Congress for the second time this week held a hearing on the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups on Tuesday.
But unlike previous hearings on the matter, no government official appeared on Tuesday to testify on the IRS’ stifling of grassroots organizations. Instead, the House Ways and Means Committee called on the leaders of six conservative groups that were allegedly targeted by the IRS.
The lineup of witnesses included John Eastman (National Organization for Marriage), Diane Besom (Laurens County Tea Party), Becky Gerritson (Wetumpka Tea Party), Karen Kenny (San Fernando Valley Patriots), Kevin Kookogey (Linchpins of Liberty), and Sue Martinek (Coalition for Life of Iowa).
Here are four of the most memorable moments from Tuesday’s hearing:
4. It’s the Tea Party’s Fault?
Amazingly enough, a few U.S. lawmakers say the IRS scandal could have been avoided if only conservative groups hadn’t applied for tax-exempt status.
Congressman Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) is one such lawmaker:
Unfortunately for McDermott , Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) wasn’t about to let him get away with his “blame the victim” strategy:
3. Standing Tall: ‘I’m a Free-Born American’
Becky Gerritso of the Wetumpka Tea Party in a moving and passionate speech on Tuesday reminded members of Congress that she is a free American.
“I’m not here as a serf or a vassal,” she said, starting to tear up. “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.”
2. The IRS Is in the Business of Protecting Planned Parenthood?
Sue Martinek, President of the Coalition for Life of Iowa, made some pretty shocking allegations regarding the IRS’ handling of her group.
“In June of 2009, [IRS Agent] Richards told me verbally that we needed to send in a letter with the entire board’s signatures stating that under penalty of perjury we would not picket/protest or organize groups to picket/protest outside of Planned Parenthood,” Martinek said. “Upon receiving such a letter, she indicated that the IRS would allow our application to go through.”
“[T]he IRS continued questioning us,” she continued. “On June 22, 2009, IRS Agent Richards sent us additional written requests, as follows: ‘Please explain how all of your activities, including the prayer meetings held outside of Planned Parenthood are considered educational as defined under 501(c)(3).”
She added, quoting Richards:
Organizations exempt under 501(c)(3) may present opinions with scientific or medical facts. Please explain in detail the activities at the prayer meetings. Also, please provide the percentage of time your organization spends on prayer groups as compared with the other activities of the organization.
Please explain in detail the signs that are being held up outside of Planned Parenthood and explain how they are considered educational.
So, the IRS allegedly asked her group to promise to leave Planned Parenthood alone and requested that they provide details of “prayer meetings”?:
1. Serious Accusations
John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, accused the IRS of intentionally leaking confidential donor information to groups hostile to his organization.
“This just smells and I hope this committee gets to the bottom of it,” he said, adding that his group had “identified that [the leaked information] came from within the IRS.”
The National Organization for Marriage’s “forensic” specialists were able to strip layers from the document and discovered that “the original document that was posted had originated from within the IRS,” Eastman said.
He also said the document has “internal IRS stamps,” which “only exist within the IRS.”
“You can imagine our shock and disgust over this,” he added. “We jealously guard our donors.”
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Featured image AP photo.