At least four conservative groups in Colorado and a self-described Christian ministry were among those targeted by the Internal Revenue Service for extra scrutiny and application delays, according to recent news reports.
The Coalition for a Conservative Majority, the Western Slope Conservative Alliance, the Citizen Awareness Project and the Tea Party Patriots of Denver — none with budgets greater than a few thousand dollars — all reported onerous paperwork, intrusive questions and lengthy delays in application processing from the IRS, according to the Denver Post.
The Citizen Awareness Project even had its application leaked to ProPublica before it was approved, the paper reported.
“I think it chills free speech,” chairman Charlie Smith is reported as saying. “Lots of people are intimidated by the IRS, and when the IRS starts asking you a bunch of questions, you get a little nervous.”
The Post also reports that Citizen Awareness Project has spent more than $1 million last year attempting to defeat Democratic candidates even though its tax-exempt status is still pending. Should the application be denied, it could be on the hook for back taxes.
“It’s no coincidence that we were singled-out for interrogation after public reports that we opposed the president’s policies,” Smith said.
A Christian ministry formed by Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson was also targeted, according to a statement on the website for the group, Family Talk Action Corporation. The statement was first reported by Westword magazine.
It details a conversation the group’s attorney had with an IRS agent 18 months after it applied for 501(c)(4) status.
“She continued, saying that Family Talk Action sounded like a “partisan right-wing group’ because, according to Ms. Medley, it only presents conservative viewpoints,” the statement says. “She then added, ‘you’re political’ because you ‘criticized President Obama, who was a candidate.'”
The group’s tax-exempt status was eventually granted, after its lawyer threatened to sue the agency.
“The American people deserve better treatment from its government than this,” Dobson said in the statement. “Christian ministries and others supporting the family must not be silenced or intimidated by the IRS or other branches of the government.”
Colorado Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, who is among the many members of Congress incensed by a report by the IRS Inspector General detailing how conservative political groups were targeted for extra scrutiny, released a redacted request for more information sent by the IRS to a Colorado group seeking tax-exempt status that Gardner said was later leaked to the media.
“This document demonstrates the type of burdensome and politically motivated scrutiny placed on conservative groups,” Gardner said in a statement. “This group also had its information illegally leaked to the media, which is an outrageous violation by IRS employees.”
In the letter, the IRS requests detailed information from the group, including:
• “[A] list of the meetings, conventions, promotional tours, media interviews and similar events that you have participated in and/or conducted as part of your advocacy activities”;
• “[A] list of media interviews that individuals have conducted on behalf of your organization and a brief description of the purpose of each interview”;
• “Copies of all materials related to your training sessions, including but not limited to training agendas/itineraries and flyers or other promotional materials advertising your training sessions”;
• “Do you maintain any social media pages (such as Facebook.com or twitter)? If so, provide a list of those pages and a representative sample of postings from each.”
The IRS scandal is one of three engulfing the Obama administration and it shows little sign of abating. Last week, Gardner added his voice to those calling for accountability.
“Those responsible must to be held accountable and fired,” he said. “Even that, however, will never fully right this wrong or make these groups whole again.”
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