The IRS has for several years been targeting fiscally conservative and freedom-oriented grassroots organizations with highly detailed and burdensome demands. The effect has been to delay approval of tax exempt status, causing some organizations to abandon the effort, harming their ability to participate in the public debate.
FreedomWorks has obtained the IRS letter listing questions to TheTeaparty.Net.
The letter contains several pages of detailed and invasive questions, going far beyond any reasonable effort to determine whether the targeted groups are focused on public service and education rather than on candidate advocacy or electioneering.
Among the details the IRS asked for are
- List all activities, rallies, advertising to be explained “in detail”
- Lists of industry conventions at which the organization had a presence and any materials distributed to the public there
- copies of current web pages. “If you are a membership organization, please include all the pages that are accessible only to your members”
- Financial detais about internet related activies
- Content of blogs and social media presence
- Lists of any candidates for public office appearing at forums the group sponsored
- Any materials distributed for any other organization
- Voter education and registration activities, in detail. One question may have required the organization to hire a professional grammarian to parse: “Who on the organization’s behalf have conducted or will conduct the voter registration or get out to vote drives?”
- Business dealings with candidates
- Any other tax-exempt organizations with which the group is “associated”
- Fundraising efforts in detail
- Corporate minutes, board member compensation and work
- List of volunteers
- Any board member who has ever run or will ever run for public office
- Income statements in detail
- Expense statements in detail
Jackie Bodnar, FreedomWorks Communications Director, said:
Excessive paperwork and complex protocol is a weapon used by power brokers in DC to make it impossible for individual Americans to exercise their basic civic duty to hold government accountable. Complexity is big government’s strategy to avoid accountability. We have to bring more transparency to the system and expose the injustices and violations of civil liberties that we find along the way.
Even the far left bellweather ACLU said the move showed that “giving the government too much power to limit political speech will inevitably result in selective enforcement,” threatening civil liberties. Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots said the requests made of conservative and tea party groups were “ridiculous“.
TheTeaparty.Net spokesman Dan Backer responded via email with the list of demands (pdf) that the IRS sent to the organization.
We’ve just gone through our third round of IRS inquiries. The first round was probably not completely unreasonable since the original filing was made by volunteers and not lawyers. The 2nd round of questions was clearly politically driven, asked a great many questions designed to elicit information unrelated to exemption, and is discussed at length (and included in) the White Paper. The third round was pointless, burdensome, and serves no purpose but to harass the organization.
Here is the content of the cover letter:
The IRS’ overreach in targeting these groups should bring Congressional investigation and media scrutiny. It shoudl unite the left, right, and center in defense of civil liberties. Instead, it may be used as a wedge to divide Americans even further.