By Elizabeth Harrington - April 11, 2012
Saying President Barack Obama is “targeting the Tea Party” and using the “IRS as a weapon,” Tea Party activists Wednesday launched a coalition to combat the federal government agency’s burdensome and onerous interrogation of conservative groups to determine if they should receive tax exempt status.
Speaking at the National Press Club, two Tea Party group leaders announced the formation of the Liberty Defense Foundation, which will assist grassroots organizations in fending off long questionnaires from the IRS when filing for 501 (c) (4) non-profit status.
“I really wish I didn’t have to be here,” said Eric Wilson, director of the Kentucky 9/12 Project. “I don’t mind coming to D.C. to visit but I don’t want to be doing a press conference for the reasons I’m having to do it, because the truth is, Obama’s IRS is targeting local Tea Party, liberty groups and ordinary citizens. And that’s the reason we have to fight back.”
Wilson said his organization and hundreds of others have received letters from the IRS requesting thousands of pages of information about their activities, with a two-week deadline to respond.
“They’re trying to bury us in time, trying to bury us in paperwork, and they are making us use up resources we don’t have, especially small local organizations and small groups,” he said, referring to an IRS questionnaire with 88 inquiries. “And they’re doing this during a critical election year. This is not by accident. This is coordinated and this is targeted.”
Toby Marie Walker, president of the Waco (Texas) Tea Party, said the IRS demanded every Facebook, Twitter and social media post released by her organization over a two-and-a-half year period, as well as lists of any information about politicians the group is associated with and transcripts for their daily radio show broadcasts. Wilson said one organization had to provide “book reports” of every book recommended or read by their group.
“Tea Parties and 9/12 groups, liberty groups around the country are small,” Walker said. “Some of the groups have 20, 30, 40, 50 members, others have a couple thousand. But this is a David and Goliath fight. The IRS has unlimited resources and manpower to try to silence us. We have very limited funds and very limited human resource ability.”
“None of us wanted to form a new  (c) (4) to protect  (c) (4)’s,” she said of the new Liberty Defense Foundation. “That’s just ridiculous.”
The IRS grants tax-exempt status through its 501 (c) (4) designation for groups not organized for profit and whose exclusive operation is to promote social welfare. Unlike 501 (c) (3) organizations, 501 (c) (4)’s can engage in political activity, endorse candidates and donate to campaigns.
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said last month testifying before a congressional panel that the IRS is conducting its usual examination process for 501 (c) (4) applicants to determine tax-exempt status, and is not targeting the TEA Party.
“The notion that we're targeting anyone, I think, is off because, you know, these people are going through an application process that they voluntarily decide to do that isn't required under the law,” he told a House Appropriations subcommittee on March 21.
Wilson and Walker said that of the 1,700 applications for 501 (c) (4) status in 2010, 1,400 were approved. Of the remaining 300 awaiting approval, half are groups related to the Tea Party that have received the same scrutiny as the Waco Tea Party and Kentucky 9/12 Project.
During the press conference the activists promoted the Liberty Defense Foundation as a resource for like-minded groups. The organization will provide assistance in finding attorneys and accountants, help make travel arrangements, and provide “rally kits” with flyers, signs, talking points and a recommended speech for Tea Party gatherings.
The group is also aligning with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) for legal representation.
“We want to shine a light of what’s going on,” Wilson said. “We want to tell the general public that we’re being attacked, the Obama administration is using an arm of the government to go after ordinary citizens.”
“These are your neighbors, these are the people who are meeting locally and getting together and want to have a voice,” he added. “That voice is being attacked and that voice is trying to be taken away.”