IRS 'Harassment' of Tea Party Detailed
June 5, 2013 (USA TODAY) Conservative groups told Congress Tuesday the Internal Revenue Service delayed their applications for tax exemptions, harassed them with questions and leaked their donor lists to political opponents.
The IRS asked for copies of Facebook postings, the content of prayers, political beliefs of members and resumes of board members.
Six conservative groups offered these details in testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, which is investigating how the IRS came to target Tea Party and other conservative groups for more scrutiny beginning in 2010. The hearing was the fifth congressional inquiry into the Tea Party affair, which surfaced May 10.
The scandals are mounting. Congress is also looking into IRS spending at conferences after an inspector general's report Tuesday found 225 conferences cost the IRS $49 million over three years.
One 2010 conference in Anaheim spent $50,187 on a Star Trek parody video, $44,500 on two keynote speakers (including one who painted portraits on stage), and $64,000 for gifts to IRS employees.
Investigations on IRS contracting and employee bonuses are also in the works.
The Coalition for Life of Iowa said Tuesday that the IRS asked its board members to swear they wouldn't pray, picket or protest outside of Planned Parenthood.
"We never thought we would have to defend our prayer activities," said the coalition's president, Susan Martinek. "As Christians, we knew we needed to pray for a better solution to unplanned pregnancy than abortion; why not at the source?"
Stories like that got sympathy even from Democrats. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich, said he supports the work of Planned Parenthood, but demanding that a pro-life group not pray at the abortion provider is "totally worse than inappropriate. You should not have been asked that."
The San Fernando Valley Patriots of California gave up seeking tax-exempt status last year after getting 35 questions with 80 sub-questions.
The National Organization for Marriage said its donor list was leaked -- apparently by the IRS -- to its political opponents, the pro-gay marriage Human Rights Campaign.
"You can imagine our shock and disgust with this. We zealously guard our donors, as almost every charity does," said John Eastman, the group's chairman.
But Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said that while the targeting of Tea Party groups was "inept" and "stupid," the IRS has a legitimate interest in policing political activity by tax-exempt groups.
"We're talking about a tax break," he noted, and "each of your groups was highly political."