party, are targeted because of the fact that they are concerned about what is happening in Washington, what is happening from an administration or from the nameless, faceless bureaucrats that you heard of a few minutes ago.