Maybe the White House and the Internal Revenue Service have vastly different definitions of “smidgen.”
After all, in President Obama’s interview with Fox News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly Sunday, he said there was “not even a smidgen of corruption” linked to the IRS practice of discriminating against conservative and Christian organizations by delaying their applications for tax-exempt status.
The scandal is one of several plaguing the Obama administration over the last year or so. In it, the IRS grilled applicants for 501(c)4 status about the content of their prayers, asked them to make promises not to be involved in pro-life protests and made other legally questionable demands.
Hundreds of conservative and Christian organizations were affected.
The Thomas More Society, which broke the news with evidence that the IRS was harassing pro-life organizations, expressed shock that Obama would deny there was corruption in the targeting of conservatives.
“Thomas More Society has defended six pro-life organizations whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of the groups’ dedication to the sanctity of life,” said Peter Breen, senior counsel for the Chicago-based organization. “In fact, in May and August of 2013, Thomas More Society produced two memos to the House Committee on Ways and Means, totaling over 500 pages of evidence that the IRS specifically targeted and harassed pro-life and conservative charities, illegally questioning their religious activities and withholding their tax exemptions.
“Frankly, we are shocked that President Obama would state that there was ‘not even a smidgen of corruption’ involved in the IRS scandal,” he said. “The Obama administration must stop making excuses to cover up the IRS’ illegal activity and instead deal justly with the corruption and scandal that occurred.”
Obama claimed the IRS officials who targeted Christians and conservatives were simply confused about how to implement laws governing tax-exempt groups.
Obama described the IRS problem as “boneheaded decisions.”
Thomas More, however, has generated hundreds of pages of evidence of inappropriate behavior.
The group discovered one case in which the IRS withheld approval of a tax status application until all board members of an Ohio group stated that, under penalty of perjury, “they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood.”
Attorney Sally Wagenmaker, special counsel to the Thomas More Society, worked on a long list of such cases.
She described what appeared to be the “IRS’ disturbing ability” to stall and suppress applications.
In another case, the IRS wanted the content of volunteer prayer vigils before granting tax-exempt status.
Wagenmaker told WND in an interview that she encountered incorrect responses and inappropriate questions from the IRS, all the way up to actual hostility.
“I would certainly say there’s more than a smidgeon of corruption,” she said.
Whether there are problems because of corruption, incompetence or “because of something more nefarious,” there needs to be an investigation, she insisted.
She told WND she encountered one agent following a rule that had been dropped 20 years earlier, which she said could be argued to be incompetence. But the question is, who trained the agent and left him with the belief that a long-discontinued rule still was enforced?
Or is it, she wondered, “something more hostile?”
It was last May that the Thomas More Society provided more than 150 pages of evidence to the House Ways and Means Committee.
The documents detailed IRS misconduct in the cases of just three groups represented by the organization.
“In a series of questions penned by Exempt Organization Specialist Tyrone Thomas from the California office, the IRS asked a series of unwarranted questions ordering Christian Voices for Life without any foundation, to explain its content, message and prayers as if they were engaging in highly offensive or criminal behavior,” the report said.
Other badgering was reported by Daniel and Angela Michael of Small Victories, who reported calls from the IRS every two to three weeks over the course of 2011. That investigation was closed after no illegal activities were found.
Before Congress, Susan Martinek of the Coalition for Life of Iowa said her group was told to surrender First Amendment rights of assembly, free speech and religious expression by the IRS.
“In particular, the IRS wanted our assurances that we would not bother Planned Parenthood,” she said.
Throughout 2013, the Thomas More Society provided documentation on the targeting. As recently as August, hundreds of pages of documentation were provided to Congress.
At the time, Breen said: “We have now produced irrefutable evidence of six clients whose First Amendment rights were trampled upon by the IRS because of their position upholding the sanctity of life. Even after public disclosure of this wrongdoing, the Obama administration’s IRS has refused to cease its illegal activity. We will continue to aid Congress in its investigation until those responsible are brought to justice and the IRS is made to respect every Americans’ constitutional rights.”