A conservative group claiming it was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service stole the show at a congressional hearing on Thursday when it veered off topic and accused top panel Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings of harassment. Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, complained that Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee “sent letters to True the Vote, demanding much of the same information the IRS had requested” after she filed for nonprofit status and then “would appear on cable news and publicly defame me and my organization.” Democrats called it outrageous that Republicans gave the group a platform to attack a member, and even some Republicans tried to change the subject back to the IRS controversy itself.
Cummings staff promptly produced copies of the five letters sent in the fall of 2012 and said the Maryland Democrat was conducting appropriate oversight of True the Vote, among the biggest organizations to crop up in recent years seeking to tighten voting rules.
Groups like True the Vote are backed by Republicans, and most Democrats call the efforts an attempt to restrict voting of minorities by challenging voter registration, curbing early voting and requiring multiple forms of identification. Republican governors and legislators have been successful in enacting many of these changes to voting in recent years.
“There is no one that I know of that cares more about the rights of our citizens than I do,” Cummings, an African-American, said. “I don’t care if you’re tea party or Democrat or Republican — I want to make sure no one is blocked from voting,” like he said his now 88-year-old mother was years ago.