Conservatives’ top 5 grievances Against the IRS

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

The House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday has offered leaders of conservative groups a chance to detail their biggest grievances against the Internal Revenue Service.

What are the things they're angriest about? Here's a sampling.

1. In June 2009 an IRS agent informed Susan Martinek, president of the Coalition of Life Iowa, that she needed to send a letter with her entire board's signatures "stating under penalty of perjury we would not picket, protest or organize groups to picket, protest outside of Planned Parenthood." While the group eventually won IRS approval, Martinek said she didn't understand why the agency would make such a demand. "As Christians we knew we needed to pray for a better solution to unplanned pregnancy than abortion, why not at the source?" The panel's top Democrat, Sander Levin (Mich.), said that while he suspected he and Martinek had different views on Planned Parenthood, that question "should not have been asked."

2. Karen Kenney of the San Fernando Valley Patriots, said the question that stood out to her in a letter she received on February 2012 was number 33,which "asked for a listing of our 'committed violations of local ordinances, breaches of public order or arrests" then requested details on how we 'conduct or promote' illegal activities." "I think the IRS needs to fix its labeling machine," Kenney added. "We're the San Fernando Valley Patriots, not Occupy Oakland."

3.  The National Organization for Marriage's 2008 Form 990 Schedule B, which lists its donors, was released publicly last year. While the improper release constitutes a felony, the group's board chairman John Eastman said the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration will not reveal who committed it because it is "confidential return information." "I ask you to think about the irony of that," Eastman told lawmakers.

4. Becky Gerritson, president of Alabama's Wetumpka Tea Party, said she was appalled when the IRS asked for a list of her donors, when they gave their money and how much they contributed. "The demands for information in the questionnaire shocked me, as someone who loves liberty and the First Amendment."

5. Linchpins of Liberty president Kevin Kookogey, whose group teaches conservative philosophy to high school and college students, has been waiting 29 months to receive tax-exempt status and still has not gotten it yet. He was asked to provide the names of who he was training and "exactly what I am teaching my students. Considering that the mission of my organization is devoted to mentoring young people, some of whom are minors, can you imagine the reaction of my students' parents if I were to surrender the names of their children to the IRS?"

At the end of this airing of complaints, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) said that while the agency was "inept" and "stupid" in its handling of these applications, the groups' leaders should keep in mind the federal government has an obligation to scrutinize political organizations seeking tax-exempt status. "If you didn't come in and ask for this tax break, would have have never had a question asked of you," McDermott said. "You are immersed in some of the most controversial political issues in the country, and you are asking the American people to pay for that activity."

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) shot back that it was unfair to make that critique of conservatives given the fact there is "no evidence" liberal groups were subjected to a similar level of IRS scrutiny.

"You're to blame, I guess is the message here," he said, prompting cheers from some in the audience.

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