The IRS scandal of targeting tea party or conservative organizations grew deeper Wednesday with the revelation that the agency denied tax-exempt status to a pro-life organization because of its hypothetical opposition to Planned Parenthood. The Thomas Moore Society, a public interest law firm announced that one of their clients was told that their approval as a non-profit was conditioned on a commitment not to protest outside Planned Parenthood abortion clinics.
In a phone call to Coalition for Life of Iowa leaders on June 6, 2009, the IRS agent “Ms. Richards” told the group to send a letter to the IRS with the entire board’s signatures stating that, under perjury of the law, they do not picket/protest or organize groups to picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood. Once the IRS received this letter, their application would be approved. After a series of letters following a request for more invasive information, Thomas More Society special counsel Sally Wagenmaker sent a letter to the IRS demanding the tax exempt status be issued immediately.
There is obviously no prohibition on any organization conducting a peaceful protest. Such activity does not violate any rules governing non-profits. It is protected in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution.
The initial reports of the IRS targeting conservative organizations were troubling. The IRS singled out groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their name and blanketed them with invasive and, in many cases, impermissible questions. While many organizations abandoned their application for tax-exempt status, many more answered the IRS’s questions, only to see their applications languish.
The alleged actions against the pro-life organization, however, are an order of magnitude more serious. If the allegations are true, the IRS used a specific political litmus test to approve non-profit status. It also conditioned approval on actions related to a specific, political organization. It effectively allowed Planned Parenthood to silence political opposition.
Late Wednesday, the acting Commissioner of the IRS announced his resignation. The allegations from Thomas Moore, though, show the rot at the agency is far deeper than one political appointee.