Documents: IRS targeting of pro-life groups continues
The Internal Revenue Service continues to target pro-life conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status despite pending investigations into the IRS targeting scandal, according to documents obtained by The Daily Caller.
The IRS’ infamous Cincinnati office, which handles applications from groups applying for tax-exempt nonprofit status, badgered pro-life groups for information on their protesting activities as recently as late June 2013, well after IRS investigations began on the floor of the House of Representatives and elsewhere.
“We’ve had three more groups come to us that have had problems with the IRS — some very recent, some current or still pending. One of them just got their determination letter,” Peter Breen, senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, which represents pro-life groups targeted by the IRS, told The Daily Caller. “It’s continuing, and it needs to be addressed.”
Cherish Life Ministries in Virginia, the LIFE Group in Missouri, and the Emerald Coast Coalition for Life in Florida were all recently targeted by the IRS.
“This supplemental memorandum addresses three (3) new matters which provide further evidence of illegal, unconstitutional, viewpoint-based IRS harassment of pro-life organizations. These new cases also illustrate that harassment has been continuing through the present date,” reads an August 1 memo the Thomas More Society provided to the House Ways and Means Committee at the request of Republican Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois.
Cherish Life Ministries and LIFE Group were both targeted by the same Cincinnati-based IRS agent, “Mrs. R. Medley,” and both received initial denials of their tax-exempt status with identical wording on April 8, 2013. Both groups were asked by the IRS whether they would “provide alternatives to the pro-life viewpoint,” according to the memo.
Cherish Life Ministries finally received its tax exemption letter last Friday, on July 26, 2013. The letter was dated June 26, 2013. The group initially applied for tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status on March 14, 2012.
“After we got involved and laid out the governing law, we finally just got a letter for them last week. It was stamped a month earlier,” Breen said.
Sally Wagenmaker, Thomas More Society special counsel, spoke with IRS agent Medley on June 20, 2013, weeks after President Obama called the IRS’ improper targeting “inexcusable.”
“Mrs. Medley asked more questions about the organization’s activities, particularly whether [Cherish Life Ministries] would have a ‘continuous presence in front of abortion mills.’ I asked her about why, if that were true, that would be a problem given the [Cherish Life Ministries]’ participants’ First Amendment rights of assembly, free speech, and religious liberty. She would not respond,” Wagenmaker stated in a summary of her conversation with Medley, featured in the memo.
“Overall, Mrs. Medley seemed more hostile. She had a hard time letting me talk and provide information to her. I am not overly optimistic that she will deal fairly and appropriately with us…This tax exemption application seems stalled for no valid reason,” Wagenmaker stated on June 20, 2013.
LIFE Group received its tax exemption letter from the IRS on May 14, 2013, more than a year after submitting its application. As recently as February 2, 2013, IRS agent Medley sent a letter to LIFE Group asking whether the group provides “information regarding other alternatives to ‘pro-life.'”
The Emerald Coast Coalition for Life’s tax-exempt application, meanwhile, is still pending more than one year after the group submitted its application. The group last heard from the IRS on June 19, 2013, when IRS agent Tyrone Thomas sent the group a letter requesting additional information.
“Emerald Coast Coalition for Life got a letter from Lois Lerner in September of last year advising that they’ll be subjected to additional scrutiny by a specialist. Lerner said they would be contacted in approximately 90 days. They were left to languish for 9 months before they were finally contacted in June by Tyrone Thomas of the Cincinnati office. Their application is still pending,” Breen told TheDC.
Lois Lerner, the embattled director of exempt organizations of the IRS, attempted to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid self-incrimination in a congressional hearing in May, weeks before her underling Thomas requested additional information from the Emerald Coast Coalition for Life.
The IRS did not return a request for comment.