One of the most high-profile victims of the IRS Tea Party targeting scandal is planning to unveil surprising new allegations about the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at a hearing this morning.
Catherine Engelbrecht, the head of election integrity group True The Vote and Tea Party group King Street Patriots, alleges Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) demanded information from her group in a similar manner to the IRS, according to her testimony. “Hours after sending letters, he would appear on cable news and publicly defame me and my organization,” Engelbrecht said.
The Tea Party leader is filing a formal ethics complaint against Cummings with the Office of Congressional Ethics, a panel of outside advisers who review allegations and refer those they consider to have merit to the official Hosue Ethics Committee.
Engelbrecht is one of several witnesses testifying at an oversight subcommittee hearing on the IRS scandal on Thursday. The committee’s subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs will be holding a hearing titled: “The IRS Targeting Investigation: What is the Administration Doing?”
In her opening statement, published on the committee’s website late Wednesday, Engelbrecht offers the painstaking details of how the IRS and administration as a whole targeted her, noting “my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations, and family have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies.”
Engelbrecht said she is disgusted with Cummings’ behavior, and that Cummings was engaged in activity that “misrepresent[s] this governing body in an effort to demonize and intimidate citizens.”
“Such tactics are unacceptable,” Engelbrecht wrote in her prepared testimony. “It is for these reasons that immediately after this hearing I am filing a formal complaint with the House Office of Congressional Ethics and asking for a full investigation.”
Earlier in her testimony, Engelbrecht lumped Cummings’ actions in with those of the administration, writing that after she filed IRS papers to create her groups, “an assortment of federal entities – including law enforcement agencies and a Congressman from Maryland, Elijah Cummings – came knocking at my door.”
It is highly unusual for a witness at a hearing to announce she is filing a formal ethics complaint against the ranking member of the committee holding it. Cummings’ office did not respond to a request for comment sent late Wednesday.
Cummings has been a Democratic thorn in the side of oversight efforts of full committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and other committee Republicans on the IRS scandal since he ascended to the top Democratic slot on the committee in 2010.
Cummings released sensitive investigation documents this past summer, including a redacted transcript of an interview committee investigators conducted with IRS employee John Shafer. Cummings did so, according to an NPR story on the matter, because he said the transcript “debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases.”
But Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) said in response to that renegade Cummings action that it “will severely undermine the Oversight Committee’s ability to gain the full truth of what has transpired at the IRS.”
“Since he called for an end to this investigation, we have learned that IRS officials in Washington had been more involved in the targeting of Tea Party and conservative groups than we initially were lead to believe,” Turner said then. “This maneuver will do nothing more than obstruct the Committee’s investigation. It’s clear that Ranking Member Cummings is concerned only with ending a highly embarrassing and troubling investigation before we learn the full truth of who was responsible and why.”
On the Benghazi scandal, Cummings outed a trip Issa was taking to Libya–something Issa’s office feared could have put the chairman in danger as terror threats were being made against Issa’s life at the time by a Libyan national.
Testifying along with Engelbrecht at Thursday’s IRS hearing will be American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) chief counsel Jay Sekulow, Alabama’s Wetumpka Tea Party president Becky Gerritson and lawyer Cleta Mitchell of Foley & Lardner LLP. Barbara Bosserman of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division is invited to testify, according to the House Oversight Committee’s website but has not confirmed.