ORLANDO — When taking aim at a government agency, the chances of making the criticism stick likely depend on which f3ederal department is being targeted. If it’s a popular institution like the military, the chances are success seem dicey.
On the other hand, Doug Guetzloe didn’t hesitate when he was asked to serve as a consultant to an organization that is taking aim at what may be one of the least popular government agencies in U.S. history: the Internal Revenue Service.
Guetzloe, a political consultant based in Orlando who is also the founder of the grassroots organization Ax The Tax, said assisting the group known as the Tax Revolution Institute was an easy call.
“The IRS does indeed consider themselves above the law, and many times they are sloppy about what they do,” Guetzloe said. “But they have the ability — and they have certainly done so — to destroy people’s lives. They have put their victims on public display.”
Guetzloe knows what that feels like. Guetzloe believes he was unfairly targeted by the federal government because of his involvement in anti-tax and Tea Party activities. He endured what he saw as a politically-motivated trial that resulted in a 15-month sentence in federal prison. The case was The United States of America versus Douglas Guetzloe, and in May 2012, a federal judge handed him the sentence on two misdemeanor tax filing charges.
That case, he noted, may have been one of the reasons why he came to the attention of TRI, which is pushing for the first ever audit of the federal agency,
They are also working against a proposed change in the law sought by the IRS to redefine electioneering to include all discussion about politicians and how they vote — a change that groups like TRI worry will make it harder for political organizations to effectively inform voters on the issues.
Guetzloe said he was delighted to hear from the group, because both of their causes are important ones to him.
“They contacted me, and they were aware of my work on Ax The Tax and they were aware of my prosecution by the IRS, and they thought I would be interested in their cause, and I was,” Guetzloe said. “It’s an advisory position. I advise them on a weekly basis on conference calls. They’ve appointed me as the coalition’s advisor, and one of the things I’m doing is getting other entities signed up to push for the audit. That’s why the Ax The Tax crusade has signed up to help them, because we need to find out where their money is going. It’s time to figure out what they’re doing.”
He added, “I said to them, ‘It’s time to reign in this monster that terrifies everyone.’ We should not fear government. Government should work for us, not be our master.”
TRI believes the proposed rules changes are designed to benefit incumbent politicians who don’t want their voting records exposed to public scrutiny.
The group also believes a lot of Americans think it’s the IRS itself that should be subject to an independent audit, and Guetzloe plans to help TRI build a coalition that works to conduct just such an audit, examining the agency’s treatment of individual taxpayers and small businesses, handling of its finances, the expectations of IRS employees, its work culture, and the advice given to taxpayers. All IRS policies are expected to come under scrutiny.
The goal — with more details available at auditIRS.com — is to bring accountability and transparency of the federal revenue-collection agency.
“They would like to shed light into the dark catacombs of the IRS,” Guetzloe said. “The entity takes in hundreds of billions of dollars and there has to be accountability of where the money is going.”
Guetzloe believes his experience running Ax The Tax — which has successfully helped defeat a long list of proposed property and sales tax hike ballot measures across the state of Florida — is ideal for working with TRI to create a similar national coalition.
“They want to create a coalition throughout the nation that will fight the rules change, and one of the things Ax The Tax has done very successfully is I have always reached out to other diverse groups to join with us,” he said. “Ax The Tax has had the support of the African-American community and Hispanic groups. What we’re doing is contacting other major groups that could be threatened by the IRS. Building coalitions is something I’ve done before and something we’ll continue to do.
“And this affects everybody,” he added. “The IRS has sort of created themselves as the target of this because of the terror they strike in the hearts of people. They created a shield that is hard to permeate.”
This grassroots campaign, Guetzloe added, is “almost like harkening back to the days of the American revolution. At some point, we’ve got to do what’s right, and that’s what we’re appealing to in holding this entity accountable. We should have the power to audit them.”
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..