The IRS targeting of tea party and conservative groups was designed to intimidate organizations ahead of the 2012 election. Overwhelming these organizations with burdensome requests for detailed information caused several to abandon setting up non-profits. Breitbart News has reviewed IRS information requests to a half-dozen organizations. The most chilling request from the IRS was for a list of volunteers. It has the feel of a modern-day “enemies list.”
Many of the questions asked of tea party groups by the IRS have the veneer of being related to whether their activities qualify for tax-exempt status. Asking exhaustive questions about a group’s potential political activity is unusual, but is at least relevant, generally, in determining a group’s eligibility for non-profit status. It would be shocking if a left-wing group were asked to make the same assurances of non-political activity, but they are superficially legitimate questions.
The IRS, however, went beyond this and asked for the names of un-paid volunteers. This information has no bearing on an organization’s qualification as a non-profit. In evaluating non-profits, the IRS task is to ascertain that funds raised and expended are consistent with a group’s social welfare mission. A group must “primarily” serve an educational function. Knowing the names of an organization’s volunteers provides no relevant information to judge this threshold. It seems designed, either, to intimidate or to compile of list of politically active conservatives.
The IRS should be asked why they wanted such a list. What would they do with the names to evaluate an organization’s social welfare mission? Other questions asked by the IRS involved whether a director of an organization had run for political office in the past. This suggests that the IRS was concerned that private individuals involved in an organization were politically active. Activity outside an organization, however, should have no bearing on that organization’s status.
Asking for the names of un-paid volunteers reveals the depths of the IRS intrusion into conservative organizations. At best, its a voyeuristic exercise, at worst its the making of a database of private individuals interested in conservative causes. Put simply, the IRS wanted names of tea party members. That is the most chilling effect of this IRS scandal.