The scandal surrounding the Internal Revenue Service’s illicit, politically-motivated scrutiny of conservative, patriot, Tea Party and pro-Israel groups continues to expand daily, as more information is learned about its depth, breadth and scope.
In addition to delaying tax-exempt status for these organizations, the IRS also demanded donor rolls and printouts of Facebook posts to determine who was contributing to the organizations and what sort of information they were putting out in regards to the current administration, and what books people were reading, according to a Politico review of documents from 11 of the targeted groups.
That review “shows the agency wanted to know everything – in some cases, it even seemed curious what members were thinking,” the website reported. “The review included interviews with groups or their representatives from Hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.”
Some tea party groups even worried they’d be punished for followers’ Facebook comments, Politico reported – a chilling prospect, given the huge First Amendment implications of any such shenanigans.
Questions, questions, questions
In a long-awaited Treasury Department inspector general report, investigators said the IRS did decide internally that some of those questions being asked of conservative groups were way out of line – especially requests for donor rolls.
The report shows that top IRS officials put a stop to some of the questions in early 2012, including the ones that asked tea party groups who their donors were, what issues were important to them and whether their top officers ever planned to run for office. And they told the investigators they planned to destroy the donor lists that had already been sent in.
However, interviews with members of the targeted groups show a much larger – and sinister – portrait, and one that extends far beyond the rudimentary language in the IG report. In that regard, investigators say only that the IRS “requested irrelevant (unnecessary) information because of a lack of managerial review, at all levels, of questions before they were sent to organizations seeking tax-exempt status.”
Toby Walker, president of the Waco Tea Party, told the website, “They were asking for a U-Haul truck’s worth of information.”
So intrusive and ridiculous the demand for information that some groups seeking tax-exempt status simply gave up in frustration.
The IG report noted that many of the groups were asked to provide resumes of their top officers as well as interview descriptions with media outlets. One organization was asked by the agency to provide “minutes of all board meetings since your creation.”
Investigators said some IRS letters to groups sought copies of their web pages, social media postings and blog posts. Each letter also carried an ominous warning about “penalties of perjury,” which seriously intimidated the targeted groups who were also being asked about “future activities, like future donations or endorsements,” said Politico.
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