Do the fears of Lois Lerner and Holly Paz — the two former IRS officials at the center of the agency's targeting scandal — outweigh the public’s right to know what happened when the two decided to target Tea Party groups? That’s the argument they’re making now in advance of a Friday hearing in a federal class-action lawsuit brought by Tea Party groups against the IRS. Lerner and Paz demand their deposition testimony be sealed, claiming they are afraid their testimony could put their lives in danger.
As the CEO of the largest group with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in its name, one that's been targeted by the IRS for years, I have some thoughts on the matter.
I know what it is like to have threats made against the organization I lead, my employees, my family, and myself. People online have said they want to euthanize my children to save them from me. I have had emails threatening rape. Someone sent excrement to our offices, where the ladies who process our mail — one was pregnant at the time, and the other a grandmother — had to deal with it. The U.S. Postal Service once held our mail to have their bomb squad examine it to ensure there was not a bomb in it.
We report these issues to the proper authorities as needed, and keep going. We do not let these people stop us. We did not let the IRS stop us. Even when it is frightening to deal with such issues, we do not let that stop us.
Now Lerner and Paz say they are at risk. They say they’ve received threats.
Let me say this clearly — threats like that are not acceptable. Law enforcement authorities should do all they can to keep Lerner and Paz safe, and to find and hold accountable those making the threats.
But that is no reason to seal their deposition testimony.
It is wrong, unfair, and unjust for Lerner and Paz to use such threats as an excuse to continue to avoid being held accountable for their actions against Tea Party Patriots, conservative groups across the country, and, frankly, every American.
Every time we have tried to get accountability, we have met resistance from the government — from President Obama, to Congress, to current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.
Perhaps those in government do not see this as a big deal. Perhaps they have never had someone walk up to them, shaking, with papers from the government, tears in their eyes, asking what is going on? Perhaps they have not had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to defend themselves against unjust targeting. Perhaps they really do not mind the silencing effect it had on people across the country.
It is hard not to wonder if both parties would be happy with our demise and our silence — after all, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet Hassan launches first ad of reelection bid focusing on veterans' issues MORE said he wanted to punch us in the nose and crush us. One would think a champion of the First Amendment would not make such threats against the very people the IRS targeted.
The resistance hasn’t come only from the government, though; we have encountered resistance from the media itself — the media, which should have had an interest in helping us protect our First Amendment rights. After all, the same First Amendment that protects our right to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to assemble, also protects our right to a free press.
Instead, the media covered the story originally, and then brushed it under the rug. They allowed President Obama to mock us and the targeting that happened to us on national television, promoting his laughter about our situation and presenting it as fact.
And now the Washington Post uses "Democracy Dies in Darkness" as its tagline.
Where were these same people when President Obama's administration weaponized the IRS and his Justice Department did not hold the IRS accountable? I have news for you: If indeed representative "democracy is dying," it sure as heck did not start dying with the election of President Trump. In fact, Trump's election could be attributed to those of us who were targeted under Obama while Congress, the media, and the left sat silently looking on, while we said, "Enough is enough!"
When will the IRS be held accountable? Lerner and Paz should not be allowed to avoid public testimony. They should be protected and kept safe during and after their testimony. The public has a right to know what happened and how it happened, so we can stop it from happening to others in the future. The public has a right to know what happened and how it happened, so that as an American People we can quit doubting the very institutions needed to run our government and keep our representative democracy alive.
President Trump should fire John Koskinen. Attorney General Sessions should take up the recommendation of Congressmen Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyHouse panel advances key portion of Democrats' .5T bill LIVE COVERAGE: Ways and Means to conclude work on .5T package LIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup MORE (R-Texas) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) to re-open the investigation into the conduct of Lerner and her colleagues before the statue of limitations runs out. Congress should take actions now to protect donor privacy, so that groups in the future do not have to worry about what happened to us happening to them. Law enforcement must keep Lois Lerner and Holly Paz safe, as it is the duty of law enforcement to do, and Lois Lerner and Holly Paz must not be excused from testifying publicly. These actions combined would go a long way to begin restoring faith in the government and our institutions.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.