On Tuesday, Tea Party activists across the country stood against the intimidation tactics of the IRS. The protests were a great success, but they offered an interesting juxtaposition in the responses to the protests by some IRS agents and some DHS agents.
First, the response by some IRS offices, via Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com:
IRS offices in Flagstaff and Prescott, Ariz. were temporarily closed Tuesday as protests of IRS offices around the country were planned by Tea Party activists.
“They have a notice up that says ‘temporarily closed,” said Tom Case, a Lake Havasu resident.
The voicemail message at the Flagstaff office states that the location is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and explains IRS closures for all offices on May 24th due to sequestration. The message also explains the office will “resume normal operations the next business day,” which would be Monday, May 27. There is no mention of a temporary closing for Tuesday, May 21.
Townhall put in a request with the national IRS office in Washington D.C. for an explanation as to why these offices are closed, how long they have been closed and when they will re-open. Townhall also contacted Bill Brunson in the IRS media relations office for Arizona. At time of publishing, IRS officials did not respond with a comment.
In other words, at least some IRS agents are not doing their job in order to avoid Tea Party activists engaging in civil, First Amendment-protected political protesting. What a great use of taxpayer money. Another question, were the employees of the closed branches paid for their time off or were they furloughed without pay? And will they have to make up the work they missed by, perhaps, not taking the expected furlough day tomorrow?
On the flip side, Tea Party activists across the country have reported seeing armed DHS officials at their protests. It does not appear any agents interfered with the protests, but their presence was unsettling to many.
Why did DHS appear at the protests? According to a Capitol Hill aide, DHS has a subsidiary department called Federal Protective Services (FPS). FPS is tasked with protecting all buildings under the authority of the General Services Administration. This includes IRS buildings. The same Hill aide noted this is not partisan protection; Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn’s offices in Texas deal with protests from amnesty supporters on a regular basis, and FPS agents show up to those as well.
However, legal authority does not equate to efficient use of taxpayer resources. There are 9,000 locations under the authority of the General Services Administration, and 12,500 “contract guards” for these locations. It seems like a massive waste of tax dollars to spend time observing law-abiding Tea Party activists, especially since there is no history of law-breaking by Tea Party activists.
Multiple requests for comment went unanswered by DHS. Among other questions, why were these protests targeted? At what level was it decided that these protests should be targeted? What is the risk assessment done to decide when and where FPS contract guards show up?
The Hill aide noted that DHS agents should have explained to Tea Party activists the reason for their presence – at the very least to reassure activists they were not dealing with further government targeting of Tea Partiers.
It’s an odd dichotomy of wastefulness. On the one hand, the IRS abandons their duties to the taxpayer to avoid Tea Party activists. On the other, DHS officials wasted taxpayer dollars by having agents go out of their way to monitor peaceful protests.