May 22, 2013

Dalton Tea Party protests IRS actions

Charles Oliver

— About two dozen members of the Dalton Tea Party gathered outside the Internal Revenue Service office on Professional Boulevard in Dalton on Tuesday during the lunch hour protesting the agency on the national level for singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny.

“They went way overboard in demanding information and throwing up obstacles to some groups and allowed groups that weren’t conservative to sail through. That isn’t fair,” said Warren Tatum.

Lois Lerner, a senior official at the IRS in Washington, admitted earlier this month at a meeting of the American Bar Association that the agency had singled out tea party groups for extra scrutiny when the groups filed for 501(c)(4) nonprofit status. According to federal regulations, such groups must be “primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the community.”

Lerner’s admission came in response to a question from attorney Celia Roady. Roady later admitted that Lerner had asked her to ask that question.

A federal inspector general’s report later revealed that the IRS had been singling out conservative groups for additional scrutiny dating back to 2010.

Tea party groups protested their treatment outside IRS offices in cities across the nation on Tuesday. There did not appear to be any visible response from officials in the local office to the demonstration here.

Also on Tuesday, Lerner’s attorney said she would invoke her Fifth Amendment right not to potentially incriminate herself and refuse to answer questions from the House Oversight Committee about what she knew about the improper scrutiny that conservative groups faced.

Naomi Swanson, organizer of the Dalton Tea Party, said she wasn’t surprised by the IRS revelation. Tea party groups across the nation have been complaining about delays and harassment by the IRS for years. Swanson said the Dalton Tea Party had no problems because it did not incorporate or file for 501(c)(4) status.

“We talked to some of our legislators in Atlanta, and they advised not to incorporate, not to raise money,” she said.

Not having 501(c)(4) status does make things more difficult, she said.

“We do not even pass the hat. If somebody wants to buy something or rent a venue, we are happy for the help. But we have no money. We would love to raise money,” she said.

Chuck Payne, chairman of the Whitfield County Republican Party, said the IRS’s actions are “an assault on our way of life.”

“The government goes after people based on their beliefs. It targets people who disagree with its policies. That’s a violation of the constitutional principles this nation was founded on,” he said.

Payne said he is upset the media did not take tea party complaints that they were being singled out more seriously earlier.

“But it doesn’t surprise me. The national media seems like it didn’t want to cover this. If a conservative does something wrong, it’s national news. If a liberal does something, they pat him on the back and say he didn’t really mean to,” he said.

Several protesters carried signs supporting the Fair Tax, a proposal to replace almost all federal taxes with a 23-percent national sales tax. With no income tax to collect, the plan would abolish the IRS.

“I want everybody to be treated fairly,” said Ginger Countryman. “The Fair Tax would do that. I know people who work at the IRS. They are good people, and I’m sure that most of the people who work there are just ordinary people. But it’s too easy for them to get caught up in these things. It needs to be totally changed.”