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Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. LEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

On a day when the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Camp, is unveiling a tax measure that requires serious bipartisanship to be successful, we are here on the floor considering a totally political bill in an attempt to resurrect an alleged scandal that never existed.

Was there incompetence at the IRS in the processing of 501(c)(4) applications?

Yes--and I was among the very first who said that those in supervision should be held accountable.

Was there corruption, political interference, White House involvement, an enemies list, as the Republicans have claimed since day one?

Absolutely not; no evidence whatsoever.

Yesterday, the IRS Commissioner confirmed that $8 million has been spent directly on those investigations as over 255 people have spent over 79,000 hours doing nothing but responding to congressional investigations. An additional $6 million to $8 million has been spent to add capacity to information technology systems to process securely the 500,000 pages of documents Congress has received.

What have they learned? That both progressive and conservative groups were inappropriately screened out by name and not activity, and that no one was involved in this outside of the IRS, and that there was no political motivation involved.

When the inspector general asked his chief investigator to look into the possibility of political motivation by the IRS, that investigator concluded:

There was no indication that pulling these selected applications was politically motivated. The email traffic indicated there were unclear processing directions and the group wanted to make sure they had guidance on processing the applications so they pulled them. This is a very important nuance.

Indeed, it is, and it is precisely that lack of clarity that the IRS was responding to in proposing new regulations for 501(c)(4) organizations. New regulations that are designed to bring certainty in determining whether an organization's primary activities are political.

The regulations are among several steps the IG himself recommended in his audit report that the IRS undertake, each of which the Republicans repeatedly called for action on.

In a June 3, 2013, hearing before the House Appropriations Committee, Chairman Crenshaw told Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel:

We're going to insist that the IRS implement all nine of the recommendations in the inspector general's report.

A Republican member of the Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Roskam, has a bill to implement all of the inspector general's recommendations, including implementing new 501(c)(4) regulations.

Why is this important? Because applications for 501(c)(4) status have nearly doubled between 2010 and 2012--to 3,357, and spending has skyrocketed.

In 2006, $1 million was spent by (c)(4) organizations. In 2010, $92 million was spent. In 2012, $256 million has been spent by (c)(4) organizations.

The (c)(4) designation presently allows organizations to keep their donors secret, hidden as to which individuals contributed, and that is exactly the secrecy that the Republicans are trying to preserve.

Why? Because the three largest spenders, representing fully 51 percent of the total, are a Who's Who list of Republican political operatives.

It is indicated here: Crossroads GPS, Karl Rove, $71 million; Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers, $36 million; and the American Future Fund, the Koch brothers again, $25 million. That is $132 million of the skyrocketing $256 million that the Federal Election Commission had reported to it, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

If you live in a targeted State and you turn on your television, you have probably seen these groups at work distorting the Affordable Care Act.

That is why we are here today, purely and simply, not because Republicans want to stand up for the rights of social welfare organizations--and they often talk about small ones--but to preserve the secrecy around the Republicans' big campaign efforts.

These are draft regulations that the Republicans themselves called for. Over 76,000 comments--and I think now more--have been received, and the comment period does not close until Friday.

These regulations aren't likely to come out this year anyway with all these comments, so why this bill? Why this bill? It is very, very clear, and it is very simple. There is a problem with 501(c)(4)'s. The three organizations that I mentioned that are involved as political operatives, in one form or another, these are people who have donors nobody knows. This is secret money.

Why are we standing here and saying to the IRS: Don't look at 502(c)(4)'s; don't look at the possible massive abuse; don't look at what has happened in the last few years where political operatives, under the guise of 501(c)(4), have moved from $1 million in many cases to $256 million reported to the FEC?

Our constituents, Democrats and Republicans, are offering their comments. Some of them I agree with and they deserve to be read, but not to be shredded at the hands of a November campaign strategy by the Republican Party of this country and by the Republican Conference of this House.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. LEVIN. Let's look at the facts. Only those who won't look don't see them.

There have been 1.9 million long-term unemployed Americans who have lost their unemployment insurance since December 28 and another 72,000 every week. Unemployment insurance lifted 2.5 million from poverty in 2012, and now hundreds of thousands are sinking into poverty because this institution and the House majority will not act.

The long-term unemployment rate in this country: 36 percent of jobless workers over 6 months; the lowest percentage of jobless receiving unemployment insurance in over 50 years. It is mindless not to act in terms of the national economy. It is heartless not to act in terms of the individual lives of hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans and their families.

Vote for this motion to recommit. I don't see how anybody can go home and vote ``no.''

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