As the House Oversight Committee pushes for an investigation into new Internal Revenue Service accusations, representatives from two established tax-exempt organizations appeared on Fox News Monday night to give an intimate account of what they believe to be politically-targeted IRS audits.
Michelle Easton, president and founder of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, detailed how the IRS called her in January 2011 saying that it had chosen to audit the group’s 2008 finances.
“I never thought it was a coincidence they selected 2011, the year so important in the timing of our country’s leadership. Then suddenly, a few months ago, all of this information came out about the improper actions of the IRS and the pattern of harassment and I knew it wasn’t a coincidence,” she said. “I’m an attorney, I am extraordinarily careful; I have been for twenty years. The audit, as far as I could see, was pure harassment.”
In response to Obama’s claims that the IRS targeting of conservative-leaning organizations is a “phony scandal,” Easton said, “The IRS is a huge bureaucracy that spreads fears in the heart of individuals and organizations, and when they gang up on one particular part of people — conservative people and conservative groups — there is nothing phony about that. That is abuse of governmental power.”
“They were so secretive about it,” she lamented. “Tell us, if it is random. Have a public drawing of the random ones so that the groups and individuals don’t have the stigma that comes with an IRS audit.”
Easton told Fox that the first question from the IRS was about the names and dollar amounts of donors. But according to Easton, an attorney, the IRS does not have a right to this information because it is private. The organization chose to fight to maintain the privacy of its donors.
She explained why she is stepping forward to tell the organization’s story. “Once we learned the pattern of this, it seemed like it was time to talk about it. People feel so isolated and stigmatized when they are audited. But now we are learning that there was a pattern; there were huge numbers of conservative groups who were denied the exemption, and I believe that there were probably large numbers of groups who were audited unfairly, as we were.”
A representative from the second group, the Leadership Institute, revealed that the audit’s legal fees cost the organization over $50,000 and demanded intrusive information about the locations of interns and correspondence of staff members.
LI’s Abigail Alger also reiterated that the IRS demanded that the Hawaii Tea Party “explain its relationship” with the Leadership Institute, which indicated coordinated efforts between two IRS offices.