First off, Governor Perry needs to step in. He should have his people open an inquiry into the case with all the powers of his State. Second, the House should open an investigations and directly subpoena every agent and supervisor up the chain (and trust me, the feds live by the chain of command) until they get to the one who can’t explain why they did what they did.
This is the kind of stuff Nixon and others were hated for. I hate seeing it. The agents on the ground, who can’t find a terrorist posting his hate on Youtube, seem to be able to find a woman in Texas who just wanted to stop voter fraud.
Come on guys, really?
Catherine Engelbrecht’s tale has all the markings of a classic conspiracy theory: She says she thinks that because of her peaceful political activity, she and her family was targeted for scrutiny by hostile federal agencies.
Yet as news emerges that the Internal Revenue Service wielded its power to obstruct conservative groups, Catherine’s story becomes credible — and chilling. It also raises questions about whether other federal agencies have used their executive powers to target those deemed political enemies….
….In July 2010, Catherine filed with the IRS seeking tax-exempt status for her organizations. Shortly after, the troubles began.
That winter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation came knocking with questions about a person who had attended a King Street Patriots event once. Based on sign-in sheets, the organization discovered that the individual in question had attended an event, but “it was a come-and-go thing,” and they had no further information on hand about him. Nevertheless, the FBI also made inquiries about the person to the office manager, who was a volunteer.
The King Street Patriots weren’t the only ones under scrutiny. On January 11, the IRS visited the Engelbrechts’ shop and conducted an on-site audit of both their business and their personal returns, Catherine says.
“What struck us as odd about that,” she adds,“is the lengths to which the auditor went to try to — it seemed like — to try to find some error. . . . She wanted to go out and see [our] farm, she wanted to count the cattle, she wanted to look at the fence line. It was a very curious three days. She was as kind as she could be, and she was doing her job . . . [but] it was strange.”
Bryan adds: “It was kind of funny to us. I mean, we weren’t laughing that much, but we knew we were squeaky clean. Our CPA’s a good guy. And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor: I got a little bit of a refund.”
Two months later, the IRS initiated the first round of questions for True the Vote. Catherine painstakingly answered them, knowing that nonprofit status would help with the organization’s credibility, donors, and grant applications. In October, the IRS requested additional information. And whenever Catherine followed up with IRS agents about the status of True the Vote’s application, “there was always a delay that our application was going to be up next, and it was just around the corner,” she says,
As this was occurring, the FBI continued to phone King Street Patriots. In May 2011, agents phoned wondering “how they were doing.” The FBI made further inquiries in June, November, and December asking whether there was anything to report.
The situation escalated in 2012. That February, True the Vote received a third request for information from the IRS, which also sent its first questionnaire to King Street Patriots. Catherine says the IRS had “hundreds of questions — hundreds and hundreds of questions.” The IRS requested every Facebook post and Tweet she had ever written. She received questions about her family, whether she’d ever run for political office, and which organizations she had spoken to.
“It’s no great secret that the IRS is considered to be one of the more serious [federal agencies],” Catherine says. “When you get a call from the IRS, you don’t take it lightly. So when you’re asked questions that seem to imply a sense of disapproval, it has a very chilling effect.”
On the same day they received the questions from the IRS, Catherine says, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) launched an unscheduled audit of their machine shop, forcing the Engelbrechts to drop everything planned for that day. Though the Engelbrechts have a Class 7 license, which allows them to make component parts for guns, they do not manufacture firearms. Catherine said that while the ATF had a right to conduct the audit, “it was odd that they did it completely unannounced, and they took five, six hours. . . . It was so extensive. It just felt kind of weird.”
That was in February. In July, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration paid a visit to Engelbrecht Manufacturing while Bryan, Catherine, and their children were out of town. The OSHA inspector talked with the managerial staff and employees, inspecting the premises minutely. But Bryan says the agent found only “little Mickey Mouse stuff, like, ‘You have safety glasses on, but not the right kind; the forklift has a seatbelt, but not the right kind.’” Yet Catherine and Bryan said the OSHA inspector complimented them on their tightly run shop and said she didn’t know why she had been sent to examine it.
Not long after, the tab arrived. OSHA was imposing $25,000 in fines on Engelbrecht Manufacturing. They eventually worked it down to $17,500, and Bryan says they may have tried to contest the fines to drive them even lower, but “we didn’t want to make any more waves, because we don’t know [how much further] OSHA could reach.”
“Bottom line is, it hurt,” he says. Fifteen thousand dollars is “not an insignificant amount to this company. It might be to other companies, but we’re still considered small, and it came at a time when business was slow, so instead of giving an employee a raise or potentially hiring another employee, I’m writing a check to our government.”
You have to ask yourself what were the agents on the ground thinking? I know, they were following orders, they make a good living and they have a family to feed. I get that. But at some point somebody had to look at their partner and go “WTF?”
Nobody in the FBI signed up to harass citizens on the orders of their superiors. Nobody at the ATF really wants to inspect machine shops they know don’t make gun parts. They want to catch bad guys. They did not go to school, go through all the hassle of being an agent, for the opportunity to suppress fellow citizens’ right to speak freely.
So I suggest the House and the State of Texas ask them, under oath, what they were thinking, why they were there and more importantly who sent them. They are law enforcement. And unlike the IRS, there are some very specific and limiting rules/laws/regulations that restrict their actions. As it should be.
I’m willing to bet as this starts to blow up an agent is looking at his partner across the table and saying “Oh crap. I TOLD YOU!” Then he is going to start getting his paperwork in order.
Don’t let this one go. It has a good face, a good story and arcs through different agencies- which means a paper trail. Just go up the chain until you get to the guy going. “uhhh….funny you mention that. I can explain…”
He’s your guy.