The Georgia Tea Party applied for a tax exempt 501(c)(4) status in 2009. The process took more than three years to achieve.
The first year, the IRS simply ignored the tea party’s inquiries. When it eventually did contact the tea party, it was to tell them their application could not be found, Maloy said.
“They kept putting us off and putting us off, and finally I believe it was January or February of 2012 we got a letter from the IRS and the letter had 28 multi-part questions on it,” Maloy said. “They said we need more information. The questions were pretty intrusive.”
One of the questions, for example, was to list the family members of all past and present board members, officers and key employees.
“Why would you need members of families of board members, officers and key employees?” Maloy said.
The IRS declined to accept the information electronically, requiring that it be sent in paper format. It also gave the tea party a two-week deadline, Maloy said.
“There was no way we could get the information all put together in two weeks,” Maloy said. “Not as complete as they wanted it because everything that we sent them, all the answers to these questions, had to be documented.”
The tea party’s lawyer convinced the IRS to grant the group a two-week extension, but even with the extra time, the tea party barely made the deadline.
“We ended up with an 18-page letter that we sent plus 944 pages of documents,” Maloy said. “Cost us something like $187 dollars. We had hundreds of man hours in this. Everybody on the board worked on it. It was grueling.”
In the fall of 2012, after three years, the IRS finally approved the group’s tax exempt status.
Groups with a 501(c)3 status have a tax exemption and purpose intended primarily for education while 501(c)4 groups are designed for advocacy.
Maloy said he suspected something was amiss when the IRS “conveniently” lost the tea party’s first application.
“Personally I would say we were one of the groups that were targeted,” Maloy said. “Clearly what they did was unconstitutional. It certainly was an infringement on our right of free speech because they were using the IRS, the tax code, to try to intimidate us, so that we didn’t speak freely about what we thought was going on in the government, and that is unconstitutional, and I believe if they look into it, I believe there were some laws broken.”
Former NAACP Chariman Julian Bond said it’s acceptable for the IRS to target tea party groups since they are “overtly racist.”
J.D. Van Brink, chairman of the Georgia Tea Party, said Bond is entitled to speak his mind.
“We obviously don’t agree with what he said, but will always agree with his right to say it,” Van Brink said.
Van Brink said if Bond came to one of the tea party’s meetings and got to know the members, he’d find he was wrong.
“We believe in liberty and justice for all,” Van Brink said.
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) weighed in on the topic of the Department of Justice subpoenaing records of the Associated Press. Based on the information he has, Isakson said it seems the department’s actions were legal, although he pledged to continue monitoring the situation.
The IRS targeting conservative groups like the Georgia Tea Party is a different matter.
“It is unconscionable that in the United States of America, groups were unfairly targeted by a government agency for exercising their First Amendment rights,” Isakson said. “Americans from every political affiliation should be outraged by this discrimination. I look forward to hearing additional information from the agency as to how it will guarantee this type of harassment is not continued in the future on any level.”
Isakson and Georgia’s senior senator, Saxby Chambliss, were among the 45 Senate Republicans who sent President Obama a letter demanding his administration comply with all requests related to Congressional inquiries on the IRS scandal.
Gingrey demands a special prosecutor
U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta) sent a Wednesday letter to Obama in support of the Republican Governors Association calling to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS affair.
Gingrey writes that a simple apology from the IRS is unacceptable.
“We urge you to heed the RGA’s call for a special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute those responsible for these deeply concerning events,” Gingrey writes.
Gingrey also signed legislation, H.R. 1950, that would prevent discriminatory misconduct against taxpayers by federal officers and employees. The legislation makes discriminatory targeting like that at the IRS criminal and subject to up to five years in jail.
Whether the actions rise to the level of impeachment remains to be seen, Gingrey said.
“If the president does what I’m asking him to do, indeed demanded that he does, then maybe we’ll find that it does rise to the level of impeachment,” Gingrey said.
At the same time, Gingrey said the Associated Press and IRS matters would not divert his attention from the murders in Benghazi, Libya.
“Not for one second are we going to let them divert our attention if that is their intent away from the Benghazi investigation,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Price (R-Roswell) said at this point Congress is moving forward with hearings to determine who did what. Impeachment inquiries are premature at this point, Price said.
“We need to get the facts,” Price said. “As you’ve seen with the Benghazi episode, and the Fast and Furious, and with these issues that have just come to light, it takes time to be able to figure out what the facts are. You don’t want to jump to a conclusion, but clearly this is an administration who has been extremely arrogant and not desirous of working in a positive way to solve the remarkable challenges that we have.”
Price said he just found out Wednesday, for example, that the Environmental Protection Agency was charging conservative groups for information that it provided to liberal groups for free.
‘Eerily similar’ to Watergate
Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, who is running for Gingrey’s House seat, believes that Congress needs to conduct an independent review.
“Secondly, the Justice Department ought to appoint outside counsel to study,” Barr said. “The attorney general, Mr. Holder, saw it necessary to recuse himself on the AP matter, so that clearly needs to be handled outside, and the IRS probe needs to be also, so I think we need two independent counsels or special prosecutors to immediately conduct a criminal probe of the IRS matter, since very clearly criminal laws may have been broken.”
Barr said he wasn’t sure if criminal laws had been broken in the Associated Press matter, although the Department of Justice did not follow its own guidelines in seeking the information.
“Even back when I was a U.S. attorney in the late ’80s there were very stringent requirements that I would have had to have met if we ever wished to probe a member of the news media, even if we have evidence that there was a criminal matter, we could not just do it on our own,” Barr said.
Barr said the controversies stem from a president whose arrogance has been made worse by his re-election.
“I lived through Watergate with the Nixon scandals, and this one is eerily similar to it,” Barr said. “Those also, the Nixon scandals, led to the impeachment hearings against President Nixon and his resignation under threat of impeachment was born of arrogance as well. This notion that the president was elected by all the people and re-elected by all the people and is above the law basically.”
Barr said he’s already seen several mentions of the possibility of launching an impeachment inquiry.
“I don’t know that we’re at that point yet,” Barr said. “But certainly the questions that have been raised, just on what little we know so far to me raise extremely serious questions about the propriety of this administration continuing in office.”
The important thing to note, Barr said, just as in the Nixon case, is that the issues are not political, but legal ones.
“Were laws broken? Who broke them? When were they broken? Who knew what and when?” Barr said. “To me, it stretches credibility at a breaking point to believe what the administration officials are saying, sort of like the guy on Hogan’s Heroes, ‘We know nothing.’ That’s just not credible. When there is broad-based targeting, selective targeting of conservative groups, apparently decisions made at the highest levels of the IRS, for an administration to say, ‘we knew nothing’ is preposterous.”
Barr said it is highly likely the treasury secretary knew exactly what was going on.
“And yet they stoned-walled Congress,” Barr said. “Congress was asking questions about these matters over the last couple years and they were stonewalled. So not only do we have possible violations of federal law, we have very serious policy mistakes that were made, but we may very well have a cover up in the making as well.”