The president of the grassroots organization at the center of the recent IRS scandal says she believes the rabbit trail will lead to the “highest offices in the land.”
Former IRS official Lois Lerner may soon be facing a contempt of Congress citation and even criminal prosecution for her role in directing unlawful scrutiny toward conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt status, but the biggest bombshell of the week is the revelation that Lerner’s office shared sensitive tax information with the top Democrat on the committee investigating the scandal.
However, True the Vote President Catherine Englebrecht said even this development is only one step in discovering just how high this goes in the Obama administration.
This week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed an email chain showing the IRS passed along confidential information from True the Vote to the office of Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.
Cummings then launched his own investigation of the group through his position on the committee, even though the committee cannot lawfully investigate a private organization.
A 2010 Talking Points Memo story reported the White House and House Democratic congressional leadership recommended Cummings for the ranking member position over the senior Democrat on the committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to “be a bulldog who can stand toe-to-toe” with then-incoming Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
Englebrecht said this episode is further proof of how corrupt our government is becoming.
“It’s like the wild wild west up there in D.C. Anything goes,” she said. “It’s open season on any group that is considered to be ideologically opposed to the politics of the administration. The rules don’t matter. The ends justify the means in their minds.”
Englebrecht is pleased with the House actions of the past week that will likely lead to a contempt of Congress citation against Lois Lerner and possibly a federal prosecution, but she quickly cautions that this scandal still goes much higher than anyone implicated thus far.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s only a step. I think that we’ve got to look at the actions of Elijah Cummings and the actions of Lois Lerner, actions taken by two people in a much bigger organized effort. I think we’ve got to keep the push on, no matter how deep and ugly this rabbit hole is,” she said. “We have got to be steeled enough and firm enough in our resolve to follow it wherever it leads. I think it is going to lead to the highest offices in the land.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Catherine Englebrecht:
Englebrecht said it is difficult to pinpoint when Cummings launched his scrutiny into her group, but the first contact she received from him came in September 2012.
"It was so bizarre. When this all started, it was in the throes of the final weeks before the 2012 election when True the Vote was at its peak of operations, helping to train citizens and getting them ready to serve inside of the polls for the elections," she said, "out of nowhere, we got this letter from Elijah Cummings. He asserted that we were engaging in criminal activity and that he was going to open an investigation and he was subpoenaing all of our documents. These letters came to us on the letterhead of the Committee for House Oversight and Government Reform. His was the only signature on it, but the letter itself carried with it what felt to be a pretty weighty backing."
True the Vote is dedicated to making sure that only those who should be voting are casting ballots in an election. The group is actively working to get states to update their voter rolls and purge the names of people who died or moved. It also advocates for voters to be required to present a photo ID, an idea vigorously opposed by the Obama administration and other Democrats who liken the requirement to Jim Crow-era restrictions on voting.
Given True the Vote's ambitious work leading up to a very close presidential election, Englebrecht does not believe the timing of the letter was coincidental.
"I do think they are concerned about any organization that is going to try and take a hard look at the legitimacy of elections and legitimacy of process. Eighty-plus percent of Americans favor photo voter identification, but the administration is going state by state and suing states that are trying to implement these very common sense measures to make sure that elections are free and fair for everyone, regardless of political party affiliation," Englebrecht said.
She added, "It begs the question why. Why is there such a push against bringing a process that meets with standards of others? We're the only industrialized country in the world that doesn't use photo voter identification as its standard and it makes you wonder why."
Englebrecht said the latest discoveries go a long way to explain why congressional Democrats quickly shifted from outrage over the IRS scandal to outrage that Republicans still want answers.
"Elijah Cummings, months and months and months ago, went on television and said, 'Case closed. There's nothing to see here, people. Keep moving.' Our own president came out and said there's not a smidgen of truth to any of this. It's a sad day, but it's where you are that you can't believe the hype," Englebrecht said. "They will say and do anything to obfuscate, to put out a smokescreen to keep people from recognizing what really is happening."
The government did more than launch investigations and saddle Englebrecht with paperwork. She said federal agencies began showing up to inspect her private manufacturing business with great regularity.
"Over the course of the last three years, we've been visited by a whole alphabet soup of agencies, from the FBI to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, OSHA. There's a Texas branch of the EPA, an environmental group that came out and visited and certainly the IRS," she said. "So we've had our fair share of agency interest."
She admits each government agency had a plausible reason for its visit, and her company fully complied with all of the inspections. However, Englebrecht said once again the timing of all this cannot be an accident.
"Nothing changed in our business. We'd been in business to that point for 16 years and had never seen any government agency take an interest in us. Then I filed for nonprofit exemption. All of a sudden, over a period of three years, we have now, at last count, 25 either audits or investigations or inquiries from five different government agencies," Englebrecht said. "At some point, you have to ask yourself what is the statistical probability that none of this is connected? I just don't think you can make the case. Now we are seeing, in fact, that we know at least the executive branch and the legislative branch were colluding to single us out."
Despite the frustration suffered through her business and her political activism, Englebrecht said this saga can serve as an alarming wake-up call to people who cannot believe our own government would treat a law-abiding citizen this way.
"Because of the good nature of Americans, it's our natural inclination to not even be able to wrap our heads around the thought that citizens might be being targeted," she said. "That stands in direct contrast to everything this country represents. I'm here to tell you it is happening. It is happening, and we've got to keep pushing for the truth.
"There are a lot of layers to peel back. Elijah Cummings is only a very small supporting character to a much bigger production."