Every American finds dealing with the IRS to be an intimidating experience. That is why recent revelations that the IRS is targeting certain groups with extra scrutiny and harassment, simply because of their political beliefs, is cause for great concern. While President Barack Obama and his supporters have called these actions a “phony scandal,” it only gets worse as more evidence comes to light.
Last month, congressional investigators uncovered an unusual email exchange between Lois Lerner, a Washington, D.C., IRS employee at the center of the political targeting controversy, and employees at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) — the federal agency that regulates political speech.
In the exchange, an FEC enforcement attorney was consulting with the IRS regarding the tax-exempt status of a conservative group. This raises questions about whether the IRS illegally divulged confidential taxpayer information to another agency. In addition, the email was apparently initiated by FEC staff without the knowledge or consent of the agency’s six commissioners, as required by law.
This is just another example of the IRS’s intimidation and harassment of taxpayers. After discovering the FEC communications, as the chairs of the House committees with oversight of these agencies, we requested all communications between the two agencies to determine if the IRS illegally shared confidential tax information with the FEC, and why FEC staff was reaching out to the IRS without the consent of its commissioners.
We are still waiting for additional information, but this incident provides yet another sobering example of the new government landscape under President Obama — government overreach with zero accountability. The emails reflect the IRS’s apparent culture of abuse and intimidation that was revealed after the IRS was forced to admit that it targeted more than 100 conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status based on their personal beliefs.
These federal agencies have incredible power, and if they’re abusing that power in an attempt to silence groups based on their political beliefs, it will further erode the faith of the American people that the government is acting in their best interests.
We will not be intimidated by claims of phony scandals in conducting needed oversight on behalf of the American people. We will continue to follow the facts wherever they may lead and hold those responsible for wrongdoing accountable. These agencies must be held accountable to the American people. The American people deserve no less.
U.S. Rep Dave Camp, R-Midland, represents Michigan’s 4th District.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, represents Michigan’s 10th District.