Battles with the IRS did more than open Andrew Clyde’s eyes to the ways of government. They motivated the Athens gun store owner to embark on a political campaign of his own.
“It gave me a great idea of how Congress works – the ins and outs of it,” said Clyde, a Jackson County resident, during a recent interview with The Times in Jefferson.
“The fact that I was able to accomplish this gave me the courage to say, ‘If a private citizen can do this, then what can a member of Congress who is committed do,’” said Clyde, who is seeking a two-year term as U.S. House 9th District representative, replacing Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who is running for U.S. Senate.
Clyde is facing Democrat Devin Pandy of Gainesville in the Nov. 3 general election for the Northeast Georgia seat.
Clyde’s ordeal began in 2013, when he was hit by civil asset forfeiture. The IRS confiscated about $940,000 from his gun shop, Clyde Armory. Federal agents ultimately found no issues and returned $900,000 to Clyde.
Occupation: gun store owner
Political experience: first run for elected office
Residence: Jackson County
The experience inspired him to go to Washington, D.C., to advocate for civil asset forfeiture reform. Clyde had been accused of “structuring,” or setting up bank deposits to avoid reporting to the IRS.
The RESPECT Act, signed by President Donald Trump in 2019, changed IRS rules to only allow forfeiture for “structuring” if the money comes from an illegal source or is used to hide illegal activity. Prosecutors are now required to demonstrate probable cause that the seized money was somehow used illegally.
Clyde, 56, reflecting on the experience in the recent interview, said he found that “part of the government is off the rails. You don’t do that to a small business.”
He founded Clyde Armory in 1991 as a “hobby business” and made it a full-time venture in 1999, after graduating from the University of Georgia with a master’s degree in business administration.
Meanwhile, he was also serving in the Navy Reserve. Clyde, who was born in Ontario, Canada, and who has U.S. citizenship as both his parents are citizens, started his journey up the Navy ranks at University of Notre Dame’s ROTC.
He ended up serving in the Navy for 11 years active duty and 17 years in the Navy Reserve, including deployments to the Middle East, where he was stationed in Kuwait and Iraq. He retired from the Reserve as a commander in 2013.
He said he believes his military background helped “refine perseverance” as a personal character trait.
Clyde had to lean on that to get through a challenging political season, one that began with a nine-candidate field seeking the Republican nomination for the 9th District seat. And then, he won a contentious Aug. 11 runoff against state Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger.
In a nod to his profession, protecting gun rights covered by the Second Amendment is a top priority for Clyde.
“Deregulation … hasn’t happened in the firearms industry,” he said, citing especially the rules on noise-reducing devices on firearms.
“Everything that makes noise above 85 decibels, at which a person can start to lose their hearing, has a muffler on it,” Clyde said. “The government is penalizing people who want to put that kind of (equipment) on a firearm. You’ve got to pay a $200 tax and wait almost a year to get one. Having a firearm is a constitutional right. It’s unconstitutional to tax a constitutional right.”
Also, he strongly advocates right to life.
“If people don’t have respect for life, then what do they have respect for?” Clyde said. “I firmly believe that life begins at conception and ends at natural death, and that God created life and that life is precious and needs to be protected.”
He’s also pushing for rural broadband improvements.
“It’s like the electricity of the 1930s and the telephones of the 1940s,” Clyde said. “If we have to do all this distance learning and work from home, if you’re not connected, how are you going to be able to do that?
“And businesses are learning that without connectivity to the internet, you’re just not going to be very successful. I want businesses to have every advantage in North Georgia.”