Last week, Catherine Engelbrecht, a small businesswoman from Texas who founded True the Vote and King Street Patriots, testified about her ordeal at the hands of the federal government. After she became politically active, she was subject to personal and business audits by the IRS going back several years. Then the FBI came knocking to ask about someone who attended one of the meetings of the King Street Patriots. The IRS returned with an armamentarium of questions about True the Vote. Then the Occupational Safety and Health Administration showed up to examine her business with a fine-tooth comb. (They fined her $17,500.) Finally, the Engelbrechts were graced with a visit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
Engelbrecht's experience should chill anyone concerned about government intimidation, overreach, arrogance and abuse of power. But most of all, it should alarm the press -- supposedly the fierce guardians of the First Amendment. The press made Sandra Fluke a household name when she testified before a House subcommittee about the terrible injustice she would suffer if taxpayers did not purchase her contraceptives for her. Yet Engelbrecht, an ordinary person merely attempting to join with other Americans in petitioning the government for redress of grievances, was hammered by a succession of powerful government agencies. Not even a bleat from the press about this flagrant assault on free speech.
Government agencies should operate in a strictly neutral and nonpartisan fashion. If they become politicized, we've entered banana republic territory. The press, by failing to beat the drums on this, is complicit in corruption that goes far beyond a "smidgen."