Tea-party groups are asking Congress to investigate their concern that the Internal Revenue Service is following a political agenda by flooding them with demands for information before granting tax-exempt status.
A recent request came from Jamie Radtke, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Virginia, who asked Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., to look into the unfair treatment she believes tea-party groups have been getting from the IRS.
According to the Daily Caller, Radtke reported that after two and a half years of processing, the IRS “recently communicated a new set of overly burdensome and invasive demands for information that exceed the scope of the IRS code.”
Radtke, the Daily Caller reported, is a former president of the Richmond Tea Party. She said the latest demand includes 12 more questions in 53 separate parts, requiring copies of Facebook pages, names of donors, information about exactly how grants are spent and many other details.
The requests demand copies of Web pages “that are accessible only to your members.”
A similar situation developed for the Ohio Liberty Council, which asked Congress to investigate.
Spokesman Tom Zawistowski told the Daily Caller, “I defy any American to read this list of demands by the IRS and not be outraged.
“This is the kind of personal information that this government is going to be demanding from your church, your doctor, your hospital, your business and your favorite charity going forward,” he said.
The individual incidents have been described as being part of a countrywide wave of demands from the IRS, prompting leaders of individual groups to suspect a political agenda.
“This has nothing to do with tax status,” Zawistowski told Fox News. “It has to do with political affiliation. The questions are too close to home.”
He said the demands are “very intimidating and people are scared.”
According to a letter posted online by Fox News, the IRS is demanding printed copies of organization Web pages, newsletters, bulletins, flyers, newsletters, social networking sites, officer rosters and revenues and expenditures.
“Have you expressly endorsed or oppose (sic) candidates for public office or slates of candidates at public events, on your website, on your radio show or You Tube page, in your literature or in any other forum? Do you plan to do so in the current election cycle? If so, provide a list of candidates for political office you have expressly endorsed or opposed, and describe the occasion on which you made each endorsement,” the letter states.
“Do you have a close relationship with any candidate for public office or political party? If so describe fully the nature of that relationship. Provide copies of any agreements you have with others for provision of goods or services, sharing of facilities or other cooperative arrangements, or anything else.”
In a commentary at Big Government, Colleen Owens noted the letters started arriving at tea-party organizations in January.
“Mailed from the same Cincinnati, Ohio, IRS office, these letters have reached tea parties in Virginia, Hawaii, Ohio and Texas (we are hearing of more daily). There are several common threads to these letters: all are requesting more information from these independent tea parties in regard to their nonprofit 501(c)4 applications (for this type of nonprofit, donations are not deductible). While some of the requests are reasonable, much of them are strikingly onerous and, dare I say, Orwellian in nature.”
She continued, “What possible reason would the IRS have for tea parties to ‘name your donors’ when said donations are non-deductible?”
“One cannot help but suspect an intrinsic threat encompassing all these demands,” she said.
She also suggested there’s an unwelcome link between the IRS demands and a letter from a number of Democrats to the IRS urging an investigation of such groups.
“We urge you to protect legitimate section 501(c)4 entities by preventing non-conformation organizations that are focused on federal election activities from abusing the tax code,” said the letter, signed by Democrat Sens. Michael Bennet, Al Franken, Jeff Markley, Charles Schumer, Jeanne Shaheen, Tom Udall and Sheldon Whitehouse.
“Could it be that these senators want the IRS to investigate the nonprofit status of Media Matters and its coordinate political activity with the White House. Or perhaps they are concerned with nonprofit ACORN groups’ record of voter fraud, and other previous campaign abuses including alleged close ties with President Obama’s Project Vote?
“No. When these senators sent this letter to the IRS commissioner, the message would be very clear. The 501(c)4 groups they want investigated are not those with Democratic liberal ties,” she said.
Also cited in the column was a proposal by Democrats to increase funding for the IRS by $1.1 billion.
“The tea party movement is well known for wanting to shrink the size of government and decrease government spending… this means that unionized government employees that may be out of a job if the tea party is successful also have the power to choose whether or not tea party groups get nonprofit status And those same employees are also requesting names and information of board members, volunteers, donors, invited speakers (and party affiliate) and just about anyone that has had any association with the tea party,” she wrote.
At Hot Air Green Room, columnist Howard Portnoy questioned, “Is someone out to intimidate the tea party movement, and if so, who?”
An IRS official told Fox, “When determining whether an organization is eligible for tax-exempt status, including 501(c)4 social welfare organizations, all the facts and circumstances of that specific organization must be considered to determine whether it is eligible. … To be tax-exempt … they must be primarily engaged in the promotion of social welfare.”
The spokesman continued, “Career civil servants make all decisions on exemption applications in a fair, impartial manner and do so without regard to political party affiliation or ideology.”
But the Weekly Standard documented the situation of the Richmond, Va., tea party.
The organization said: “On December 28, 2009, RTP applied to become a 501(c)(4) organization. After nearly 10 months, the IRS finally responded with a letter (dated September 17, 2010), requesting detailed documentation to satisfy 17 questions, giving RTP only a two-week window in which to finish. (As the response was curiously due on the opening day of the inaugural Virginia Tea Party Convention, for which RTP was a central organizer, we requested and received a two-week extension.) We fully complied, providing over 500 pages of documentation. We received no response for over a year. Eventually the IRS sent a letter dated January 9, 2012, thanking us for our ‘complete and thorough responses’ from the first request, but then asking us to answer 12 additional questions in 53 separate parts, including the totally inappropriate request for a full list of our donors and volunteers.”