Wealthy businessman Frank VanderSloot, a major Mitt Romney super PAC donor who was subjected to three federal agency audits after being slimed by the Obama campaign, says he isn’t the only one of his peers who was audited after donating to Romney.
VanderSloot, who was also national co-chair of the Romney campaign’s finance committee, was described in an April 2012 Obama campaign Web posting as one of eight “wealthy individuals with less-than-reputable records.”
Shortly after the post appeared, VanderSloot was subjected to two Internal Revenue Service audits — one focusing on his personal finances, the other related to his business interests — and a Labor Department audit of one of his businesses. When asked about whether any of the other seven donors who appeared on the list were audited as well, VanderSloot spoke cautiously, but did say he “wasn’t the only one.
“I talked to only a handful of them since,” VanderSloot said. “I’ve reached out to all of them. But only got calls back from a handful and most of the responses were they’re just laying low, you know, they took their own beatings and they don’t want any more of it and they don’t want to even talk about this.”
“How do I answer that?” he responded, when asked specifically if he knows if any of them were audited like he was after they were attacked by the Obama campaign.
“Yes, we talked about that, and I’m not at liberty to disclose that.”
“I don’t know that everybody [that] was on it [was] audited,” he went on. “I don’t know how many were. I know that I’m not the only one. I do know that.”
“Everybody took a beating,” he added. “And for most of them, they’ve had enough. But there were a couple who will stand up and be counted on this issue, and the others just want the thing to go away.”
VanderSloot says that he passed all the audits with flying colors.
“Everything is done. No penalties. No fines,” he said.
The only thing he was required to do was move one of his deductions to the next year, which will actually save him money because of the expiration of the Bush tax rates for high-income individuals in 2013.
“Actually, I’ll pay less taxes because of the audits,” he said.
But, he added, the audits themselves cost him over $80,000, after taking into account the attorneys, accountants and other professionals he needed to handle them.
Last Friday, the IRS admitted that it targeted conservative and tea party groups for special scrutiny. VanderSloot says he initially found the news, which he learned about in an email from his son, “interesting.”
“So [Wall Street Journal columnist] Kim Strassel is the one who broke the story on the president’s ‘enemies list’ and pointed out to the public what was really going on here,” VanderSloot said.
“And so when I first got the story after one of my sons emailed to me a link to one of the articles — one of the stories that was running — and he said, ‘Dad, you might want to take a look at this.’ Because he knows the background of all this. I just forwarded it on to Kim Strassel with the word ‘interesting.’ So I guess that was my reaction, pretty interesting.”
No evidence has yet surfaced that conservative donors were also targeted by the IRS for special scrutiny. And VanderSloot says “we need to be really careful” about trying to tie his audits directly to the White House or the president. But he does note that it was odd that he would be subjected to three audits after being attacked by the Obama campaign, when he had only faced one small audit in his entire life some three decades ago.
“We had three federal agency audits in a matter of four months. Coincidence? I don’t know,” he said.
“I think we need to be careful about what we know and what we don’t know. What we know is there is a string of coincidences here that look really suspicious. That’s what we know. Whether this is really connected — did somebody actually look at the president’s list that the president’s campaign put up there and say, ‘Well, here they are, let’s go after these guys’ — well, I don’t know.”
But VanderSloot said he does know the audits have consequences.
“We know this for sure: the president made the list,” he said. “In my case, he made the list of eight people. Why eight? Well, there were thousands of donors to Mitt Romney. Why choose eight? You can’t go after thousands. You have to make example of a few … and show people what happens and hopefully put a stop to these kind of donations. And from what I’ve observed I think it’s worked pretty well for President Obama. No one wants to talk. No one wants to say anything.”
He also isn’t impressed with President Obama’s statement that he intends to go after any malfeasance that may have occurred at the IRS.
“President Obama said, I think yesterday, he said, ‘I’m not going to stand for this, and we’re going to go after those who did it,'” said VanderSloot.
“I would say, ‘not fair, President Obama.’ You nailed a target, for example myself, you nailed a target on my back, and then you expect nobody to shoot at it? Of course you know they’re going to shoot at it. And now you say you’re going to after [them]. So basically what you’re saying is, if you get caught, ‘I’m at least going to have to tell the public I’m going to after you.’ Now whether he does or not I don’t know. But it will be interesting to see what really happens to these people.”
But VanderSloot says he has no intention of silencing himself because of the political and media attacks that have been hurled against him, or the suspicious audits.
“I think it’s dangerous not to speak up, because both the press gets more emboldened and the agencies get more emboldened,” he said.
“Let us hope our nation doesn’t become one where we are afraid to speak out because the ramifications of speaking out or even making a contribution to the candidate of our choice or supporting a candidate of our choice becomes … career threatening.”