IRS Intimidation Forced Founder To Shut Down Tea Party Group
The IRS scandal is growing by leaps and bounds in a way that must be terrifying to an Administration already dealing with fallout from the uncovering of their Libya lies and the knowledge that the Department of Justice seized the phone records of 20 Associated Press reporters. Tuesday morning, ABC News revealed what might have been the political motivation behind the IRS's decision to target Tea party groups -- to ensure they weren't as effective in 2012 as they were in 2010.
In the 2010 midterms, even the media that despises the Tea Party will admit that the nationwide grassroots movement was a major factor behind record GOP electoral gains. By the time the smoke cleared, Obama had lost the House and his filibuster-proof majority in the United States Senate.
Is it just a coincidence that it was only after these 2010 victories that the IRS decided to single out Tea Party groups for special scrutiny? And not just scrutiny, but the kind of scrutiny that bogged these groups down with paperwork and restricted their political activities.
The Narrative some in the media, like JournOlist founder Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, are desperate to spin is that this was a single Midwest IRS office concerned with political groups abusing a new tax exempt status. The isolation of Tea Parties was merely "discriminatory."
Already this morning, though, Klein's spin is falling apart. Chris Good of ABC News reports that Jennifer Stefano of Philadelphia was so intimidated by the IRS that she closed her Tea Party down:
"In the documents that were sent to me, if you did not tell the whole truth by not putting all your personal information out there by Facebook, by Twitter, of your personal relationship with candidates and parties ... it could be considered perjury and perjury carried jail time," Stefano, 39, told ABC News.
"That was frightening and that's why I shut it down. I shut my group down."
Tom Zawistowski, former president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, told ABC News that, "The reason for this attack by the IRS on the tea party was to make sure we were not as effective in 2012 as we were in 2010, and that's what they did[.]"
Zawistowski also believes that the ridiculous amount of information and documents requested by the IRS was "opposition research," having nothing to do with whether or not a group would qualify as tax exempt.
The IRS asked another Ohio tea party organization, the Liberty Township Tea Party, about its political views and relationships with an individual and another group.
"Provide a list of all issues that are important to your organization. Indicate your position regarding each issue," the IRS commanded in a letter with 35 questions, many including between three and six bullet-pointed subquestions.
ABC News adds:
In letters obtained by ABC News, the Internal Revenue Service asked detailed questions of local tea party groups from 2010 to 2012.
Other Tea Party groups interviewed complained of getting bogged down by the paperwork. One group claims that "500 pages of stuff" went "back and forth" between them and the IRS:
There was kind of a cloud over us. ... It did curtail the things we could do. We could not go outside the IRS rules. Tax-exempt status allows you to do certain things, and we did not go outside them.
These groups say they didn’t hear from the IRS until after their 2010 victories. Then, before they could recreate that success against Obama in 2012, all of a sudden they are intimidated, restricted from certain political activities, and bogged down in a bureaucratic nightmare -- all at the hands of the IRS.
Sorry, Ezra Klein, that doesn't sound "discriminatory" to me -- that sounds like a political tactic. Moreover, if it was a political tactic, we already know that it was not one confined to a single office in the Midwest. Klein's own Post reports Tuesday that…
Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
We now know that the IRS targeted Obama's political enemies, and either by accident or design, made them less effective during his reelection campaign in 2012. W also now know that Administration officials are lying about what they knew about this scandal and when they knew it.
The only question that matters now is whether or not anyone in the Obama re-election campaign is in any way tied to this. And at this point, that is a perfectly reasonable question to ask.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC