Earlier today the IRS apologized for targeting Tea Party and Patriot groups. One of the groups that was famously targeted was the Richmond Tea Party. When I reached out to them, they were very clear that the apology was not enough and that IRS leaders needed to resign. In the IRS “apology” the IRS admitted groups were flagged if they had “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in the title, however they denied that the targeting was political, and insisted it was the mistake of a few rogue people in Cincinnati, not the result of a policy or high level decision.
When I asked if the Richmond Tea Party if they believed this was just the result of a low level staffer, I got some very interesting details.
This explanation is hard to believe. In September, 2009, the IRS letter we received was signed by Elizabeth Hofacre with the title of Exempt Organizations Specialist. In January, 2012, the IRS representative was Stephen Seok, another Exempt Organizations Specialist. So, is it plausible that two “specialists” writing a year and a half a part have the same philosophy? We also have letters dated 3-4-12 and 3-16-12 signed by Lois Lerner (Manager, Tax Exempt Organizations division) asking us to comply with Mr. Seok’s request for information.
Later the apology was very firmly denied, and resignations were demanded.
Simply stated, an apology is not enough. Just imagine how it might feel to have the IRS threaten to withdraw a tax-exempt status. We had a responsibility to our volunteers, our donors, and to our supporters. Our rights to freely assemble and our free speech rights were clearly being threatened. In our opinion, this was an unabashed attempt to silence those who do not share the views of this administration. What other groups were targeted in this way? None.
It would seem that resignations of managers and supervisors who are responsible for the Tax Exempt Organizations division should be demanded, AT THE VERY LEAST. Is it their position that for over 2 years, no one knew about the US Supreme Court case – NAACP vs. Buttons, or about the actions of multiple “low level employees”? Was Ms. Lerner unaware of what her employees were doing? Did she not see the letters she signed? Sounds like a very poor manager to us.
For the full story on the history of the IRS’s assault on The Richmond Tea Party and other groups, and to read more of their explanation check out this article. Now that the IRS has admitted they targeted conservative groups, it will be interesting to see if people keep investigating.