Yesterday, House Ways & Means Committee member Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) blamed the victims of the IRS scandal for their difficulties in his opening statement. His speech can be seen here in full, along with an incomplete transcription.
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) immediately shot down Rep. McDermott’s statement, and Fox News’ Megan Kelly hammered him with her typically solid analysis of the situation. However, Tea Party Patriots would like to add its own condemnation for several reasons:
First, Rep. McDermott told witnesses that he hasn’t heard one solution from them about the IRS scandal. That’s not the job of the six harangued victims. It’s their job to provide information to the committee so the committee can make necessary changes that prevent this kind of harassment from happening again.
While this scandal has pushed tax reform and other issues to the front of policy debates, that is not why Tea Party Patriots, True the Vote, and many other groups are taking a stand. The issue is that many “conservative” organizations were treated differently than “liberal” groups. While changes to the IRS’ current standards may eventually be the solution, right now the question that needs answering is “how could the IRS go outside of normal procedures for non-profit approval when it came to conservative groups?”
While the Congressman rightly condemned the IRS’ actions, he also said they were merely “incredibly inconvenient” for targeted organizations. True the Vote, would not call their $85,000 (and counting) legal defense bill “inconvenient”. The Barnaby family, which can no longer comfortably retire because of government sponsored harassment would not describe their seven-year ordeal as “inconvenient”. Congress has not yet heard from the many groups telling Tea Party Patriots they did not even apply for non-profit status because of harassment of other groups, thus costing themselves and their issues a stronger voice in the 2012 elections.
What does the Congressman consider the line between “inconvenient” and actually problematic? How far would the IRS have to go before Congressman McDermott considers them a threat to free speech?
Additionally, the Congressman said by applying for non-profit status, the witnesses “are asking the American people to pay for” the work they do. He fails to account for taxpayer money spent on the additional manpower used to target conservative groups in the first place. If the Congressman actually concerned about the federal budget and tax code, he would work towards tax reform and lowering federal spending. After all, charitable contributions will total $39 billion escaping government coffers. Much of that will go to churches, organizations for the poor, and other apolitical groups. Furthermore, $39 billion is barely more than 1% of the entire federal budget – and less than 10% of the expected 2013 federal deficit.
Tea Party Patriots reached out to Rep. McDermott’s office about his comments:
First, we asked why the Congressman thought it was okay to hypocritically critique Chairman Issa for relying on his gut about IRS guilt – while he relies on his “feeling” that yesterday’s witnesses “don’t just believe you should be free from political targeting, but that you should be free from scrutiny of any kind.” A McDermott spokesperson said the Congressman was “explaining that his impression of the discussion was that Republicans and groups thought they shouldn’t be questioned based on what they said in the hearing.” Apparently, the Congressman missed what Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama said in her opening statement: “Government agents made invasive and excessive demands for information they were not entitled to.” Like other targeted groups, Becky and Tea Party Patriots are not asking for special treatment – merely to be treated like every other citizen.
Tea Party Patriots also asked why the Congressman tried to turn the tables on the victims – again, making it seem as though they asked for special treatment when it wasn’t the case. His spokesperson said that Rep. McDermott “stated several times that he felt it was wrong to do so. He also called for action to prevent such targeting in the future. The point he made at today’s hearing is that no group, liberal or conservative, ought to be free from fair scrutiny when they are asking to be exempt from paying taxes. It is the duty of the IRS tomake sure that all groups are playing by the same fair rules and correctly identifying themselves.”
Apparently, the Congressman is unaware of the fact there is no history of Tea Party groups even trying to get special treatment. So, again, he is turning the tables on the victims, and exonerating the IRS for its actions. Apparently, trying to use “the same fair rules” as liberal organizations do is cause for further investigation?
Related, we asked how the Congressman can say the IRS is wrong while also defending its actions because of the politically-related and legal work done by harassed groups. The spokesperson stated that “the IRS was right to investigate whether or not charitable groups are correctly classified for tax purposes. That is their job, but they were wrong in the way they did it.”
No, Congressman – the IRS was not wrong in the way it did its investigations. It was wrong to create so many investigations of groups with particular names and goals, while ignoring groups that agree with the policies of the President.
We also asked why the Congressman wanted solutions to the problem from witnesses, given their job is to share their stories, not do the Committee’s job. Neither this question, nor our query of why the Congressman considers the IRS harassment merely “incredibly inconvenient,” was answered. The latter question was particularly important, since many groups never formed because of harassment, and organizations like True the Vote continue to spend tens of thousands of dollars trying to comply with the IRS’ harassment.
Additionally, this “inconvenient” targeting by the IRS impacted the 2012 elections, since many groups couldn’t raise money or organize effectively. Is that “inconvenient” for the country?
The spokesperson did say the Congressman wants to make sure “mistakes [the IRS] made need to be prevented,” and that “hearings should be about finding solutions to this problem.” Tea Party Patriots agrees with both of these assessments, but given Congressman McDermott’s clear willingness to blame victims instead of the IRS for what happened, we question whether he intends to discover the severity of the problem.