The tea party group targeted by infamous Washington-based IRS lawyer Carter C. Hull said that its members are now afraid to send in donations, for fear that their names will be linked to conservative politics in the view of the federal government.
“It takes some courage to stand up to stand up to what President Obama wants to,” Albuquerque Tea Party president Rick Harbaugh told The Daily Caller, adding that the federal tax agency’s pursuit of tea party and conservative groups caused his organization financial hardship.
As The Daily Caller reported, Hull, a registered Democrat, was fingered by two employees of the IRS Cincinnati office as the overseer of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups. Hull instructed Cincinnati-based IRS employee Elizabeth Hofacre to target tea party groups and provided her a copy of a letter he wrote to a conservative group requesting additional information in an audit. “I was essentially a front person, because I had no autonomy or no authority to act on [applications] without Carter Hull’s influence or input,” Hofacre told congressional investigators.
Hull wrote and signed a letter to the Albuquerque Tea Party dated April 21, 2010 requesting additional information in an audit with ten specific questions related to the group’s training materials, the content of its website, and its relationship with other local groups, including the University of New Mexico College Republicans and the happy-hour network “Liberty on the Rocks.” At least five different IRS offices across the country pressed conservative groups for similar information.
“Our members are very concerned about making donations if their name is attached to it. I’ve gotten a lot of calls. I assure people that we have bylaws to protect the people we work with. We don’t keep lists, so there’s no way for us to report our donors. That has been an issue. I think there is some fear of getting involved with the tea party,” Rick Harbaugh, president of the Albuquerque Tea Party, told The Daily Caller. Harbaugh added that he only sent the names of his group’s board of directors.
“We gave them all the names of our board members but not of our regular members or volunteers or supporters,” Harbaugh said.
Hull’s April 2010 letter to the group was extensive.
“They asked for tons of stuff. We spent a month working on it,” Harbaugh said. “We heard nothing from them until November of 2011, when they sent us a letter that was about 5 or 6 pages long and requested 17 different areas of information. That one took us two months.”
“The man who put that [response] in for us said it was 15 inches high in information,” Harbaugh said.
“We put out a thing called the ‘The Local Exposure,’ an educational forum for conservatives. We just publish articles from conservatives around New Mexico. We don’t take any position on the articles. The issues are about 30 pages long. We publish it every month. You can imagine how much printing we had to do to give them all of the copies,” Harbaugh said.
The IRS also pressed the group for information on a nonpartisan local “Coffee and Politics” breakfast discussion group that Harbaugh did not sponsor and only attended once.
“It’s just a group where people sit and talk about politics. I went once and thought I didn’t need to go again. But they wanted detailed information about what happened there,” Harbaugh said.
The Albuquerque Tea Party has joined in a federal lawsuit against the IRS filed by the American Center for Law and Justice.
“The IRS said, ‘we are at fault and we’re sorry.’ Well that’s fine. But where did it happen? Let’s go up the food chain and see where it stops. There are people who have violated the law and there are damages,” Harbaugh said.