“Crossing The Line”: Tea Party Group Protesting IRS Has History Of Questionable Political Involvement
Tea Party Patriots, originally formed as a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation in 2009, has a history of questionable electoral activity. Nevertheless, as one of the largest of the movement’s national factions, it is taking advantage of the so-called IRS scandal to re-ignite the anger of Tea Partiers, encourage their (false) sense of victimhood, and increase their ranks.
Dubbed “Rein in the IRS,” nationwide rallies were organized to protest IRS scrutiny of Tea Party non-profit applications. The announcement, posted on the group’s website Monday, called for “anyone and everyone to protest the IRS’ complete abuse of power” at noon local time on Tuesday. Dozens of local Tea Party Patriots chapters around the country emailed their members about the protests.
The Tea Partiers claim that “the IRS has waged a three-year war against the Tea Party, harassing our groups and even auditing our individual members. This abuse of power is unacceptable and un-Constitutional, and it must stop.” No mention was made of the Inspector General’s findings that that not a single Tea Party group has been denied 501(c)(4) non-profit status, and that more than two thirds of the scrutinized Tea Party-like groups had engaged in political activity that would usually disqualify them.
The effort is also being used to fuse anger over several different political issues, from the Affordable Care Act to immigrants. For instance, in sample Letters to the Editor they distributed, the group links the IRS controversy with their attack on comprehensive immigration reform. “The IRS’s abuse of power highlights why the Senate needs to slow down with its amnesty bill. We simply cannot trust bureaucrats to make the right decisions. Immigration policy is too complex and too important for us to delegate to a group of bureaucrats who may be pursuing an agenda that doesn’t match Americans’ best interest.”
It should be noted that until late Monday, the Tea Party Patriots were using the official group website listed on their IRS form 990, and the resources of their 501(c)(4), plus their network of local groups—many of which have filed for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) status)—to organize the protests against the IRS. Suddenly Monday evening, after a day of soliciting volunteers to organize anti-IRS protests, all traffic to the group’s domain name teapartypatriots.org was directed to the group’s political action committee, The Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund (http://teapartypatriotscitizensfund.com), which features a “protest the IRS” page alongside a photo of Tea Party Patriots co-founder, Jenny Beth Martin.
The new PAC was formed in January 2013. Despite the current enmeshing of the 501(c)(4) and the PAC on the IRS protests, forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission curiously state that the PAC has no connected organization.
The sudden crossover to the group’s political action committee may be at least a tacit omission of questionable activity for a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. It also begs the question as to why any Tea Party groups so focused on politics would want to be a non-profit rather than a PAC.
Such concern about crossing the line and engaging in political activity was absent from the Tea Party Patriots, Inc. a year ago when the group threw its support behind Wisconsin governor Scott Walker in his recall election.
As IREHR noted last year, Tea Party Patriots, Inc., which registered with the IRS as a 501(C)(4) non-profit organization, may have run afoul of its tax exempt status with this electoral activity. Federally registered non-profit organizations with a 501c4 status are prohibited from devoting a majority of their energy and resources to support electoral campaigns.
On April 29, 2012, local Tea Party Patriots groups across the country voted 98 percent to 2 percent to throw all their energy and resources into Wisconsin for the recall elections. “We are deploying hundreds of volunteers into each of the targeted recall districts,” noted Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin in an email to supporters. “That’s 4,000 patriots going door to door and making phone calls” she added.
Tea Party Patriots brought activists to Wisconsin and did door-to-door canvassing, and had others make calls from their homes and spread the word on social media. Some of those activists were sponsored, with their costs covered by Tea Party Patriots.
At times, Martin and other Tea Party Patriots leaders have tried to suggest that the group was just engaged in GOTV (Get Out the Vote) efforts or some form of civic engagement, other times they’ve told their supporters that they’re directly intervening politically: “Tea Party Patriots—in conjunction with other local and national Tea Party groups—will spearhead efforts to help Walker and other candidates.”
There is also a question as to whether the funds of the group are going to “social welfare” as required. In 2010, the organization raised $12 million in fiscal 2010. But only about $3 million of that went to its “social welfare” mission, according to an IRS 990 form filed in May 2012. For fiscal year ending May 31, 2012, Tea Party Patriots raised over $20 million, but spent just $5.9 million on program service. Millions of dollars went to pay professional telemarketing firms, extensive travel costs, and legal fees from suing other Tea Party groups over control of the “Tea Party” brand.
