Sen. Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee said on Friday that he expects “a lot more” information about the growing political scandal at the IRS to come out over the coming days. The powerful Democrat, who is retiring at the end of next year, is holding a hearing on the scandal on Tuesday. Baucus warns that the crisis at the IRS is “broader than the current focus.”
“I have a hunch that a lot more is going to come out, frankly,” Baucus told Bloomberg News. “It’s broader than the current focus. And I think it’s important that we have the hearings, and I think that will encourage other information to come out that has not yet come out. I suspect that we will learn more in the next several days, maybe the next couple three weeks which adds more context to all of this.”
Since news broke last Friday that the IRS had targeted tea party and conservative groups seeking non-profit status, the focus of the scandal has been on the Tax-Exempt division within the IRS. That office inundated tea party and conservative applicants with intrusive and, in many cases, irrelevant and inappropriate questions about their political views and outside activities. For at least two years, the agency systematically delayed granting the applicants non-profit status, preventing them from engaging in public eduction and policy advocacy.
On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee held its first hearing on the matter, peppering former Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller with questions about the origin of the scandal. Questions from TX Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), however, confirmed Baucus’ warning that the scandal goes beyond the Tax Exempt division.
Rep. Brady questioned Miller about events that followed one particular activist, Catherine Engelbrecht, whose organization filed for non-profit status. Engelbrecht’s troubling saga was originally reported by Breitbart News’ Brandon Darby.
Engelbrecht’s application with the IRS for non-profit status allegedly triggered aggressive audits of one of her family’s personal businesses as well. The FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) began a series of inquiries about her and her group; the BATF (Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) began demanding to see her family’s firearms in surprise audits of her and her husband’s small gun dealership–which had done less than $200 in sales; OSHA (Occupational Safety Hazards Administration) began a surprise audit of their small family manufacturing business; and the EPA-affiliated TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environment Quality) did a surprise visit and audit due to “a complaint being called in.”
The Democratic Party of Texas filed a lawsuit against her, as did an ACORN affiliated group. Both the FBI and the BATF continued to poke around her life, the lives of people in her Tea Party group, and her businesses.
That is an awful lot of federal interest in one small businesswoman. Engelbrecht’s experience suggests the targeting of conservatives went far beyond a single division within the IRS. The audit of her family business would have been conducted by an entirely separate division of the agency. A low-level staffer in the Cincinnati Tax Exempt office, where the Obama Administration claims the targeting originated, wouldn’t have been able to trigger that kind of scrutiny. Flagging her application for heightened scrutiny wouldn’t trigger an audit of her business. That decision would be made outside the Tax Exempt division entirely.
More troubling, however, is that multiple other agencies of the federal government suddenly took an interest in Engelbrecht’s affairs. It strains credulity to think this was a simple coincidence.
“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like,” Engelbrecht told Breitbart News.
Since Sen. Baucus isn’t running for reelection, he is free to dig deeper into the crisis at the IRS. As a long-time leader of the Senate Finance Committee, he knows where to look and which questions to ask to bring the abuse into daylight. His warning on Friday suggests he is ready to do so.