By Rep. Peter Roskam
Asked about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, President Obama recently said there was "not even a smidgen of corruption," and blamed the controversy on "bone-headed decisions" by low level people in Cincinnati. When it came to appointing a Department of Justice investigator to lead the IRS inquiry, the Administration turned to Barbara Bosserman, a thirteen-time Obama donor who has repeatedly shown her commitment to Democrat causes. And with the criminal investigation of IRS targeting only just beginning, FBI officials have already indicated the agency does not plan to file criminal charges in the case.
The Obama Administration is doing everything they can to deflect and divert attention from the IRS controversy. The Administration is hoping that the longer they drag it out, the more the public will forget about the scandal. But the president and his team underestimate the resolve of our Republican House majority. The idea that institutions of the federal government can be used to silence the political dissent of opponents is antithetical to the very founding principles of our country. The West Suburban Patriots, from right here in DuPage County, were specifically targeted, having their application process dragged out, their political views scrutinized and being forced by the IRS to change the content of their website during the course of a "routine" review of their tax exempt application. My constituents, and hundreds of groups like them all across the country were unfairly singled out for extensive scrutiny by the IRS, on the basis of their political views. So this week the House is acting to put the breaks on an out of control IRS and protect individual liberties.
Last night the House overwhelmingly passed two of my bills that would ensure taxpayers are not left in the dark about IRS actions against them. Reports of individuals affiliated with tea party organizations having their businesses scrutinized by multiple federal agencies after applying for tax exempt status have raised chilling questions about a coordinated campaign of harassment against conservatives by agencies in Washington. The Taxpayer Transparency and Efficient Audit Act goes to the heart of this concern, requiring the IRS to alert taxpayers whenever their information is shared with other federal agencies. The bill also puts the onus on the IRS to correspond with taxpayers substantively within 30 days, playing by the very same rules they forces individual taxpayers to observe. Finally, the bill makes completing an audit within a one-year the goal, removing the dread and uncertainty of audits that can drag on year after year. My second bill, the Protecting Taxpayers from Intrusive IRS Requests Act is simple: it bars the IRS from the inappropriate big brother like questioning about religious, political or social beliefs that so many conservatives groups were forced to endure at the hands of IRS agents.
The House is also acting to prevent the Department of Treasury from issuing or finalizing regulations governing the political activities of 501(c)(4) organizations. Just before Thanksgiving, the Obama Administration quietly released new rules that would essentially codify the targeting of conservative non-profits, while leaving the political activity of Democrat-leaning labor unions untouched. The Administration was hoping so close to the holidays no one would notice. Again, the Administration miscalculated: the response from the American people was swift, and House Republicans are fighting back. This week the House will consider the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014, a bill that will prevent the Administration from encroaching on the First Amendment Rights of non-profit groups. It's shameful that legislation is needed to protect Americans' basic constitutional rights, but we must do everything we can to stop the Obama Administration's power grab. The public comment period on these regulations is still open, and I encourage you to add your voice here. A record 77,000 comments have been received so far, and there is still time to speak out against biased regulations that seek to muzzle the speech and political views of conservative organizations.
Our work won't end with these bills or the end of the comment period. The DOJ investigation into the IRS targeting has just started, and according to reports the conservative groups involved have yet to even be interviewed by Ms. Bosserman and her team. Although her extensive support for the Obama campaign raises questions about her ability to be an impartial investigator, my principle interest is finding out what happened, who is responsible and ultimately achieving justice for my constituents and the hundreds of others harassed by the IRS. Recently, I sent a letter to Ms. Bosserman, laying out basic standards for the investigation and putting her and the DOJ on notice that the House is following her work closely and plans to hold her and the Department of Justice accountable for a full and fair inquiry that identifies wrongdoing committed and punishes those responsible.
For too long the IRS has had the American people on their heels, coming after individuals based on their political beliefs and bringing the full weight of the federal bureaucracy to bear on people whose only crime was wanting to participate in the debate of ideas we cherish as central to our democratic process. We must work together to ensure that that instead the IRS is on its heels, strongly rebuked and pushed back from abusing their power and instead working to earn back the trust of a very skeptical public. The Obama Administration is counting on our attention fading so they can turn the page on this shameful chapter without remedying the problem. Well House Republicans aren't going to fall for that trick, and you can't either. Let's stand together and fight back.