After her opening remarks, Mrs. Gerritson told the committee:
“I’m not here as a servant or a vassal. I’m not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born-free American woman, wife, mother and citizen, and I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my well being and monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. The posts that you occupy exist to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty and you have faltered. The abuses I will discuss today occurred on your watch and it’s your responsibility to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Reciting the facts of her case, she said an application was made to the IRS for tax exemption as a nonprofit in October 2010. Receipt of the application was acknowledged in a Nov. 2 letter from the IRS. “However, the IRS did not initiate any contact with us for another 459 days,” she said, when a letter came from the Cincinnati office asking for “approximately 90 pieces of additional information about our organization.”
“The demands for information in the questionnaire shocked me as someone who loves liberty and the First Amendment,” she said. “I was asked to hand over my donor list, including the amounts that they gave and the dates on which they gave them. 501(c)4 organizations do not have to disclose donor information. I knew that. Why don’t they?
“Among the demands that I found alarming and inappropriate were: They wanted me to identify all of my volunteers. They wanted to know if any of our donors or volunteers had run or would be running for office in the near future. Remember, this was the 2012 election cycle. They wanted us to identify the office they would be running for. They wanted us to provide the detailed contents of all speeches ever given, the names of our speakers and their credentials. They wanted copies of written communications and contents of all other forms of communications to any legislative body including my own representative.”
Within days she realized that her group was being targeted because other tea party organizers across the county were getting similar letters and questionnaires. Only after retaining legal counsel did the Wetumpka Tea Party receive approval of its application on March 16, 2012 — a stunning 635 days after applying.
“This is a willful act of intimidation to discourage a point of view,” she told the committee. “What the government did to our little group in Wetumpka, Alabama is un-American.” She concluded: “I’m not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in, the America that people cross oceans and risk their lives to become a part of — and I’m terrified it’s slipping away.”