Among the witnesses telling shocking stories earlier at a hearing of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee this week was Kevin Kookogey, president and founder of Linchpins of Liberty based in Franklin, Tenn. He said his organization is “an American leadership development enterprise” that mentors high school and college students about “the great books and about the foundation of America’s moral and constitutional order.”
He filed an application with the IRS in January 2011 seeking tax-exempt status as an educational organization. “As of today,” he told the committee, “I’ve been waiting for 29 months without status. In the interim, I lost a $30,000 launch grant from a reputable nonprofit whose executive director advised me that he had never seen such treatment of a 501(c)(3) applicant in his 25 years of making grants.”
Kookogey said, “I had to cease any further official activity for fear the IRS would target me for further harassment.” He said, “The IRS has unlawfully delayed and obstructed my application for determination of tax-exempt status by using unconstitutional criteria.” Among the questions asked by the IRS, he said, was the “political affiliation of my mentors and ... my political position on virtually every issue of importance to me.” And he said, “I was asked to identify those whom I train and that I inform the federal government in detail what I am teaching my students.”
On a critical point, Kookogey said “the targeting of Linchpins was not merely the act of a few agents in Cincinnati.” He said that on Dec. 31, 2011, an IRS agent in that city told him, “We have been waiting on guidance from our superiors as to your organization and similar organizations.”
Even worse, John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, said he had forensic proof that NOM’s tax return with donor lists was illegally disclosed by the IRS. The document was published during the 2012 presidential contest by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group which Eastman termed his group’s “principal political opponent.”
And incredibly, Susan Martinek, president of the Coalition for Life of Iowa, testified that an IRS agent told her in June 2009 she must send a letter signed by her entire board “stating under penalty of perjury we would not picket, protest or organize groups or picket, protest outside of Planned Parenthood.”
The inescapable conclusion: the conduct in these and similar cases reveal a deliberate attempt to harass, intimidate and delay or deny applications based on the political beliefs of applicants and to stifle their First Amendment freedom during election cycles. That much is clear. What isn’t clear is how high up the federal governmental chain the responsibility reaches. Let’s hope the investigations now under way — and whatever other investigations are needed — will answer all-important questions of who gave the “guidance,” direction or orders and where the buck stops.