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IRS Harassment of Tea Party Groups

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. McCLINTOCK. Mr. Speaker, a defining aspect of the American tradition is that groups of citizens band together for a wide variety of civic purposes. They recruit volunteers, raise funds, and spend those funds to promote whatever project or cause brings them together.

For more than a century, our tax laws have recognized that such voluntary associations--nonprofits as we call them today--should not be taxed because their proceeds are devoted entirely to improve our communities through education, advocacy, and civic action. Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code recognizes them today, and civic groups as diverse as MoveOn.org, the League of Conservation Voters, the ACLU, the National Rifle Association, and various taxpayer groups have always been included in this definition.

We don't apply a political test to these civic groups. We recognize the fundamental right of Americans to organize and to pool their resources to promote whatever causes they believe in, left or right. Indeed, whatever their political persuasion, these civic groups perform an absolutely indispensable role in our democracy by raising public awareness, defining issues, educating voters, promoting reforms, holding officials accountable, and petitioning their government to redress grievances. Abolition, women's suffrage, the civil rights movement--all would have been impossible without them.

In order to be recognized as nonprofit groups, these organizations must register with the IRS--a purely ministerial function that in the past has been applied evenly and without regard to their political views. At least until now. It seems that Tea Party groups are today being treated very differently than their counterparts on the political left. For the last 2 years, many have been stonewalled by the IRS when they sought to register as nonprofits. Most recently, they have been barraged with increasingly aggressive and threatening demands vastly outside the legal authority of the IRS. Indeed, the only conceivable purpose of some of these demands is to intimidate and harass.

A Tea Party group in my district is typical of the reports that we are now hearing across this country. This group submitted articles of incorporation as a nonprofit to the State of California, and they received approval within a month. But then they tried to register as a nonprofit with the IRS. Despite repeated and numerous inquiries, the IRS stonewalled this group for a year and a half, at which time it demanded thousands of pages of documentation and gave the group less than 3 weeks to produce it.

The IRS demanded the names of every participant at every meeting held over the last 2 years, transcripts of every speech given at those meetings, what positions they had taken on issues, the names of their volunteers and donors, and copies of communications they had with elected officials, and on and on. Perhaps most chilling of all, the organizer of this particular group soon found herself the object of a personal income tax audit by the IRS.

Mr. Speaker, these are groups of volunteers who pass the hat at meetings to pay for renting the hall. They give of their own time to research issues and pay out of their own pockets for printing flyers. The donations made to them aren't tax deductible, so there is no legitimate purpose in asking for the names of their donors, let alone of their volunteers, unless--and this is the fine point of it--unless the purpose is to harass and intimidate.

Ironically, the same tactics we now see used by the United States 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.

No such tactics have been reported by similar civic groups on the political left, so the conclusion is inescapable--that this administration is very clearly, very pointedly, and very deliberately attempting to intimidate, harass, and threaten civic-minded groups with which they disagree, using one of the most feared and powerful agencies of the United States Government to do so.

Mr. Speaker, these facts speak for themselves. They need no embellishment or interpretation. They should alarm every American of goodwill regardless of political philosophy, for if this precedent is allowed to stand, no one's freedom is safe. 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 debarred from any further position of trust or power within our government.


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