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The IRS and the entire Obama administration are under scrutiny after revelations last week that hundreds of conservative organizations suffered undue harassment and intrusion by the IRS after applying for tax-exempt status – and now at least one tea-party leader tells WND the scandal interfered with with his group's mission.
Groups with "tea party" or "patriot" were especially targeted. Larry Nordvig, executive director of the Richmond Tea Party, explained to WND how he first suspected the IRS was going far beyond its normal duties in delaying and demanding information from the group.
"There were two things that tipped us off," he said. "No. 1 was the length of time. Our organization figured it would take maybe six months to a year. We were willing to put up with that. They do need to take a good, hard look to make sure you are who you say you are. That's fine. That's legitimate. But after it went past a year, it felt like stonewalling, especially when you're coming up on over two years. The time element was one.
Nordvig continued, "The second thing that tipped us off was the second round of questions that they sent and that was a 12-group set of a total of about 55 questions. But those questions had sub-questions, and those sub-questions had bullets. It was extremely hard information to try to dig up. It produced over 500 pages of documents, and they only gave us two weeks to do it. We knew something was wrong right there."
Many of the questions demanded very personal information, including every piece of literature ever published, background on every speaker and copies of every speech from each event, lists of donors and how much they contributed. Nordvig said there was much more.
"They wanted all of our communications, so any kind of email of Facebook communication with any of our members, which obviously would tip off their identity. They wanted to know who we associated with, who our members associated with. One of the most alarming ones was they wanted pictures of our web pages, including the member log-in only pages, which would have been very private. We did not give that to them," said Nordvig, who noted that the demand for donor information was also greatly disturbing.
"The entire purpose of us filing for that 501(c)(4) status is so that our donors can remain anonymous. If they can't remain anonymous, they don't donate money. I think whoever set this up, this was one of their primary goals," he said.
Nordvig said those behind this IRS strategy succeeded in part to limit the impact tea-party groups could make.
"It knocks you off your mission because instead of doing what we're supposed to be doing, which is political education and advocacy, we're dealing with miles and miles of red tape and stacks of documents of more than 500 pieces," he said. "We lost a lot of donors because of this whole cloud hanging over us. People either didn't want to touch it, or they were afraid their information would be made public. So we literally lost money."
"Now we find out that was on purpose. It definitely impacted our ability to accomplish our mission," he said.
The Richmond Tea Party subsequently sought legal counsel from the American Center for Law and Justice. It didn't take long for the group to learn there were plenty of like-minded organizations dealing with the same IRS meddling.
Thus far, two IRS officials have been asked to resign. President Obama insists he didn't know about the scandal until May 10. Nordvig isn't buying that explanation, and he does not see these early actions as anywhere close to being severe enough in terms of punishment.
"No, we are absolutely not satisfied at this point. That has to be made clear. This is an extremely serious event that every single American should be very, very worried about. What you're talking about is the government knowingly targeting political groups using the second most powerful arm of the government, second only to the military is the IRS. They can destroy your lives," Nordvig said. "All you have to do is replace tea party with your individual name or you can put in green, justice, progressive, whatever. Put yourself in our shoes. If the power flip-flopped up in the White House, I don't think you would want this kind of attention."
Nordvig also explained what needs to happen before he is satisfied.
"We need to find out how high this goes, how wide it goes, how deep it goes. The more we find out, it's like peeling back those onion layers. The more we find out, the worse this thing gets. That's why we won't be satisfied until we have a complete, thorough congressional investigation because they're not coming clean otherwise," Nordvig said.