King Street Patriots founder Catherine Engelbrecht, one of many conservatives who claim they were unfairly targeted by the IRS when applying for tax-exempt status, told Congress Thursday that she is “more determined ever than before to stand before you and to all of America and say that I will not retreat.”
“Know this,” she said, “my experiences at the hands of this government in the last five years have made me more determined ever than before to stand before you and to all of America and say that I will not retreat. I will not surrender. I will not be intimidated, and I will not ask for permission to exercise my constitutional rights.”
Engelbrecht said shortly after founding and leading True to Vote and King Street Patriots, she was visited by law enforcement agencies and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), even though outside of filing their tax returns, she and her husband never dealt with any government agency in nearly two decades of running their small business.
“We had never been audited. We had never been investigated, but all that changed upon submitting applications for the non-profit statuses of True the Vote and King Street,” she told the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee.
“Since that filing in 2010, my private businesses, my nonprofit organizations, my family and I have been subjected to more than 15 instances of audit or inquiry by federal agencies,” she added.
Engelbrecht’s personal and business tax returns were audited in 2011 – “each audit going back for a number of years.” Her business was inspected by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2012 when neither she nor her husband was present. She said she was later fined over $20,000 even though “the agency wrote that it found nothing serious or significant.”
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms audited her business in 2012 and 2013, and the FBI contacted her non-profit group six times since 2010 in an attempt to “cull through membership manifests in conjunction with domestic terrorism cases,” she claimed.
“They eventually dropped all matters and have now redacted nearly all my files,” Engelbrecht said.
“All of these incursions into my affairs began after filing applications for tax-exemption. There is no other remarkable event. There’s no other reason to explain how for decades I went unnoticed, but now find myself on the receiving end of interagency coordination into and against all facets of my life, both personal and private,” she said.
“Bear in mind, distinguished ladies and gentlemen of this subcommittee, these events were occurring while the IRS was subjecting me to multiple rounds of abusive inquiries with request to provide every Facebook and Twitter I’d ever posted, questions about my political aspirations and demands to know the names of groups that I had spoken with, the content of what I had send and everywhere I intended to speak in the coming year,” she added.
“This government attacked me because of my political beliefs, but I refuse to be cast as a victim,” she said. “I am not a victim, because a victim has no options. I do have options, and I intend to use them all to the fullest extent of my capabilities.”
“As an American citizen, I am part of a country that still believes in freedom of speech,” Engelbrecht said.
She pledged to press the issue “in every legal way possible,” including filing suit against the IRS, and vowed to continue to speak out – “here in Congress and all across this country.”
“No American citizen should be willing to accept a government that uses its power against its own people,” she added.
In her prepared remarks, Engelbrecht said she refuses to “let a precedent be set that allows members of Congress, particularly Cummings, ranking member of the Oversight committee, “to misrepresent this governing body in an effort to demonize and intimidate citizens.”
“Three times, Representative Elijah Cummings sent letters to True the Vote, demanding much of the same information that the IRS had requested. Hours after sending letters, he would appear on cable news and publicly defame me and my organization. Such tactics are unacceptable,” she claimed.
Engelbrecht said she plans to file a formal complaint with the House Office of Congressional Ethics asking for a full investigation after Thursday’s hearing.