The following was broadcast on CBS 11 TV Dallas on February 29, 2012. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.
March 7, 2012
By Bud Gillett
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Some Tea Party groups in Texas are buzzing over letters they’ve begun to receive from the Internal Revenue Service.
The groups applied for tax-exempt status –– in some cases as far back as three years ago –– but only this month received letters from the IRS demanding what many consider to be intrusive information.
And they say they’ve been given only days to provide it.
Ken Emanuelson has talked with his Tea Party peers across North Texas. They’ve received IRS letters similar to one sent to a Waco group, which demands reams of inside information in order to qualify for 501(c)(4) status –– a declaration necessary to be labeled as a nonprofit organization.
As a lawyer, he sees some questions as standard boilerplate language; others, he says, are intrusive.
“But if they’re starting to ask about who your volunteers are, what are your internal discussion about things, those don’t seem like they’re any of the IRS’s business,” he said. “Apparently it’s normal to get a few questions back from the IRS but they’re usually fairly cursory questions and most fellows I talked to said most of those can be handled over the phone. Normally, that there’s not this extensive submission of large chunks of paper.”
The letters also come with a prominent warning of penalties of perjury if the information is deliberately wrong. There is concern the Obama Administration is playing hardball in an election year.
SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson disagrees.
“If they’d been in business for 20 years they would’ve gotten letters like this regularly over that period of time; but the first time you get one it can be intimidating,” he said. “It’s their first rodeo and these horses are bigger and stronger and they buck harder than they’re used to.”
Jillson doubts the Tea Party is being treated differently from other politically active groups with the same status.
“But it is certainly the case that left-leaning organizations and right-leaning organizations should get the same treatment by the IRS and there’s no sense in this that they’re not,” he said. “It’s just that these are new Tea Party organizations.”...