(CNSNews.com) – Tea Party activist Mark West said his group in Chattanooga, Tenn., was given a lengthy list of questions and requests for documentation from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to gain approval as a non-profit tax-exempt organization, including “audio and video recordings, conversations, reactions, etc.” from meetings and “copies of all social network websites involved in, if any, including twitter, Facebook, etc.”
“They wanted to have all conversations and all reactions at our meetings,” West told CNSNews.com at a Capitol Hill press conference held Thursday by House and Senate members on the latest revelations of the IRS targeting conservative groups. “How do you document a reaction of people? “
One question asked for more information about forums that West’s group had held: “What are the details, including the nature of the forums, the candidates invited to participate, the candidates that did participate, the issues discussed, the time and location of the event? How many people attended the event? How many events were hosted: Indicate candidates and party affiliations.”
Another IRS question asked the group, “Why it would not have been practical to hold a debate for the lone Democratic candidate?”
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and CEO of the Tea Party Patriots, called the IRS’s tactics “clearly excessive” and said one group had been asked for a reading list.
“The IRS questioned Marion Bower and her group, American Patriots Against Government Excess, asking for a list of every book their group had read and a book report on each book,” Martin said. “A government that’s this intrusive is clearly excessive.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is chair of the House Tea Party Caucus, organized the event, which drew not only a huge crowd of activists and reporters but Tea Party favorites in Congress, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Bachmann said the activists shared “shocking stories of common people from across the United States who wanted to be able to exercise their First Amendment free speech rights as American citizens.”
“There’s something profoundly un-American about targeting your political opponents,” said Paul, who is chair of the Senate Tea Party Caucus.
Paul said President Barack Obama’s firing of the acting director of the IRS was a “good first step” but more needed to be done.
“Someone needs to be held accountable,” Paul said. “Someone needs to be imprisoned. Someone needs to be prosecuted.”
House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also spoke at the event.
“These horror stories of the government attempting to quiet the voice of critics is apparently rather rampant,” McConnell said, repeating accusations that the IRS also shared tax information about conservative groups with liberal groups.
“This is runaway government at its worst,” McConnell said. “Who knows who they’ll target next?”
McConnell promised a “complete and thorough investigation” in Congress and vowed, “the truth will come out.”
West of the Chattanooga Tea Party told CNSNews.com that his group first applied to the IRS in November 2009 and did not hear back from the agency until recently.
“Two months ago we were notified that our status was revoked and it had never been approved,” West said. “And then a month later they said, ‘We’re giving you your status but only back to May 2012.’”
West said that means the group will have to file back taxes as a corporation for the three-and-a-half years it waited for IRS approval, unless they join more than a dozen other Tea Party groups who are planning legal action.
“They bottom line, we’ll probably sue them,” West said.