There is good news to report from Capitol Hill that relates to our ongoing efforts to defend Tea Party groups from an intimidation effort by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Senate has now engaged.
First, by way background, we represent a number of Tea Party groups from across the nation that have received intrusive demands for information from the IRS. In addition to providing legal assistance with these demands, we’ve also publically called on Congress to provide appropriate oversight, and to require the IRS to give answers for why these demands have been levied.
Yesterday, we received word that 12 U.S. Senators led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), and including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman requesting detailed information about this situation.
Among other things, the Senators requested answers on why such detailed donor information was requested, why the required response period was so short, and why it seems conservative groups have received specific scrutiny. Finally, the letter requests that no further inquiries be made until this information has been provided to the Senate, and it is demonstrated that the activities in question are supported by the law and applied equitably and free of political bias.
This engagement is a significant development and we applaud the Senators for their action. The other U.S. Senators who signed the letter are Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Bob Corker (R-TN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), John Cornyn (TX), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John Thune (R-SD) and Rand Paul (R-KY).
Additionally, we know that House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) is also concerned about the issue, as he previously sent this letter to Commissioner Shulman. It is encouraging to see both the House and Senate requesting this information from the IRS. Should adequate information not be promptly provided, we hope the appropriate committees will call the IRS to testify before them.
As we continue working aggressively to defend the Tea Party groups from these aggressive actions, we will continue to respectfully call on Congress to exercise its clear oversight authority on the matter. It is imperative that the IRS be properly restrained within its constitutional and statutory bounds, and it is Congress that can provide that assurance. These two letters provide a positive first step in that direction.
Nearly 40,000 Americans have signed on to the ACLJ’s petition calling for Congress to investigate this apparent IRS attempt to silence the Tea Party and other conservative groups. Add your name to this critical petiton today.
Nathanael Bennett is the Director of Government Affairs for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), as well as the Main Representative to the United Nations in New York, NY for the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ).
Used with the permission of the ACLJ.