May 23, 2013

IRS targets your friends and neighbors

There’s no such thing as the Tea Party.

Rather, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of tea party groups across nation involving tens of thousands of American citizens. They talk to each other, sometimes coordinate with each other. They share similar philosophies of smaller government, opposition to deficit spending and a desire to cut taxes and spending. But they sometimes differ on tactics, strategy and even specific goals.

In short, there’s no hierarchy, no overarching organization. Any group of people can call themselves the Tea Party.

That’s one reason why recent revelations that the Internal Revenue Service was singling out groups that used “tea party” or “patriot” in their names for added scrutiny is so infuriating. Those groups represent nothing more than ordinary citizens trying to exercise their constitutional rights.

The Associated Press reviewed the tax returns of 93 of the groups singled out for scrutiny by the IRS. Only a handful of them could reasonably be called big money groups, with annual incomes in the six-, seven- and even eight-figure range. And some of those big money groups also had set up political action committees or had other political ties.

But the AP found the majority of the tea party groups it reviewed had no overt political ties. All told, those groups had just $16,700 a year in median income. They had just $12,270 a year in median expenses. Most of the expenses reported by the groups included items such as office supplies, insurance, rent for meeting facilities and travel expenses.

The tax law experts who reviewed those returns for the AP agreed that some of the big money groups probably did deserve extra scrutiny but the little groups that made of the bulk of the tea party organizations did not.

These groups saw their applications for nonprofit status delayed for months. According to ABC News, tea party groups were forced to answer dozens of questions about their members, their beliefs and why they chose the names they did for their organizations. The IRS required many of them to provide copies of all of their newsletters, fliers and any literature they provided at their meetings. The IRS demanded that many provide copies of all articles written about them in the press, as well as copies of all the pages on their websites.

The IRS demanded all of this, threw up all of those hurdles, to ordinary citizens simply trying to make their voices heard. That’s outrageous. That they singled these people out for holding certain political views, allowing others who held opposing views to go through the process unscathed, violates every principle of democracy.

On Tuesday, tea party groups across the nation, including Dalton, came out to protest the harassment they have received from the IRS. They had every right to be angry. And all American citizens, no matter what their beliefs are, should be angry, too.

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