PERRY/IRS targed Miss. Tea Party
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:00 AM
In an apology earlier this month, the IRS admitted it had singled out tax exempt organization applications containing the words "tea party" or "patriot" for additional review - election reform organizations and groups opposed to Obamacare also got enhanced scrutiny. The national outrage over the nation's tax collection bureau - which brags of having the highest prosecution success rate of any federal law enforcement agency - targeting organizations based on perceived political agendas has of yet achieved much change, or hope of change. President Barack Obama asked Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to request the resignation of acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who was retiring in June already.
Both the Department of Justice and Congressional committees have launched investigations, national in scope, but which could include alleged abuse by the IRS against a Mississippi organization.
The Mississippi Tea Party (MSTP) was incorporated in Mississippi as a nonprofit in April 2009 and a few days later began the process of seeking 501(c)(4) status from the IRS. Three years after what it calls continued harassment by the IRS, MSTP withdrew its tax status application and sought help from the American Center for Law and Justice which now represents 27 tea party groups and is preparing a lawsuit for abuse against the IRS.
On September 28, 2010, IRS Exempt Organizations Specialist Elizabeth Hofacre from the Cincinnati, Ohio office requested additional information to which the MSTP had provided already. The twenty-one item request included the organization's committee lists, policy statements, talking points, Facebook pages, training materials, and all call-to-action email communications to members. The IRS also wanted to know any relationship MSTP had with the national organization Tea Party Patriots.
Hofacre is one of five IRS employees so far to be requested for interviews by Representative Darrell Issa, Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Initially, the IRS claimed these violations were made by low level staffers in the Cincinnati office, but new reports show the actions were taken in other offices including, Washington DC.
For example, the MSTP case was transferred to the El Monte, California office where 14 more questions were asked as late as January 2012: copies of any web pages viewable only by MSTP members; how the organization gets information on legislation (and whether they have members posted in the Capitol Buildings in Washington DC or Jackson to get the information); schedules, speakers, handouts and people involved in any political or policy rallies - basically everything the MSTP had done, how they did it, and who was involved.
MSTP Executive Director Julia Hodges believes Issa's plan to interview these staffers is the correct way to proceed with the investigation. Hodges attended a press conference last week in Washington DC with Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and representatives of other tea party groups. Hodges said, "I told the congressmen, you don't need to go from the top to the bottom, but go from the bottom to the top. Talk to the employees and ask them who told them to do it. They're not going to fall on their swords for their boss."
She believes this was an intentional attempt by the IRS to curtail conservative activities, "They want to keep you busy, complying to the IRS so you don't have time to do or be concerned about other things. It was frustrating. We're not against taxes; we're against more taxes; we're against raising taxes. We understand there has to be taxes and we have to abide by the law."
When the MSTP attempted to answer the IRS, according to Hodges, they met additional stonewalling, "Every time we complied with what the IRS asked, every time we saw light at the end of the tunnel, the IRS would build more tunnel."
Hodges said the MSTP didn't let the IRS impede their mission, "We did a lot of things in Mississippi, IRS be damned. They didn't stop us. We did voter-ID, filed an amicus brief on redistricting which allowed us to have good district lines to keep a conservative Speaker of the House, we worked on charter schools and now we're taking a look at Common Core."
Hodges continued, "We're at the beginning of this. I don't think anything will happen to the [Obama] Administration, there will be enough people protecting them. But it's up to the American people to stay on this. This is the same government who will oversee the healthcare law through the IRS. To the Democrats who say 'the IRS would never share your healthcare information' I say 'what are y'all smoking?' I hope the press sees how this government has treated them, too, and will take of the kid gloves and do their jobs and give truth to the American people."
Brian Perry is a columnist for the Madison County Journal and a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.