Politics

IRS witch hunt targeted Ohio educator and bystander

Patrick Howley Political Reporter

At the height of its campaign against President Barack Obama’s opponents, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in its audit of an Ohio tea party group, demanded information and materials related to a local Ohio adult education program as well as personal information about a man named Justin Binik-Thomas.

Now Justin Binik-Thomas and the adult educational program, neither of whom have any links to the tea party group, are worried.

The infamous IRS Cincinnati office, which oversaw tax-exempt nonprofit organizations., requested additional information from the Liberty Township Tea Party in a letter dated March 1, 2011.

“Included in that list was question number 26, which said, ‘please explain your relationship with Justin Binik-Thomas,'” Binik-Thomas told The Daily Caller. “That was concerning to me, considering I was not involved with that group.”

justinbinikthomasquestion26

“I was involved in the Cincinnati tea party, about 30 miles south, as a spokesman” said Binik-Thomas, who works as a contract manager and has a small media relations business on the side. “There are literally tens of thousands of people involved with the tea party in some way. Why was I called out by name?”

The IRS also demanded, in its Question #25 for the Liberty Township Tea Party, one question before asking about Binik-Thomas, that the group hand over any training materials provided by the organization EmpowerU.

“It appears you have received training (EmpowerU). Provide…The name of the person or organization…A copy of the educational material used,” according to the IRS’ Question #25 for the group.

Binik-Thomas was peripherally involved with with the education program.

“I just taught one class for EmpowerU,” Binik-Thomas said.

EmpowerU in Ohio is a general learning community education program based in Cincinnati that has featured some classes related to Obamacare and currently features a class called “Constitution for Kids.”

“To be honest with you, I was just shocked that we were involved with this at all. We certainly don’t do anything whatsoever that the IRS needs to know about,” EmpowerU managing board member Dan Regenold told The DC.

“They didn’t contact us. What’s scary about it was that they were trying to convey that we were some kind of training ground for right-wing radicals. That couldn’t be further from the truth. We just encourage people to learn, to get involved in their government. Our classes are very current events-oriented, and it’s a lot of just fun stuff that people might want to know, like how to taste wine,” Regenold said.

“EmpowerU started out as a conservative university where people could learn about national and local politics, classes about property taxes. It’s turned into a non-affiliated social university that has self-defense classes. Anything from a class about baking a cake to learning about bees. It’s not politically affiliated,” EmpowerU administrator Tara Murphy told TheDC.

Binik-Thomas said that his case shows how overwhelming the federal government can be when targeting specific local groups and individuals.

“Where is the information stored? Is there an audit coming for me?,” asked Binik-Thomas, who is married with two young daughters. “We can feel the weight of the federal government on our backs right now.”

The Daily Caller previously reported that Hawaii Republican operative Dylan Nonaka was also targeted by name in an audit of the Hawaii Tea Party in an attempt to obtain training materials from the Leadership Institute, a Virginia-based group with which Nonaka was loosely affiliated, which was also being audited.

IRS Letter

Follow Patrick on Twitter