THE BLAZE by BECKET ADAMS
SHOCK: IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups During 2012 Election, Apologizes
May. 10, 2013 10:50am
The Internal Revenue Service is apologizing for inappropriately flagging conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt groups, said organizations that included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional reviews.
Lerner said the practice, initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati, was wrong and she apologized while speaking at a conference in Washington.
Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS.
Indeed, in February 2012, TheBlaze received emails from several Tea Party groups alleging irregular and almost thuggish behavior on the part of the IRS.
Ohio Liberty Council Corp. President Tom Zawistokowski, for example, posted a letter on the group’s website detailing their extraordinary experiences with the IRS. Zawistokowski writes:
My own Portage County TEA Party has been waiting for over a year just to get a response from the IRS so we can file our 2010 tax return! In the attached PDF I share with you, the “Additional Information Requested” of the Ohio Liberty Council from our June 30th, 2010 application which we just received on January 30, 2012. Yes, they took a year and a half to respond to our application and they are giving us two weeks to respond back. As you will see, this is no simple request.
Here’s what the IRs demanded of the group:
A hard copy printout of the website – A PDF file emailed to the IRS will not suffice (and this is the high-tech Administration)
List all Social Media outlets being used (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and include hard copy printouts of every posting
A narrative description of every activity of your organization since June 30, 2010 (filing date) – And they do not want a mere description of the event, but full details – including; who conducted it, their qualifications, who was allowed to take part in the activities and how they were selected, was there a fee? (how much)
The IRS also wants to know about the members of the group and their roles and more, asking specifically for the “name, address, and corporate federal ID of all organizations that are members of our organization”
Public events are also under scrutiny with the IRS demanding to know the time, location and content schedule of each event.
Copies of any and all handouts must be included.
Names and credentials of all instructors and copies of any workshop materials used.
All speakers must be identified and copies of every speech must be included.
By March, GOP senators and The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) were starting to ask questions about the IRS’ treatment of Tea Party groups.
“This appears to be a coordinated attempt to intimidate Tea Party organizations by demanding information that is outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violates the First Amendment,” said ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow in a statement, adding that the IRS asked questions that violate groups’ association rights.
“These organizations have followed the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades,” the statement notes.
Later, 12 Republican senators sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman questioning the nature of relationship between the IRS and Tea Party groups.
“It is critical that the public have confidence that federal tax compliance efforts are pursued in a fair, even-handed, and transparent manner – without regard to politics of any kind,” wrote the Senators, referring specifically to the Kentucky 9/12 Project’s accusations of IRS intimidation.
“It is imperative that organizations applying for tax-exempt status are able to rely on a consistent and foreseeable review structure from the IRS.
“Any significant changes to the IRS review process should be implemented only after appropriate notice and opportunity for comment from the public and affected parties,” the letter adds.
The letter spearheaded by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, joined by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John Cornyn (Texas), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
More than a year later, Lerner’s comments show that the harassed conservative grassroots groups — and their defenders — were actually on to something.
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