IRS has 'no authority' 'to regulate speech,' says House Oversight's Biggs as panel requests docs
"I view this as a form of government surveillance of the American people," said Arizona GOP Rep. Andy Biggs.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) blasted the IRS on Monday for allegedly conducting "government surveillance" on Americans following a Just the News report on the agency's invasive questioning of an election education nonprofit, as the House Oversight Committee requested to see the underlying documents.
In action reminiscent of the Lois Lerner targeting scandal under the Obama administration when the IRS singled out conservative groups for audits, the Biden IRS last year subjected an election education nonprofit applying for tax-empt status to intrusive formal questioning the group believes infringed on its speech rights under the First Amendment.
Just the News reported the story on Sunday after reviewing documents exchanged between the IRS and the Adams, Baldwin, and Covey Foundation, Inc. (ABC) that showed the agency grilling the foundation about its views on elections and how it would prevent "inflammatory language" from being creeping into its educational activities.
The IRS questions are "further evidence that the Biden administration believes it has the authority to license thought and speech, and it doesn't," Phill Kline, a founder of the organization, told Just the News.
Responding to the story Monday on "Just the News, No Noise" TV show, Biggs, who sits on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, said the IRS is supposed to perform ministerial functions, such as receiving taxes, not regulate speech.
The queries in the IRS interrogatory are "a form of government surveillance of the American people," Biggs said, noting that he's the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Federal Government Surveillance. "There is no authority for the IRS to regulate speech."
"They're doing ministerial functions, receiving your taxes, receiving your tax returns, that's their job," Biggs explained. "Their job is not to regulate speech or to adjudicate whether you have provided misinformation or not. That is a clear violation of their authority, even if you give the most broad interpretation of the 16th Amendment. And so, we're going to have to attack it through the Oversight Committee, in my opinion."
After Just the News reached out to the Oversight Committee on Monday, the committee requested the underlying documents the Sunday story was based on, which have since been provided.
"[W]e have seen this in the past, we have seen the weaponization of virtually every bureaucracy in America, in the federal government," Biggs said. "And so, this is no surprise — actually kind of wondered why we didn't discover anything sooner from the IRS, especially since ... they're in the process of hiring 87,000 new IRS agents.
"This is nothing less than the weaponization — we saw it under Obama with Lois Lerner and the attack against conservative 501(c)(3)s and nonprofits. You're seeing it again, already, and that doesn't surprise me, but you're going to see this going all over in a broad spectrum."
Saying that he "would wholeheartedly agree" with Biggs' comments, Kline told Just the News on Monday he is concerned about "the consistency" with which government agencies throughout the Biden administration are surveilling political speech, "as if it's by particular design and belief that it's the proper role of government, and it's not."
The agencies' actions are ominously "consistent with Biden's speech that half of the American people are the enemy of America," Kline observed, referring to Biden's "red speech" in Philadelphia in September, where he said, "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our Republic."
Kline condemned Biden's comments, saying that the government's surveillance of speech "is a greater threat to democratic principles" than the purported threat cited by the president.
The former Kansas attorney general said he is "really encouraged that our elected representatives are taking a look" at the IRS handling of organizations seeking tax-exempt status, "trying to rein in this abuse, because it's intimidation tactics and abuse of [the federal government's] authority."
The IRS told Just the News on Tuesday that "[d]ue to disclosure laws," the agency "cannot comment on private taxpayer matters."