Perspective: Probe of IRS needed to restore trust
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Three years ago, a number of constituents brought to my attention their concerns that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was involved in political and lobbying activities that were in direct violation of its 501(c)(3) tax-except status that prohibits such activities.
To be clear, HSUS is not affiliated with your local animal shelter. In fact, only 1 percent of the money HSUS raises makes its way to animal shelters at all. Instead, it spends millions of dollars on lobbying, ballot initiatives, and other political activities. For three years, and after providing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) with more than 3,000 pages of documents exposing HSUS’ activities and calling for an investigation, the agency told me they could not discuss ongoing investigations and were also unable to confirm or deny whether or not an investigation was underway.
The stonewalling by the IRS to my repeated requests now makes sense in light of the IRS’ confession that it was targeting conservative groups seeking tax exempt status while rubberstamping similar requests from liberal groups. To add insult to injury, we have since learned that IRS Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner, who handled my requests and has been implicated in wrongdoing by the IRS on hundreds of requests made by conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, has political ties to HSUS.
This is the worst kind of government abuse that I have ever encountered in my more than two decades in public service and I am determined to get to the bottom of things on behalf of those folks who came to me three years ago with these allegations.
Fed up with the state of affairs, I have sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling for an investigation into the handling of my request first made to then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman in March, 2010. I also have sent a similar letter to Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George requesting that he also perform an investigation into the matter.
As this national embarrassment plays out each day in Washington and across the country, it is my firm belief that anything short of a thorough investigation threatens to undermine the vital work done by rule-abiding non-profit organizations across this nation. Further, I believe that if the IRS cannot do its job in an unbiased, non-partisan manner, the people of this nation will lose faith in our democracy. Unfortunately, and fairly, so many of you have made it clear to me that this recent scandal has done just that.
In order to restore the faith and trust of the American people in our government, the Attorney General, the Treasury Department and the IRS must act decisively to resolve these issues and implement proactive policies to prevent such actions from occurring in the future. Anything short of that will further erode the confidence of all Americans’ in their government, and as your elected representative I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening. We The People deserve answers and we deserve them now.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., represents the 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office call be reached at 573-635-7232.
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