IRS Accused of 'Intimidation Campaign' Against Tea Party Groups

March 7, 2012 - 10:43 AM

(CNSNews.com) - A conservative civil liberties group accuses the Internal Revenue Service of attempting to "intimidate and silence" a number of tea party groups that have applied for tax-exempt status.

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) says IRS requests for information about the groups included "probing questions" that violate the free speech and freedom of association rights guaranteed by the First Amendment.

"This appears to be a coordinated attempt to intimidate Tea Party organizations by demanding information that is outside the scope of legitimate inquiry and violates the First Amendment," said Jay Sekulow, ACLJ's chief counsel.

"These organizations have followed the law and applied for tax exempt status for their activities as Americans have done for decades. The problem here is the IRS has gone beyond legitimate inquiries and is demanding that these organizations answer questions that actually violate the First Amendment rights of our clients."

Among other things, ACLJ complains that the IRS is demanding that the tea party groups reveal the internal workings of their organizations, including the identification of members, how they are selected, who they associate with, and even what they discuss.

"This intimidation campaign is as onerous as what the IRS did to the NAACP in the 1950's and is simply unacceptable. We will aggressively defend our clients and are prepared to take the IRS to court if necessary," ACLJ said Wednesday in a news release.

The ACLJ says the IRS information demands sent to the Tea Party groups (almost 20 groups) are not in response to complaints of wrongdoing, but instead in response to applications by the organizations for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.

Sekulow, who served as a trial lawyer with the Office of the Chief Counsel for the IRS earlier in his career, said many of the questions are simply inappropriate and fall well outside the scope of legitimate IRS inquiry. (See following examples)

The ACLJ also is calling for Congressional oversight hearings on the matter.

What follows is an incomplete list of some questions the ACLJ finds overly burdensome and inappropriate:

-- How many members do you have currently?

-- Provide member application/registration form

-- Provide membership agreement and rules that governs members.

-- Provide copies of your website that your members can only access.

-- The names of the donors, contributors, and grantors.

-- The amounts of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.

-- How did you use these donations, contributions, and grants? Provide the details.

-- The amounts of fundraising income received for each year.

-- Do you have a close relationship with any candidate for public office or political party? If so describe fully the nature of that relationship.

-- Submit the following information relating to your past and present directors, officers, and key employees:
a) Provide a resume for each.
b) Indicate the number of hours per month each individual has provided or is providing services to you.
e) Provide a description of all the services each individual provides or has provided to you.
d) Indicate the total compensation provided to each individual.
e) Describe how each compensation package was determined.
f) Indicate if any of your current and former officers, directors, and key employees are related to each other (include family and business relationships) and describe the nature of the relationship.

-- Have you sold or will you sell merchandise? If yes, provide the following:
a) A vendor list. Indicate if the vendor is a related party.
b) A list of items sold.
c) Your cost for each item.
d) The selling price of each item.

-- Have you conducted or will you conduct voter education activities (voter registration drive, get out the vote drives, publishing voter guides, distributing voter guides, etc.) If so:
a) provide the Location, date and time of the events.

-- Has your organization engaged in any activities with the new media? If so, please describe those activities in further detail and, if available, provide copies of articles printed or transcripts of items aired because of that activity.

-- Have you conducted or will you conduct candidate forums or other events at which candidates running for public offices are invited to speak? If so, provide the following details and nature of the forum including:
a. The names of candidates invited to participate
b. The names of the candidates who did participate
c. The issues that were discussed
d. The time and location of the event
e. Copies of all handouts provided and distributed at the forum,
f. Indicate the percentage of time and resources you have spent or will spend conducting these activities...

-- Have you attempted or will you attempt to influence the outcome of specific legislation? If so, provide the following:
a. Provide copies of all communications, pamphlets, advertisements, and other materials distributed by the organization regarding the legislation.
b. Provide copies of any radio, television, or internet advertisements relating to your lobbying activities
C. Please indicate the percentage of time and resources you have spent or will spend conducting these activities...

-- Do you directly or indirectly communicate with members of legislative bodies? If so, provide copies of the written communications and contents of other form of
communications.

-- Please provide the following information for your board of directors and officers:
a) Provide all copies of your corporate minutes from inception to the present.
b) Provide the titles, duties, work hours, and compensation amounts of your board members, officers, and employees. If they only work for a certain time yearly, bi-yearly, or quad-yearly, please provide the periods they had (have) worked and will work. Please identify your volunteers.
c) If you nave a board member or officer who has run or will run for a public office in the near future, please describe fully.