WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) delivered the following statement at the Ways and Means Committee Full Committee Hearing on Internal Revenue Service Targeting Conservative Groups:
"These days Congress can’t agree on whether the sun is shining, but we seem to have accomplished the impossible here. We all agree that these applications were handled poorly and that the IRS stiff-armed us—at best—when we asked you about it. Our public servants ought to be held to the highest standards and none more so than the agency that oversees and enforces tax collection.
"The IRS is an easy, and perhaps the easiest, agency to unite against. Who doesn’t want to pick up a pitch fork when we see the taxman coming? And with our 24-hour media cycle passing around the lighter fluid, I think getting to the facts, and fixing the mistakes, can get lost.
"There is a difference between stupid mistakes and malicious mistakes. A lot of the applications for tax free status for political activities were from far right groups and examiners took a short cut to organize their work that they, by now, woefully regret.
"The report says it in black and white on page 7, the ‘Determinations Unit employees stated that they considered the Tea Party criterion as a shorthand term for all potential political cases.’ These applications were singled out for their names and policy positions, not for their activities, as they should have been. Some of these political groups were delayed in getting their taxpayer subsidized status and it was wrong.
"If we really want to root out the causes of this, we need to talk about campaign finance laws and the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court that legalized secret political money in 2010. Applications for tax exempt status for secret money political organizations increased 4-fold after the Supreme Court ruling. This small group of staff in the Cincinnati office screwed up by selecting applications based on name.
"But Congress – this committee – messed up by not giving them any clear criteria for what a real charitable organization is. Congress was blocked by a radical minority from providing criteria.
"As I watch this conversation shift from ‘find what went wrong and fix it’ to ‘the IRS is broken and so we should repeal Obamacare and close the government,’ I’m reminded that this is only partly about right and wrong. It’s also about a Republican storyline that supports their agenda.
"We need to add some truth here. The IRS can’t access your medical files, it is not inherently untrustworthy, and it is not some Trojan horse for a fascist takeover.
"Let’s not forget that the IRS, which has one of the hardest and most hated jobs around, is made up of thousands of hardworking, honest civil servants. A few bad apples in a sea of thousands of employees, is not proof that they are trying to take down our democracy.
"This was wrong. Let’s take the time to find out how wrong it was, and how we got here. That’s the only way we to move forward and fix it."
You can view the full statement and hearing questions below.