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The leader of a prominent grassroots organization targeted for unlawful scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service says she is not surprised by evidence of collaboration between the government and liberal organizations in reviewing applications for tax-exempt status.
WND broke the news that the IRS essentially subcontracted its responsibility to review the applications to the Urban Institute, a leftist organization that receives major federal funding but also gets significant financial backing from liberal billionaire George Soros. Specifically, online applicants are directed to the Urban Institute’s website if they take in less than $50,000 in annual receipts.
True the Vote President Catherine Englebrecht, who ripped the IRS for its heavy-handed tactics and not conducting any meaningful investigation into alleged abuses, says this sort of cozy working relationship should not surprise anyone.
“It is exactly as it seems to be,” Englebrecht said. “They are weaponizing government against private individuals and nonprofit organizations that oppose current policy or the performance of this administration. They want them silenced. It doesn’t shock me in the least.
“This is the bare-knuckle politics that we sadly see being used by agencies within the government that are not about representing the people but are about maintaining their own power.”
Listen to Radio America’s interview with Catherine Englebrecht:
Englebrecht said she can't think of any legitimate reason for the IRS and a group like the Urban Institute to be working together on matters involving that kind of sensitive information the government requires from tax-exempt applicants.
Urban Institute spokesman Stu Kantor told WND, "IRS funding of approximately $1.14 million has been provided to the Urban Institute for this work since 2007. This amount represents less than a quarter of one percent (.24 percent) of our revenues during this period." Kantor also noted that no confidential information is located on the 990-N e-Postcard the organization processes for the IRS.
He said, "The Urban Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization. For more than 45 years, we have been conducting social and economic policy research, including evaluating government programs and providing technical assistance for government at all levels and for foundations."
However, WND's investigation found the supposedly "nonpartisan" organization's employees have a record of donating nearly 100 percent of their political contributions to Democrats, and officially, the Urban Institute advocates for totally socialized medicine, carbon taxes and amnesty for illegal aliens.
And UI's president, Sarah Rosen Wartell, is the co-founder of the Center for American Progress, widely considered ground zero for the development of many of the Obama administration's progressive policies. In fact, WND found very strong ties between the organization's leadership and the administrations of former President Bill Clinton and President Obama.
As for the IRS troubles, at least one conservative organization, the National Organization for Marriage, learned its donor list ended up in the hands of the Human Rights Campaign, its chief rival in the marriage debate. Englebrecht said True the Vote cannot be certain whether its confidential information was transmitted to opposing groups as well.
"That's a tough question to answer because we've been attacked so soundly on so many fronts," she said. "Whether or not information is being used, there's so much out there about us, it's entirely possible. And that is one of the things we're asking to be addressed in our lawsuit when we sued the IRS, is the discovery of certain documents that we can't get our hands on otherwise will be revealed in this lawsuit. We should be able to figure out who was pointing the cannons in our direction."
True the Vote is an organization dedicated to cleaning up the voter rolls across the nation by weeding out the names of the deceased and those who have moved to other states. It also backs legislation requiring voters to present photo identification before casting ballots. The Obama administration, Democrats at the state level and liberal advocacy groups staunchly oppose such efforts.
In addition to submitting paperwork about the group's voters, Englebrecht said the IRS made other demands that were clearly absurd.
"There were questions that still cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand up, questions like, 'We want to know everywhere you've ever spoken since the inception of your organization and to whom you spoke and what you said. That particular question was asked in 2012, (and) they wanted to know everywhere I intended to speak through 2013. That goes so far beyond the pale. It is such a clear effort to chill political speech. On the basis of that question alone, I think we should have had an investigation," she said.
Englebrecht isn't convinced any investigation into IRS abuses is taking place and, if there is one, she believes getting to the truth is a pretty low priority.
"It is smoke and mirrors. There is no intent to actually get to the bottom of who knew what when and why it all happened like it did. In fact quite the opposite, as we now see the IRS suggesting that it's going to impose new regulations on (501 (c)4 nonprofits), shutting down their ability to educate and reach voters and fundamentally changing the landscape of pro-liberty nonprofits in this country," she said.
"That's where we're headed is the codification, the legalization of the type of targeting that this administration is all too keen to just gloss over."
Englebrecht said she cannot be certain if her group was singled out for even greater scrutiny than the other affected conservative organizations because of its work to ensure that voter rolls are up to date and elections are conducted with integrity. She said there's no good reason not to have voter ID but believes there is a crystal clear reason for the opposition on the left.
"What is it that these organizations are trying to protect? What I submit is they are trying to protect an environment of hostility and agitation, using race-baiting to keep Americans falsely at odds with one another because in that wedge they derive power," Englebrecht said.
"They need to keep people upset so that they can provide the solution. It is victimization as an art form."