America's Declaration of Independence wasn't referring to the IRS of the Obama era when it lamented that King George III had "sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our people." But it could have been.
While Independence Day is a joyous time for cookouts, fireworks, and remembrances this year, it is also a vitally important reminder in 2013 that the liberties our independence secured beginning in 1776 are now threatened by tax bureaucrats in our very own government.
As we celebrate our patriotism, all Americans should remember that our fellow citizens were targeted if they used "patriot" in their name. We must continue the call for a full investigation to hold the IRS accountable for its unlawful and unconstitutional political targeting of conservative citizen-led groups.
As Thomas Jefferson said, "The majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society ..."
When the IRS began specifically selecting conservative and Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny, it flagrantly exploited the power of majority political rule and broke the sacred bond of trust of government to be impartial and protect our citizens against violations of their freedom of speech and freedom to associate.
Recently, political leaders on the left have attempted to paint congressional investigations into the IRS and its leadership in Washington as a "witch hunt." Others are trying to stretch the facts to prove that "progressive" groups were targeted as well, refusing to acknowledge what was truly a chilling and coordinated assault on the rights of conservative Americans.
Indeed, the Inspector General who first exposed the IRS targeting confirmed last week that only six groups with "progress" or "progressive" in their names were given any scrutiny at all for potential political activity, while 70 percent of "progressive" groups received no additional scrutiny.
The IG continued, saying, "in comparison, 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed as potential political cases" and subjected to intrusive scrutiny.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has filed a federal lawsuit, representing 41 conservative, Tea Party and pro-life groups that were intentionally targeted by the IRS for their beliefs, many of whose applications have yet to be approved.
Now, the IRS is giving our clients, and other targeted groups, the false choice to either give up some of their rights or continue to wallow in this intrusive review process. While other approved groups can continue operating under the full extent of the law, which requires that social welfare groups "primarily" operate for the social good and general welfare, the IRS's new expedited process would require targeted groups to operate by a new abstract 60-40 rule in order to be approved — a standard created out of thin air — a standard the IRS admits is not the law.
The IRS investigation should be about more than partisan politics. Attempts to undermine the thoroughness of this investigation are in direct violation of the principles upon which our Founding Fathers established our republic.
Our nation, at its very core, was founded upon the belief that all citizens should be able to exercise and express their personal and political beliefs free from government suppression.
This Independence Day, remember why "We the people" must hold the IRS accountable: Whether conservative, liberal or independent, we are all created with "certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness ... That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Matthew Clark is associate counsel for government affairs and media advocacy with the American Center for Law and Justice.