Thousands of activists rallied outside the Capitol on Wednesday to protest the IRS targeting of conservative and tea party groups, with many of the event’s speakers laying the blame for the fiasco squarely at the White House.
The “Audit the IRS” rally, organized by the Tea Party Patriots organization in response to the agency’s improper scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, drew members and leaders of tea party groups across the country, radio personality Glenn Beck and the Senate’s tea party trio: Republicans Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas.
“When Richard Nixon tried to use the IRS to target his political enemies, it was wrong,” Mr. Cruz said. “And when the Obama administration does it, it’s still wrong.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican, said the two presidents have become so intertwined in his mind that he thinks of Mr. Obama as “President O’Nixon.”
Ken Hoagland, chairman of Restore America’s Voice PAC, accused former White House counsel Bob Bauer of sending “memo after memo to the Justice Department, to the IRS and other interested parties urging them to go after law-abiding citizens who wanted to end voter fraud [and] exercise their rights to stop an out-of-control government. This abuse of Americans was directed by Washington at the very highest levels of the Obama administration and campaign.”
The sentiment permeated throughout the crowd, peppered with “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsden flags, Colonial American garb, and one suggestive sign, complete with two round balls, apparently questioning the manliness of House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, who often draws the ire of staunch conservatives.
“I hate what our government is doing right now. I don’t like what they’re doing with the IRS, I don’t like what they’re doing with the [National Security Agency], I don’t like what they’re doing with Homeland Security, and definitely with the Justice Department, any of what’s going on,” said Gladys Torres, a retired retail store worker from Long Island, N.Y.
“I feel like we’re living in Nazi Germany. I believe this administration is using all these agencies against the people they don’t agree with politically. And I think that is totally un-American,” she said.
‘We will get answers’
Even Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican who has largely stayed out of the partisan fray over the IRS targeting that has engulfed the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, promised the crowd in short remarks that “we will get answers.” Mr. Camp’s Ways and Means Committee is conducting a joint investigation with the oversight committee.
Oversight Chairman Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and ranking member Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, have been waging a back-and-forth battle over transcripts of interviews from witnesses in the investigation.
Excerpts of testimony have revealed involvement of the agency’s Washington office that appears to contradict early IRS claims that the improper scrutiny was confined to a few employees of the Cincinnati office.
“A worker in Cincinnati was quoted as saying we don’t do anything without direction,” said Mr. Camp, who did not mention Mr. Obama or the White House.
But Mr. Cummings, to the consternation of Mr. Issa, released the entire transcript this week of an interview with John Shafer, a Cincinnati employee and self-described “conservative Republican,” who said the issue for him began when an employee in Cincinnati, not Washington, flagged an application that appeared like it could be a “high-profile” case, so Mr. Shafer forwarded it.
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