Morning Bell: The IRS Wants to Know If You’re a “Patriot”
by Matthew Spalding, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation, May 15, 2013
Larry Mccormack/ZUMA Press/Newscom
Across this great land, patriotic Americans are behaving subversively.
We’re quoting from our pocket Constitutions, starting reading groups to discuss our founding documents, even gathering together to “petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Uncle Sam is not amused.
As leaders of tea party groups have been painfully aware for years, the Internal Revenue Service has given “special” attention to conservative groups.
Heritage sounded the alarm on the Obama Administration’s hit list nearly a year ago. Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot was singled out by the IRS and the Labor Department after making a sizable donation to Mitt Romney. Who ordered his investigation?
>>> Watch our video to hear his story
The IRS admits that in recent years it has zeroed in on organizations with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names. Further, The Wall Street Journal reports the IRS has also targeted groups that say they are “worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to ‘make America a better place to live.’” Fox News adds that organizations interested in doing “education on the Constitution and Bill of Rights” made the list.
The goal was clearly to reduce the amount of anti-government speech by making it more difficult for these groups to achieve tax-exempt status. And it worked. Just look at these examples from four different states:
- ABC News reports that Jennifer Stefano of Pennsylvania wanted to start a tea party group, but dealing with the IRS “was frightening and that’s why I shut it down. I shut my group down.”
- The IRS ordered an Ohio group to answer 35 detailed questions, including to “provide a listing of all your past activities. Indicate the percentage of your time spent conducting the activity (total of all activities should equal 100%) and the percentage of your funds spent conducting the activity (total of all activities should equal 100%).”
- In Tennessee, Kevin Kookogey was trying to start an educational group called Linchpins of Liberty to teach the economic principles of Milton Friedman and Adam Smith. When he inquired with the IRS in 2011 about the delay in his tax-exempt status, he was told: “We have been waiting on guidance from our superiors as to your and similar organizations.” He is still waiting.
- In Virginia, it took Richmond Tea Party President Larry Nordvig two and a half years to get tax-exempt status. He tells The Washington Post the wait had “a very chilling effect” on how much money his group could raise, and thus on how much speech it could generate.
How many groups are under scrutiny? That remains to be seen. President Obama said yesterday that the IRS’s actions were “intolerable and inexcusable” and that “regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong.”
Our federal government was designed to be a neutral arbiter between competing private interests that would protect our liberties. Instead, it has morphed into a permanent interest group of its own.
In some ways, it’s almost as if we’ve disappointed our government by questioning it. As Bertolt Brecht quipped about the late, unlamented East Germany:
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.
So here’s a charge to all tea partiers, and indeed all “patriotic” Americans of any political bent: Let’s redouble our efforts—to limit government and promote freedom.
Doing so may anger Big Brother, but it will protect the liberty of all Americans.
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- The IRS scandal is one thing that has brought Republicans and Democrats together.
- The IRS isn’t the only agency treating conservative groups differently from liberal groups. The Competitive Enterprise Institute reports that the EPA shows a bias in its answers to Freedom of Information Act requests.
- At a fundraiser earlier this week, President Obama blamed gridlock in Washington on “hyper-partisanship,” saying, “My thinking was after we beat them in 2012, well, that might break the fever, and it’s not quite broken yet.”
- Conservatives should be concerned about modernizing U.S. defenses so that they are there when we need them, says Heritage President Jim DeMint.
- Join us today at noon ET for a debate about defense. Watch online as conservative and liberal debaters face off on national security.