Camp Opening Statement: Hearing on Organizations Targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for Their Personal Beliefs
(Remarks as Prepared)
Despite nearly two years of denials, last month the IRS finally admitted the truth – three years ago the agency began systematically targeting individuals based on their political beliefs. However, what the agency has yet to admit, and what we still need to find out, is just how widespread this activity was, who ordered it and why it began in the first place.
Now, let’s consider what we do know.
We also know that Americans were affected by the culture of political intimidation and discrimination that was cultivated by this targeting.
At its core, this investigation is about how and why the IRS was empowered and allowed to use a broken tax code to abuse individuals based on their beliefs - and seemingly only based on their beliefs.
And who are these Americans? While their life stories are different, what they all share in common is that they are Americans who did what we ask people to do every day – add their voice to the dialogue that defines our country. And for pursuing that passion, for simply exercising their First Amendment rights – the freedoms of association, expression and religion, the IRS singled them out.
Today’s witnesses will help this Committee and the American people better understand just how far off track the IRS has gone. Their testimony will show that the IRS’s practice of treating certain Americans differently on the basis of their beliefs was not limited to the discriminatory conduct revealed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report released on May 14, 2013.
Victims included Tea Party and non-Tea Party groups, 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations and 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, including religious organizations. All of the witnesses received onerous and intrusive questionnaires from IRS agents across the country. Some even had their confidential information leaked by the IRS to the media, which can have the impact of chilling free speech.
Information requests to some included questions that were not only irrelevant but also intimidating – not to mention a violation of privacy. Those requests included asking for the following:
Again, I thank all of the witnesses for being here with us today – for the time you have taken to travel here and for sharing your stories and experiences. While we might not know why this happened, please be assured that learning firsthand from you about how the IRS used the tax code to intimidate and harass you will help us take the steps necessary to make sure this never happens again.