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GOP Senators to IRS: Respect Tea Party Groups’ Privacy

June 18th, 2012 by mopns · No Comments

Earlier this year, a group of Senate Republicans, including Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee Orrin Hatch, sent a letter to the IRS expressing concerns over that agency’s treatment of tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status.

At the time, Politico wrote, “Don’t pick on the tea party, a dozen Republican senators told the IRS on Wednesday. In a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman . . . GOP senators said they’re concerned the agency may be targeting conservative-leaning groups in its recent inquiry into whether certain political organizations should qualify as nonprofits.

“‘We have received reports and reviewed information from nonprofit civic organizations in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas concerning recent IRS inquiries perceived to be excessive,” the letter states. “It is critical that the public have confidence that federal tax compliance efforts are pursued in a fair, even-handed, and transparent manner—without regard to politics of any kind. To that end, we write today to seek your assurance that this recent string of inquiries has a sound basis in law and is consistent with the IRS’s treatment of tax-exempt organizations across the spectrum,’ the letter continues.”

Not satisfied with the initial response from the IRS, Leader McConnell, Sen. Hatch, and Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Cornyn (R-TX), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Pat Roberts (R-KS) sent a new latter to the IRS commissioner questioning the agency’s commitment to protecting the privacy of the groups it’s been asking for information from. “Congress has made privacy the rule, and not the exception,” wrote the senators. “A list of donors who have given money to specific charitable organizations is something that carries great value to certain interested parties, as trading of personal information about private citizens has become common practice. Unfortunately, the public release of private donor information exposes citizens to possible harassment and intimidation by those who oppose the goals of the charitable organization.”

In his major address at AEI on the protections of the First Amendment and growing threats to it by left-wing groups and the Obama administration, Leader McConnell specifically addressed this issue:

“News reports suggest that top White House officials have long participated in a weekly conference call with a left-wing organization in Washington whose stated purpose is to track conservative media voices, seize on potentially offensive content, and then use it to mount corporate intimidation campaigns aimed at driving these voices clear out of the public square.

“Earlier this year, dozens of Tea Party-affiliated groups across the country learned what it was like to draw the attention of the speech police when they received a lengthy questionnaire from the IRS demanding attendance lists, meeting transcripts, and donor information. One of the group’s leaders described the situation this way: “[groups like ours] either drown … in unnecessary paper work … or you survive, and give them everything they want, only to be hung.”

“The head of one national advocacy group has released documents which show that his group’s confidential IRS information found its way into the hands of a staunch critic on the Left who also happens to be a co-chairman of President Obama’s re-election committee. The only way this information could have been made public is if someone leaked it from inside the IRS.

“And just last week we learned of an IRS decision revoking the tax-exempt status of small political nonprofit groups that undoubtedly foreshadows an effort to do the same to bigger groups on the Right that the Obama Administration regards as a threat to its campaign.

“Those who have the resources and the will to fight these things should be commended. Those who don’t should be able to count on our support. But let’s be very clear: no individual or group in this country should have to face harassment or intimidation, or incur crippling expenses, defending themselves against their own government, simply because that government doesn’t like the message they’re advocating.”

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