Local Tea Party among groups targeted by IRS

Published 8:36am Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Wetumpka Tea Party got a little bit of vindication Friday afternoon when the Internal Revenue Service admitted to targeting political groups applying for non-profit status.
Among the more than 300 groups targeted for including phrases like “tea party” and “patriot” in their names was the Wetumpka Tea Party, the regular gathering of like-minded conservatives from across Elmore County. The local tea party group officially formed April 15, 2009.
WTP President Becky Gerritson said they were among those singled out for “further scrutiny” by the IRS, which sent a letter in February 2012.
“They wanted a lot of really inappropriate information,” Gerritson said Tuesday. “People need to understand the type of intimidation tactics that were used.”
The 501(c)4 status is for a tax-exempt non-profit group that seeks to educate the public on political issues, Gerritson said. The groups have limited power to endorse candidates and lobby public officials. Groups on all sides of the political spectrum can qualify for the status, but the IRS admitted last week that it targeted only conservative groups.
Gerritson said the apology was nice, but “I don’t know if it was a vindication.”
“At least they’re acknowledging they did something wrong,” she said, but added she’s still wondering how much further the scandal will grow, as subsequent investigation has already revealed similar practices involving Jewish groups and organizations opposed to abortion.
The IRS’s “further scrutiny” included an eight-page, 60-question form that was due back in less than three weeks, she said. It asked for the names of volunteers and donors, detailed lists of speakers, emails and transcripts of communications with elected officials, and other detailed information.
The request for further information came from an office in Cincinnati, Ohio, which was the office IRS manager Lois G. Lerner singled out as specifically targeting the conservative groups.
After discussing the letter with leaders of similar groups across the country, Gerritson said they retained American Center for Law and Justice attorney Jay Sekulow. Gerritson said he told her the amount of information the IRS was demanding would take “more than 1,000 hours” to gather and submit. For a small town political group with only Gerritson, her husband Eric and a few other loyal volunteers
The filing fee of $850 was already close to a quarter of the group’s whole bank account at the time, she said.
Gerritson said she’s happy to see some scrutiny of the unfair practices of the IRS, but “when it happened in an election year, I’m very disappointed that the mainstream media didn’t seem to care much about it.”
Since the admission, Gerritson has been quoted in the Washington Post, and was scheduled to appear on FOX News’ Fox and Friends morning show.
Gerritson said her main goal now is to see those responsible punished.
“The people who initiated these letters, whoever was behind them, should be fired,” she said.

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