The Internal Revenue Service probed TheTeaParty.net on the names of its donors and whether any of their members or donors would run for political office during one of their rounds of inquiry in 2012.
Dan Backer, an attorney with DB Capitol Strategies PLLC, who represents a half dozen conservative groups including TheTeaParty.net and Combat Veterans Training Group, explained to The Daily Caller some of the hoops the IRS had his groups jump through. TheTeaParty.net, he said, is still waiting for its tax-exempt status after three years and three rounds of inquiries.
“This is the natural outgrowth of the permanent campaign and the willingness of the political left to use the mechanism of government to suppress their enemies,” he explained.
According to Backer, the contention that the targeting was just a group of low-level employees in Cincinnati “is the biggest crock of garbage I have ever heard of in my entire life.” He added that the decision to target these groups had to come from a higher level.
“There are a whole bunch of people; multiple layers of this administrative structure were involved in making this decision and deciding two things: One, that we’re going to single out people whose names include ‘tea party,’ ‘patriot’ and ‘9-12’ and, two, in singling them out we are going to subject them to a series of questions that are unique and distinct from anything involving the IRS exempt application process.”
“They weren’t asked normal questions, they were asked special questions, so somebody was involved in deciding what those questions are,” he charged.
The questions the IRS sent to TheTeaParty.net included demands for their donors and the past and future candidacy of individuals affiliated with the group — something Backer said has nothing to do with determining a group’s qualifications for 501(c)(4) status.
Backer said that reasonable, legitimate questions include those probing potential political activities such as “do you plan on giving money to candidates?” or “Is your primary purpose calling for the election of a clearly identifiable federal candidate?” Backer explained these questions were reasonable because if the answer to either was “yes,” then the group would not be a (c)(4).
In a white paper Backer penned last year, he further charged that the IRS does not have the authority to request information that is unrelated to the determination of a group’s tax-exempt status. In that paper, he noted that the request for donor lists would have a “chilling effect on free speech.”
Backer is in the process of reviewing the possibility of suing the IRS for their actions.
“If you were to litigate against the IRS the goals would be twofold: One, to find out the truth about what happened so that the individuals involved will be held accountable — and by accountable, I mean fired — to hold all these individuals accountable for their misconduct. And two, to keep this from ever happening again, either at IRS or anywhere else.”
He said that while his group may not decide to sue, he believes it is almost inevitable someone will sue the IRS over the targeting.
The IRS apologized Friday for targeting of tea party and conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. Lawmakers have come out in full force to condemn the practice. The House Ways and Means Committee scheduled a hearing on the targeting for Friday.