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Congressman Lyn Westmoreland's Column - Capitol Corner: Targeting the Tea Party

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It's like something out of George Orwell's novel "1984": a government agency using its authority to spy on and obstruct any opposition to the ruler. Except it's not the plot of some science fiction book. It's a real story about the Internal Revenue Service.

An audit of the IRS has uncovered that the agency has been secretly targeting groups who applied for nonprofit status if their names included words like "tea party" or "patriot" or if their focus included "limiting government", "educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights", or if they "criticized how the country is being run." This means the IRS was essentially targeting opponents of President Obama and Democrats.

When these allegations first began to surface, I joined over 60 of my colleagues to demand an answer from IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in April 2012. Following our letter, in July of 2012, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa requested an audit of the IRS's practice regarding granting nonprofit status by the Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). That audit is what uncovered these shocking actions by the IRS and some of its senior level staffers.

This wasn't just low-level employees at the IRS like the White House wants you to believe. Lois Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt division at the IRS -- the division that grants requests to organizations for nonprofit status -- was told about this targeting back in June 2011. Since then, Lerner as well as other senior level officials at the IRS have told Congress that no such targeting existed. Even worse, when news of this targeting first broke, Lerner claimed she didn't know about it until news broke.

I want to reassure you all that this is not something that House Republicans are going to allow the Obama Administration to sweep under the rug. The actions by the IRS are completely unacceptable -- if not criminal -- and go against the foundation of our democratic government. The House Ways and Means and Oversight and Government Reform Committees have already announced they will hold hearings to investigate. And as more information continues to be uncovered, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw other committees do the same.

I am calling on President Obama to personally apologize to the more than 75 Tea Party organizations who were impacted by the IRS targeting. Tea Party organizations are made up of American patriots, former military members, and people who are dedicated to making this country the best it can be. They should never be targeted by their own government for simply expressing their opinions. It's disgraceful and the Obama Administration and the Internal Revenue Service should be ashamed.


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