My ‘patriotic’ organization’s experience with the IRS

Shane Krauser Director, American Academy for Constitutional Education
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The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of tea party groups is disturbing, but given the current political climate, it is not altogether surprising. Tea party groups have awakened Americans to the dangers of big government. It only stands to reason that those who oppose these groups’ ideas would make it more difficult for them to gain the tax-exempt status that other non-profits enjoy.

I’ve spent years speaking to tea party groups and conservative clubs all over America. I’m the director of an organization known as the American Academy for Constitutional Education. Its engagements are apolitical and focus on promoting limited government and freedom.

The Academy filed for tax-exempt status in November 2011. Ten months later, in September 2012, the IRS sent us a letter of inquiry. They wanted comprehensive information about my work with Glenn Beck at the Restoring Love event held in Texas in July 2012, and they wanted to know more about the “Constitution Cruises” we anticipated putting on with the Carnival Cruise Line. What does the Academy’s work with Glenn Beck or its educational boat rides have to do with its tax status? Good question. But the story doesn’t end here.

The Academy also has a website, which outlines courses about constitutional restoration. The IRS requested samples of course material, information about the fees we charge seminar attendees and explanations for those fees. They also asked for the full content of any courses I put together as the Academy’s director.

I give numerous speeches on behalf of my organization. Last year, I spoke at nearly 200 engagements. The IRS requested a fee schedule for all of my speaking engagements, copies of all speaking agreements I signed and an explanation for how my book, “Your Nation to Save,” which is advertised on the website, contributes to the overall mission of the Academy.

While we were disturbed by much of this, we cooperated. By October 2012, we had responded to all of the IRS’s requests. We reached out to the IRS numerous times since then, with no response — until a few days ago, after the IRS scandal broke, when the agency let us know that a decision on our tax status would be made shortly.

Was the Academy targeted by the IRS? At this point, only the IRS knows.

What is clear is that the IRS unfairly targeted dozens of tea party groups, and these groups likely suffered in terms of fundraising, making it harder for them to fight for the causes they support.

Needless to say, organizations whose missions revolve around patriotism, the U.S. Constitution and promoting an educational defense of a free society shouldn’t be discriminated against by the government. It’s up to us to address this issue. Will we endorse this sort of government behavior or will we work to prevent it from happening again?

Shane Krauser is the director of the American Academy for Constitutional Education, a partner with Davis Miles McGuire Gardner, and the chief instructor of K-Force Vanguard. Follow him twitter: @shanekrauser

Shane Krauser