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The IRS scandal validates the worst fears of law-abiding Americans, could trigger criminal charges and was likely known about in the White House for an extended time, according to Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., a former tax attorney and certified public accountant.
The White House has slowly admitted some there knew about the investigation, but it flatly denies any involvement in the decision to harass tea-party groups and other conservative organizations that also led to targeting of donors and sharing sensitive information with rival activist groups.
Rice believes the administration is much more closely connected to this scandal than it will admit.
“Former IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, when he was questioned in March 2012 in Congress, said there was absolutely no targeting. Now he has said that he was aware in spring 2012 that there was an internal list that included the term ‘tea party,’ so if he knew about that when he testified, that’s a lie. That’s perjury,” Rice said. “We’ve had admissions here in the last couple of days about the fact that senior White House aides were aware of it at least as far back as a month ago. This only broke last week, for goodness sake. I’m sure as this investigation continues, we’re going to find out more and more and more.”
Last Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee held the first congressional hearing into the scandal. Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, told the story of a constituent who was targeted for their political donations and their business was subsequently given the third degree by the IRS, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the FBI Domestic Terrorism Unit, the Commission on Environmental Quality and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Rice said that type of government harassment goes beyond the pale.
“If that’s true, that goes beyond the realm of unreasonable and into the criminal,” Rice said. “That’s unconstitutional. There are criminal laws against things like that. That cannot happen, and steps need to be taken to make sure it never happens again.”
Rice said in all of his years as a tax attorney and accountant, he never saw a client treated like the IRS dealt with these conservative organizations.
“A couple of times I had clients who it felt like there may have been some personal thing between the IRS agent and the client, but I’ve never seen an organized series of events like this where apparently people within the service and all up the administration, it looks like they targeted these specific groups,” Rice said.
He said the irony of this scandal is that the actions of the IRS validate the reasons for establishing these groups in the first place.
“Our framers established our Constitution based on the citizenry cooperating with the government. This simply undermines the trust of the citizenry in the government. Our government can’t work if the citizens don’t work with the government,” he said. “The framers of our Constitution didn’t trust big government. They’d just come out of a revolution against the most powerful country on Earth, and they saw the dangers of big government.”
“The tea parties sprang from a mistrust of big government,” Rice said. “I ran my campaign on trying to limit the size of government. What you’ve seen here does nothing but breed further distrust. It shows that their skepticism was well-founded.”