VISTA, Calif. – The Internal Revenue Service is under investigation after it allegedly targeted conservative political groups, in particular the Tea Party Patriots, making it difficult and in some cases impossible for them to get tax exempt status.
“They were targeting the tea party,” said tax attorney Ronson Shamoun, of RJS Law. In particular agents were directed to flag certain keywords. “If they had words with tea party or patriot affiliation they were getting extra scrutiny.”
Extra scrutiny, extra paper works, major delays and what some describe as ridiculous questions after their applications were submitted.
Ken Happel says they asked for a list of what the groups was reading. “One group sent our reading list in - it was the constitution!”
Happel is a member of the Vista Tea Party Patriots, he says the national leadership was supposed to secure 501c4 status for all their affiliates but after years of paper work and delays it has never come.
And he says that hurts their ability to forward their message. “Keeping us from that status killed off our ability to raise money to support the publicizing of our political views.”
“These groups get million of dollars from these super PACS,” said Shamoun, and he says, “its a way to get around campaign contributions.”
And he says, it’s also a way for donors to remain anonymous.
“They are not created exclusively for politics, however, they can be involved in things that indirectly affects politics like certain legislative ideas.”
The investigation by the justice department is looking into cases from the 2010 congressional elections and the 2012 presidential election. So far its unclear if any actual laws have been broken, but for these tea party members watching this unfold in Washington, D.C, they say it’s a symptom of a bigger issue.
“The problem is in a country which is based on disclosures and freedom to have an opinion, and then violate peoples trust in there own country because of their opinions I say – is wrong.”