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Kevin Korenthal: IRS scandal is a witch-hunt against liberty

Posted: June 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Scandal seems to be dogging the Obama administration as of late. Though a few of these purported scandals either appear to be much ado about nothing, at least two are fairly serious.

The first is the investigation into what exactly occurred in Benghazi, Libya. The death of our ambassador, as well as the deaths of the brave men who died protecting him, is certainly concerning.

However, the scandal that has caused me the most alarm is the IRS and its apparent witch-hunt against nonprofits with conservative, Christian, or pro-life leanings.

This scandal is not only very serious, but should both terrify and infuriate anyone who values freedom, liberty, and equal protection and treatment under the law.

During the hearings before the House Ways and Means Committee, several accounts were given by concerned citizens who applied for non-profit status for their grassroots political activism groups.

They provided several disturbing examples of intimidation, demands for personal identifying information of organizers and supporters, prayers, reading materials, speakers, content of their speeches, and their groups’ positions on sensitive political issues.

In an even more egregious violation of privacy rights, National Organization for Marriage chairman John Eastman testified, he has proof that the IRS was responsible for sensitive tax information about the group’s donors being leaked to its biggest political opponents.

Occupy Wall Street, pro-choice supporters, and other progressive groups have not registered any complaints about such treatment. None has been recorded, and it is worth noting that their political allies in the hearing could not offer up a single one to testify that they were treated with the same scrutiny.

I find that particularly telling, since I can think of at least a few very high-profile progressive groups who willfully violate 501c3 and 501c4 guidelines during every election, yet have not received additional screening or loss of tax-exempt status.

At one point during the hearings, Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott had the audacity to claim that the hearing and the investigation into what happened was "political theater."

He also attempted to blame the victim by claiming that the tea party groups and others were responsible for their own predicament because they chose to apply for tax-exempt status. So, in others words, they shouldn’t have been walking down a dark alley at night wearing hip huggers and a halter top?

Really? I don’t think so, sir. These groups had just as much right as any other nonprofit to apply for tax-exempt status. All they wanted was their right to organize and be heard.

They deserved that right, just like any other grassroots organization. However, at least one, and likely several, tea party groups became so disturbed by the level of scrutiny and the personal and blatantly unconstitutional questions being asked of them that they simply gave up and decided to withdraw their applications.

The claim, by many on the progressive side, is that these were just a series of mistakes involving a few low-level employees. Unfortunately for them, we now know that a minimum of 80 IRS employees are being investigated as having been involved. That is far from "a few."

Additionally, at least three of the groups being targeted have letters signed by Lois Lerner and other high-ranking IRS officials asking for the additional, highly invasive personal activity and donor information previously requested to be turned over in order to gain approval.

Lois Lerner is no low-level employee, and this was no accident. It was a deliberate and, sadly, successful effort to impact the 2012 elections by ensuring that these new grassroots conservative groups would have a limited ability to mobilize and finance their efforts.

What difference might those groups have made in the 2012 election? Unfortunately, now we will never know.

One tea party leader, Becky Gerritson, made a very moving statement before the House Ways and Means hearing that I think bears repeating here.

"I’m not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my lords for mercy.

"I’m a born-free American woman, wife, mother and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place.

"It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well-being and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda.

"The post that you occupy exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty and you have faltered."

I couldn’t have said it better. This scandal proves that government must be reined in or it will soon reign supreme.

Kevin Korenthal is a Santa Clarita Valley resident. "Right Here, Right Now" runs Fridays in The Signal.

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