At an oversight hearing on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) today, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) said the IRS scandal causes Americans to wonder "just how pervasive the IRS's tactics of harassment" are within the administration and whether a proposal before the SEC raises similar concerns that political opponents of the administration could be targeted.
The text of Chairman Hensarling's opening statement from today's hearing is below:
Like most Americans I was both angered and appalled to learn of the IRS's campaign to selectively intimidate Americans based upon their political beliefs. And yet it was just days ago that our president urged college graduates not to view the government as "some separate, sinister entity" and to ignore the voices warning that "tyranny is always lurking just around the corner." But it is under this president's watch that we get the news that the IRS - perhaps the single most feared government agency - has been caught trampling upon our most sacred right -- namely our freedom of speech.
Using the IRS to selectively punish and harass one's political opponents is right out of the Watergate playbook - a playbook I thought had disappeared 40 years ago.In 2013 this is something that we would expect perhaps in Venezuela or Cuba, but not in the United States of America.
This is an issue that should rise above partisanship. It hits at the heart of who we are as a people, and why we fight for justice and fear such a large, powerful government that clearly has become "too big to manage." What the IRS did was wrong because it tries to turn our citizens into subjects. It is wrong because it violates both our constitutional and civil rights. It is wrong because it treats citizens wishing to speak out against the government's policies -- exercising a God-given right -- like an enemy under state investigation. In a word Mr. President, it is tyranny.
Now fearful and outraged Americans want to know just how pervasive the IRS's tactics of harassment have become within the Administration.
So the question is most relevant to the SEC oversight hearing we have today.
The SEC has three statutory purposes: protecting investors; maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitating capital formation.
That is why it is most disturbing to many of us to realize that while the SEC has missed numerous mandatory rulemaking deadlines, it is devoting time and resources to a discretionary rulemaking and more specifically, a highly controversial discretionary rule to force public companies to report all perceived facets of political involvement.
This rulemaking is well known to be part of a partisan political agenda of labor union bosses, George Soros, and assorted leftist groups who conveniently would not have to abide by the rule.
Media Matters was quoted as saying -- this is part -- to "make the case that political spending is not within the fiduciary interests of publicly traded corporations and therefore should be limited."
The New York City Public Advocate was quoted as saying -- this is part -- "strength that all of these organizations can bring to bear against companies, boycotts, shareholders actions, legal action, you name it, it's on the table."
The Center for Political Accountability:"We and our partners are putting pressure on companies to adopt political disclosure to change the behavior of companies and trade associations in their political spending."
Now the American people are horrified at those who would use the strong arm of government for partisan political advantage, but it remains to be seen whether this could ever happen at the SEC.
One of our chief oversight responsibilities regarding the SEC is to ensure the agency is a good steward of its resources both its time and its budget, which has tripled over the last ten years, and there are serious concerns. These discretionary projects come at the expense of more important and legally required tasks that actually help struggling working families secure their financial futures, such as the bipartisan JOBS Act, which the SEC has regrettably and deliberately failed to implement on time.
A change in leadership represents an opportunity for a fresh start. While the SEC's recent history is riddled with misplaced priorities and misallocated resources, hopefully a fresh start is exactly what will happen at the SEC under new the leadership of our witness, Chairman White.