The Edmond Sun

Opinion

June 6, 2013

IRS attacks foundational freedom

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The first and arguably most foundational amendment to the U.S. Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” As a result of these wise words penned and adopted by our forefathers more than 220 years ago, regardless of religious or political beliefs, the framework was established to protect one’s right to hold and exercise their personal beliefs.

Last month, however, we uncovered an assault on this foundational right when a Cincinnati branch of the Internal Revenue Service was exposed for purposefully targeting conservative and religious groups seeking tax-exempt status, most noticeably those associated with the tea party. This targeting had been taking place since at least February 2010 and involved drawing out a usually quick process for months and months or leaving applicants in limbo — neither approved nor denied. This behavior is unconstitutional, illegal and inexcusable. Not only is penalizing for holding certain viewpoints an abuse of power, but it also attacks and jeopardizes the exercise of free speech our founding fathers sought to protect.

While the IRS was quick to blame two “rogue” agents for this scandal, recent investigations testimony heard by House committees indicate that officials in Washington approved, encouraged and even directed this added scrutiny. Some sources estimate there may have been up to 88 employees involved in this illegal, unconstitutional profiling that delayed applications through invasive, excessive questioning.

Without question, those responsible for this scandal must be held accountable. It is not a matter that can be fixed with empty apologies or phony resignations of IRS officials, including Acting Commissioner Steven Miller. The only true remedy to the situation requires cooperation and transparency from the IRS and all individuals involved, including former director of exempt organizations, Lois Lerner.

During a May 22 hearing conducted by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Lerner appeared before the committee only to refuse her testimony by pleading the Fifth Amendment. Lerner claimed innocence, denied any wrongdoing and refused to provide any information to the committee — even though she admitted on May 10 at an American Bar Association event that partisan criteria was used to screen applicants. Shortly after the hearing, she was placed on paid administrative leave at the IRS. Sarah Hall Ingram, former commissioner within the same tax-exempt office, however, was promoted from her post to oversee and direct implementation of the president’s health care law.

Headed by Attorney General Eric Holder, the often scrutinized Department of Justice is conducting its own audit of the IRS. Considering its involvement in recent scandals, including the seizure of Associated Press phone records and involvement with the ATF gun walking scandal (Fast and Furious), it seems questionable that this investigation will actually get to the bottom of the scandal.

We will seek the truth and hold responsible parties accountable for their wrongful actions. This week, House committees continue to conduct their own investigations into the IRS. On Tuesday, the House Committee on Ways and Means heard testimony from organizations targeted by the IRS based on their political beliefs. Similarly on Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will uncover even more areas of waste and abuse within the IRS, including the agency’s use of more than $50 million from taxpayers to hold extravagant conferences for employees throughout 2010-12.

Regardless of political affiliation, all Americans have a reasonable expectation that their freedom of speech and religion shall be protected. Abuse of power and unfair scrutiny must not be tolerated. The recently uncovered activities of the IRS are a disgrace to the administration.

As more information unravels in the coming investigations this week and beyond, we remain committed to getting answers, holding the responsible parties accountable and ensuring something like this never happens again.

U.S. REP. TOM COLE, R-Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Is English getting dissed?

    Is the English language being massacred by the young, the linguistically untidy and anyone who uses the Internet? Absolutely.
    Is that anything new? Hardly.
    Many words and expressions in common parlance today would have raised the hackles of language scolds in the not-so-distant past. For evidence, let’s look at some examples from recent newspaper articles.

    July 31, 2014

  • 'Too big to fail' equals 'too eager to borrow'

    Four years ago this month, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into law, promising that the 848-page financial law would “put a stop to taxpayer bailouts once and for all,” he said. But recently, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told a Detroit crowd that “the biggest banks are even bigger than they were when they got too big to fail in 2008.”
    Who’s right?

    July 30, 2014

  • Sheltons travel for better life for family

    Some time around 1865 a mixed-race African American couple, William and Mary Shelton, made their way from Mississippi to east Texas. Nothing is known for certain of their origins in he Magnolia state, or the circumstances under which they began their new lives in Texas.

    July 29, 2014

  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at www.edmondsun.com show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

Poll

The runoff race for the 5th District congressional seat is set for Aug. 26. If the voting were today, which candidate would you support?

Al McAffrey
Tom Guild
Undecided
     View Results