Conservative groups which have long held the suspicion that the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting them for increased scrutiny and audits were vindicated last Friday when the Internal Revenue Service “apologized” for the over-zealous activity toward groups with the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their name.
An apology seems hardly enough for this breach of the public trust by an agency that answers to no one and has a long history of taxpayer abuse. IRS abuse through targeting of conservatives has long been a concern of the Republican Party.
New evidence suggests that keywords which targeted groups for a closer look included those groups who mentioned the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, or making “American a better place to live.” Senator Rand Paul has introduced legislation which calls for the firing of IRS agents who abused their power in such a way.
Senator Paul told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “The President says he’s going to do something if they’re guilty. Well it sounds like there’s already been an investigation and no one’s been fired. I’m afraid he’s going to do about as much as he did after Benghazi.”
Despite original protestations by the IRS that an obscure office in Cincinnati run by low-level employees were the only ones involved in the breach, documents obtained by the Washington Post seems to suggest otherwise… and that the political targeting has gone on much longer than originally reported. It appears that the main office in Washington D.C. and offices in California have also made concerted efforts to intimidate and disenfranchise conservative groups.
“For the IRS to say it was some low-level group in Cincinnati is simply false,” said Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the law firm Foley & Lardner who was the contact point for IRS communications about the delay in granting True the Vote (a non-profit organization dedicated to fair and free elections) non-profit status. It appears their opposition to Obamacare in 2009 was the determining factor in IRS over-reach.
Officials at the highest levels of the IRS were briefed in May 2012 about the details of these tactics toward conservatives. In fact, former Commission Douglas Shulman (a Bush appointee) was briefed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) about what was happening in the Cincinnati office. He chose not to share that information with Republican lawmakers when they demanded to know if conservative groups were in fact the target of closer IRS scrutiny and political red tape.
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Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said, “I wrote to the IRS three times last year after hearing concerns that conservative groups were being targeted. In response to the first letter I sent with some of my colleagues, Steven Miller, the current Acting IRS Commissioner, responded that these groups weren’t being targeted. Knowing what we know now, the IRS was at best being far from forth coming, or at worst, being deliberately dishonest with Congress.”
Last year, the Richmond Tea Party received a 55-page questionnaire (which reads more like an inquisition) about its application for tax-exempt status. The IRS demanded “the names of the donors, contributors, and grantors for every year from inception to the present.” In addition, it wanted “the amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.” The agency insisted they disclose all details of how these donations and grants were used.
Part of the 55-page demand letter also wanted the name of board members, officers, and employees, as well as the names of anyone who had ever volunteered their services with the Richmond Tea Party, as well as web access to members-only sections of their website.
The Washington Free Beacon reported that an attorney for one Tea Party group stated that an IRS analyst told him over a year ago that “the agency had a ‘secret working group’ devoted to investigating conservative organizations.”
Confidential applications from non-profits groups were publically released last November by the IRS before they were granted tax-exempt status, meaning their information was not supposed to be made public. All this evidence suggests an agency of the United States government with a clear political agenda of silencing or intimidating any dissenting voices of Big Brother government. This is particularly chilling in a country that was founded on freedom, liberty, and limited government.
One expects these tactics in communist countries or dictatorships. That we have them occurring here seems to indicate that our government is further down the road to tyranny than we have even imagined.