The Edmond Sun


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.

Text Only
  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014

  • Holding government accountable for open meeting violations

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the recent success of three important government transparency proposals which will go into law this year.

    July 21, 2014

  • GUEST OPINION — Oklahoma GOP voters want educational choices

    A Braun Research survey released in January showed that Oklahoma voters — Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike — favor parental choice in education.

    July 21, 2014

  • HEY HINK: IRS interferes with citizens’ rights of free speech

    The patient is gravely ill. We have detected traces of a deadly venom in the bloodstream. We don’t know how widespread the poison is, but we know, if not counteracted, toxins of this kind can rot the patient’s vital organs and could ultimately prove fatal.

    July 19, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • RedBlueAmerica: What should the U.S. do about illegal immigrant children?

    The crisis along the southern U.S. border has politicians and immigration officials scrambling. More than 52,000 children, mostly from Central American nations, have arrived so far this year. The Department of Homeland Security is running out of space to hold them all.
    President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $3.7 billion in borrowed money from taxpayers to cover the growing “care, feeding and transportation costs of unaccompanied children and family groups” when our own veterans are not taken care of. Texas Gov. Rick Perry criticized the president’s plan, saying more money should go toward securing the border.

    July 17, 2014

  • VA scandal highlights the need to change Pentagon spending priorities

    The ongoing Department of Veterans Affairs scandal raises an important question: When our veterans are being denied access to basic health care, why is the Pentagon squandering billions of dollars on programs that do not benefit our military forces? Is there a link in organization attitudes?

    July 16, 2014

  • For better politics, it’s time for some raging moderates

    Like more than 20 percent of my fellow Californians, I am now classified as a no-party-preference voter, registered to vote but with no affiliation to any of the state’s political parties.
    I am for lower taxes and for marriage equality. I am tough on crime and I am anti-abortion. I believe that a pathway to citizenship is a necessary part of immigration reform and that student test scores should be a critical component of teacher evaluations.

    July 15, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
     View Results