Congressional concern continues to grow over tactics used by the IRS to target Tea Party groups across the country - tactics that can only be described as an effort to intimidate and silence these organizations in this election year.
We first reported on this last month, after it came to our attention that the IRS information and demands sent to local Tea Party groups around the country included probing questions that violate the free speech and freedom of association rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. As you recall, we quickly mobilized and contacted the IRS on behalf of nearly 20 Tea Party organizations nationwide demanding answers from the IRS.
It's clear from the probing questions submitted to these groups by the IRS, some of which are posted here, the IRS launched what can only be described a campaign to intimidate. The IRS information demands sent to the Tea Party groups are not in response to complaints of wrongdoing, but instead in response to applications by the organizations for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status.
Now, more well-deserved criticism against the IRS from Capitol Hill. In a floor speech in the House, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) asked his House colleagues to investigate what he said was the IRS's harassment of a Tea Party group in his district.
His comments about the IRS intimidation tactics are right on the mark, as reported by The Hill.
"I bring these facts to the attention of the House today and ask that they be rigorously investigated, and, if found accurate, that those officials responsible be exposed, disgraced, dismissed, and be barred from any position of trust or power within our government," he said on the floor. He called the demands "intimidation and harassment," and compared them to the tactics used against civil-rights groups during the 1950s. "Ironically, the same tactics you now see used by the IRS against Tea Parties were once used by the most abusive of the Southern states in the 1950s to intimidate civil-rights groups like the NAACP," he said.
This outcry from Congress is well deserved and continues to expand. Not long ago, our Director of Government Affairs, Nathanael Bennett, told you that members of the Senate began to engage this issue as well. Two top leaders in the Senate sent a letter on behalf of a dozen Senators to the IRS Commissioner demanding answers about the IRS tactics.
In the House, pressure from the Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform raising serious questions about the IRS actions. Further, we are aware of a large number of additional House members who will be formally engaging this issue soon.
The fact is Congress is moving swiftly to find out what is going on - to get answers from the IRS.
We will continue to keep you posted on developments as they unfold. You can make a difference as well. Join the more than 40,000 Americans who have signed on to our petition calling on Congress to use its investigative powers to get to the bottom of this troubling assault on Tea Party groups.
UPDATE: April 23, 2012
A total of 63 members of the U.S. House of Representatives today sent a letter to the Commissioner of the IRS expressing concern about the tactics used against Tea Party groups across the country.
The letter is very direct and clear: "These recent inquiries appear to constitute disparate treatment for no apparent reason other than the political persuasion of applicants. Such practices chill these groups' Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to civic participation, freedom of association and free speech and are better left to despotic regimes than a revenue-collection agency in a free country."
The letter, posted here, calls on the IRS to explain how its treatment of the Tea Party groups is "consistent with precedent and supported by law." The House members also request that the IRS "refrain from any additional unwarranted and excess information demands and other dilatory tactics."