Act Protects Groups From IRS Abuses

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - by Stephen Fincher and Lamar Alexander

The Internal Revenue Service violated the First Amendment rights of the American people — and their trust — when it targeted conservative political groups in Tennessee and around the country for additional scrutiny during the 2012 election. As Congress investigates just how deeply the problem goes, it’s important to make sure those responsible are held accountable, so that the American people can trust their government.

But how can we make sure this never happens again? How do we make sure you are not afraid to be politically active? So many people have told us they are afraid to be politically active for fear of repercussions.

One way is to enable you to do as President Ronald Reagan often advised: “Trust, but verify.”

That’s why we’ve introduced the “IRS Abuse Protection Act,” which would require the federal government to inform taxpayers when the Internal Revenue Service accesses their information. Under our legislation, the secretary of the U.S. Treasury would have to notify, in writing, taxpayers each time the IRS accesses their tax accounts, tax returns or other tax return information.

The notice must include who accessed the information, the purpose of doing so and how the information was accessed. Taxpayers also would receive a copy of the information accessed and any report issued on how it was used.

You’d have the information you need to keep an eye on the IRS any time it’s poking around in your business. The idea that the IRS could target a person or group based on political belief is an infringement upon our liberty that should alarm every American. The IRS needs to back off. The IRS needs to know that if it goes snooping it will be held responsible.

This is the United States of America, where the First Amendment protects our right to organize and speak up and speak out. When the IRS targeted conservative and other groups — including tea party groups in Tennessee — for additional scrutiny because of their politics it created what amounted to an enemies list to keep people quiet.

It was alarming when word surfaced in the spring of 2012 that the IRS was targeting organizations based on ideology. When the IRS made its shocking acknowledgment of such activity earlier this year, we felt it was appropriate for Congress to investigate — and for the Obama administration to comply with all requests related to congressional inquiries without delay. But now, and going forward, Congress needs to find a way to make sure this doesn’t happen again, that your information is never used against you and you never feel intimidated to not speak out.

News reports suggest the risk remains very real. According to the Washington Times, the Tea Party Patriots — a national group that first applied for its tax-exempt status back in 2010 — continues to face improper scrutiny.

Citing a letter it obtained that was sent by the IRS in August to the Tea Party Patriots, the Times reports that the IRS has made “a laundry list of requests related to virtually all the group’s activities, including its involvement in the 2012 election cycle and its get-out-the-vote efforts, fundraising activities, all radio and TV advertising, and other information. … The IRS also is asking for detailed financial records, including ‘the amounts and percentages of your total expenses that were for fundraising activities in the tax year 2011, 2012 and 2013.’ ”

There are still questions that need answering. But rather than wait for the Obama administration to provide answers — or, for that matter, for Congress to extract them — we think it’s time taxpayers be better able to stand up for themselves. Perhaps if they’re armed with the information our legislation would require the federal government to disclose, taxpayers could head off unfair targeting by the IRS before it gets anywhere.

That would put the First Amendment — our constitutional right to organize and to speak up and speak out — right back where it belongs: in the hands of the American people.

Stephen Fincher and Lamar Alexander

 



Equity Study

What exactly is an Equity Study? Is the the damage control that comes in the wake of the UnifiEd outburst a few weeks ago? I can save the board a whole lot of hassle since the mere mention of doing such a study means that the study will reveal inequities, regardless of any basis.  If they would like to throw a quarter million down the drain for 20 pages ... (click for more)

Coppinger And UnifiEd

I am writing in response to Mayor Jim Coppinger's puzzling quotes in Roy Exum's column this morning, wherein the mayor seems to disavow UnifiEd and its position on the socio-economic desegregation of our schools. On  April 5 , I attended a candidate forum hosted by the North Brainerd Neighborhood Council at the Eastdale Recreation Center gym. That evening, Mayor ... (click for more)

Jury Finds Donaldson Guilty Of Second-Degree Murder In Killing Of Son-In-Law

A Criminal Court jury late Friday afternoon returned a verdict of guilty of second-degree murder against Glen Donaldson in the killing of his son-in-law, Adam Levi. He is facing 15-60 years in state prison. Judge Don Poole will set the sentence at a sentencing hearing on July 12.  He has been free on bond, but was taken into custody after the verdict. The jury deliberated ... (click for more)

1st Vote On Controversial Signal Mountain Grocery Proposal Set June 13; Town To Choose Either Tennessee American Or Waldens Ridge For Water Service

The next steps in rezoning 617 Cauthen Way were discussed at the Signal Mountain work session Friday afternoon. Since the last council meeting, Town Manager Boyd Veal created a list of conditions to include in the zoning ordinance relating to the proposed commercial development designed to assure that there is no negative impact to the surrounding properties or to the interest of ... (click for more)

Summertown Stops Sale Creek's Bid For A State Class 1A State Softball Title, 7-5

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Sale Creek had its sight set on making some softball history Friday. The Lady Panthers reached their first TSSAA state softball championship with a 3-1 victory over Cascade, powered by a Trinity Liner three-run homer on her 18 th birthday. A few hours later, they wanted to beat Summertown and set up a second title game for all the marbles. ... (click for more)

Silverdale Wins D-II-A State Softball Title

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – Kaili Phillips got disqualified in the first inning of Thursday’s game against the Tipton-Rosemark Lady Rebels and nobody gave the Silverdale Lady Seahawks a snowball’s chance of winning that game. But they did. Nobody gave the Lady Seahawks much of a chance of repeating that feat less than 24 hours later in the winner-take-all final game, but once again, ... (click for more)