Conservative Group Accuses Dem Rep. Cummings of Harassment

Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 08:03 PM

By Todd Beamon

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The president of True the Vote attacked Rep. Elijah Cummings on Thursday for harassing the conservative organization during a congressional hearing on IRS targeting of tea party groups.

Catherine Engelbrecht charged that Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “sent letters to True the Vote, demanding much of the same information the IRS had requested” after the group filed for nonprofit status more than three years ago, Politico reports.

She added that Cummings, who has represented Maryland in the House since 1996, then “would appear on cable news and publicly defame me and my organization.”

Engelbrecht's accusations came during a committee hearing into the targeting of tea party, conservative, and religious groups by the Internal Revenue Service in their applications for tax-exempt status.

She was among several representatives of such groups to speak at the hearing.

Cleta Mitchell, the Washington lawyer representing several groups whose applications were held up for years starting in 2010 through last year's presidential election, charged that the IRS is still singling out such organizations.

"The IRS is still, very deliberately targeting conservative organizations and subjecting them to additional intense and burdensome scrutiny — and this has not stopped," Mitchell said at the hearing. "This is still ongoing."

True the Vote was granted its tax-exempt status last September after three years and a lawsuit against the IRS. The lawsuit is pending. The status that True the Vote received, 501(c)(4), allows the organization to keep its donors private.

In her attack on Cummings, Engelbrecht said that her organization and her manufacturing company received IRS audits and six separate inquiries from the FBI regarding “domestic terrorism” after the group filed its application.

In addition, her business was inspected and fined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Politico reports.

“For decades, I went unnoticed but now find myself on the receiving end of interagency coordination into and against all facets of my life,” she said.

The congressman's staff responded by providing five letters that Politico reported were mailed in the fall of 2012, adding that Cummings was conducting appropriate oversight of the Houston-based True the Vote.

"There is no one that I know of that cares more about the rights of our citizens than I do,” Cummings said at the hearing. "I don’t care if you’re tea party or Democrat or Republican — I want to make sure no one is blocked from voting."

Cummings, 63, who is African-American, noted that both he and his mother — now 88 years old — had been blocked from voting in his native Baltimore years ago, Politico reports.

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