In January and February of this year, the Internal Revenue Service began sending out letters to various local Tea Parties across the country. 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.
What are local Tea Partiers to think with requests like “Please identify your volunteers” or “are there board members or officers who have run or will run for office (including relatives)”? What possible reason would the IRS have for Tea Parties to “name your donors” when said donations are non-deductible? These are just a few of the questions asked by the IRS in these letters, and one cannot help but suspect an intrinsic threat encompassing all these demands.
The other question is the timing of these IRS letters requesting reams of copies and hundreds of hours of work and potentially thousands of dollars in accounting/legal fees (all due in two weeks). Some of these Tea Party groups have not received anything concerning their nonprofit status since 2010 prior to these letters.
These documents are further undermined by a letter sent to the IRS Commissioner Shulman. Signed by six Senators, it requests that the commissioner investigate 501(c)(4) groups to determine whether they are engaging in substantial campaign activity, including opposition to any candidate. Who signed this letter? Senators Schumer, Franken, Udall, Shaheen, Whitehouse, Merkley and Bennet — all Democrats.
Could it be that these Senators want the IRS to investigate the nonprofit status of Media Matters and its coordinated 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.
But why would a department like the IRS cave to Democrat demands? Could it be because this Democratic administration proposed a budget earlier this month that would result in “$1.1 billion in new funds for the Internal Revenue Service… that would translate to 5,112 new hires, or a 5 percent expansion of enforcement operations”? Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, couldn’t contain her glee at the prospect of over 5,000 new union hires, exclaiming in response to the announcement that “the administration’s 2012 funding level for the IRS would permit the agency to improve services through increasing response rates to inquiries, deploying enforcement resources to what the White House called high-return integrity activities and by modernizing information technology systems.”
The IRS is already focusing on “deploying enforcement resources,” as Kelley put it, toward targeting small, local Tea Parties; we’re sorry to report that these “high-return integrity activities” are generating a higher fear factor, not necessarily higher returns.
In the near future, the Affordable Healthcare Act mandate and all things related to healthcare are to be policed and enforced by the IRS. This means thousands more IRS agents will be added, but the actual number is yet unknown. Considering that healthcare accounts for 1/6th of the U.S. economy, it will probably be a significant number of additional agents. According to the tax administration inspector general, Russell George, “The new Affordable Care Act provisions represents the largest set of tax law changes in 20 years.” That’s an overwhelming thought considering there are over 70,000 pages of federal tax code.
The Tea Party movement is well known for wanting to shrink the size of government and decrease government spending because of the ballooning deficit. 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 affiliation) and just about anyone that has had any association with the Tea Party.
It is apparent that there is a potential conflict of interest and it could be used to stifle the right to free speech of the Tea Party members, or any other citizen willing to question the system and powers that be.
Many Tea Party boards are afraid to speak out publicly about these intrusive requests because of fear of being personally targeted and singled out by the IRS. This is especially scary to citizens of modest incomes that don’t have the financial means to hire accountants or tax attorneys. And that is probably the point. Cower and fade away, or face possible persecution at the hands of government bureaucrats.
Some people may read this article about this possibly-coordinated effort against Tea Parties and be glad. But, the tables can easily be turned if and when another party takes control. The potential of using the IRS as a weapon against those that disagree with the people in power is exactly why the Tea Party fears the growth of government.
If your Tea Party has received similar letters, please let me know (Colleen Owens, firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will put you in contact with other Tea Parties that have also received them. I will not publish your Tea Party or names publicly.
Remember the words of Ben Franklin, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”