The event was one of several across the country. IRS officials have acknowledged that some conservative groups received inappropriate attention and questioning in recent years as they applied for tax-exempt status.
In Atlanta, about 200 activists carried homemade signs that read “Abolish the IRS” and “Audit the IRS, Not the Tea Party.” Several speakers addressed the crowd including Gov. Nathan Deal, who said “you don’t have anything to worry about on the state level.”
“We are not going to audit your tax returns nor anything else with regard to our power to tax, based on who you voted for or your political beliefs,” Deal said to big applause.
Other speakers included former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, a Republican running for Congress in Georgia’s 11th District, and Karen Handel, a former secretary of state, who is running as a Republican for Georgia’s open U.S. Senate seat.
“We’re here today to protest a government that is out of control and repressive and targeting regular Americans because of their beliefs,” said Julianne Thompson with the Georgia Republican Assembly, an event organizer.
Debbie Dooley with the Woodstock-based Tea Party Patriots said the extra scrutiny cost her group at least $250,000 in legal fees. She said the IRS wanted the group’s donor list, volunteer names, emails and copies of supporters’ comments on Facebook.
“My message to America is to wake up,” Dooley said. “If this can happen to us, and you sit back and do nothing ... sooner or later they’re going to come after you and who will stand up and fight for you?”
President Barack Obama’s administration has said no senior officials were involved in targeting conservative groups. Congressional hearings have been called to look into the issue.