Tea Party Patriots leader Martin has had her fair share of troubles with the IRS before. As noted in Tea Party Nationalism, according to court documents, Martin and her husband, Lee Martin (who served at the group’s “assistant secretary” and was intimately involved in the group’s financial matters), owed over $680,000 in tax debt, including over half a million dollars to the Internal Revenue Service, when the pair filed for bankruptcy in August of 2008.
Whether or not Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest national factions, can turn this scandal into a chance to regain lost ground will, in some measure, depend on the reception their protests receive by an informed public.
By: Devin Burghart, The National Memo, May 23, 2013
The three-day Conservative Political Action Conference that began Thursday at National Harbor in Maryland showcases a wealth of conservative spending power from more than 200 right-leaning donors, foundations, universities, think tanks and activists who have collectively doled out more than $1 million to help underwrite the event.
The American Conservative Union, which is hosting the conference for the 40th consecutive year, offers underwriters a sliding scale of benefits at rates ranging from $3,000 for exhibitors to $50,000 for event “partners.” The ACU also lists some 100 “VIP donors” on its website, without indicating how much each gave.
Nine “partners” collectively paid $450,000 to enjoy benefits such as hospitality room access, color ads in CPAC publications, exhibit space and invitations to private meetings, dinners and receptions, according to the website.
The partners include Judicial Watch, the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party Patriots.
The event’s 21 “sponsors” — who shelled out $19,000 apiece for a total of $399,000 — include the Washington Examiner and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which according to tax records spent and gave out $40 million in 2011.
CPAC“co-sponsors” paying $8,000 apiece include the Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion; the conservative grass-roots group Let Freedom Ring; and the Liberty University School of Law.
The ACU has long derived less influence from its budget than from its widely referenced scorecards and the CPAC gathering, which this year has drawn thousands of conservative activists and dozens of prominent elected officials and organizers.
But that is starting to change: The organization’s budget has quadrupled, from about $1.2 million in 2009 to $4.2 million last year, according to its tax filings.
Because the ACU is a 501(c)(4) social- welfare group, it is not required to report the names of its donors. But the group’s board includes the top executives of deep-pocketed players such as the NRA, which, according to tax records, had a $231 million budget in 2011; The Heritage Foundation, which had $80 million in expenses that same year; and Microsoft Corp.
The ACU’s political action committee raised and spent only about $120,000 in the 2012 election cycle, Federal Election Commission records show. But the ACU launched a super PAC in 2011 that raised and spent another $10,000 or so.
And the ACU itself made a $30,549 independent campaign expenditure on behalf of Republican Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, according to the Sunlight Foundation, suggesting that the conservative group may be gearing up to raise its campaign trail profile.
By: Eliza Newlin Carney, Roll Call, March 14, 2013
Fragging: “To intentionally kill or wound (one’s superior officer, etc.), esp. with a hand grenade.”
If the nation defaults on its financial obligations, the blame belongs to the Tea Party Republicans who fragged their own leader, John Boehner. They had victory in their hands and couldn’t bring themselves to support his debt-ceiling plan, which, if not perfect, was more than anyone could have imagined just a few months ago. No new taxes, significant spending cuts, a temporary debt-ceiling solution with the possibility of more spending cuts down the line as well as action on their beloved balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.
These people wouldn’t recognize a hot fudge sundae if the cherry started talking to them.
The tick-tock of the debt-ceiling debate is too long for this space, but the bottom line is that the Tea Party got too full of itself with help from certain characters whose names you’ll want to remember when things go south. They include, among others, media personalities who need no further recognition; a handful of media-created “leaders,” including Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips and Tea Party Patriots co-founders Jenny Beth Martin and Mark Meckler (both Phillips and Martin declared bankruptcy, yet they’re advising Tea Party Republicans on debt?); a handful of outside groups that love to hurl ad hominems such as “elite” and “inside the Beltway” when talking about people like Boehner when they are, in fact, the elite (FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, Club for Growth, National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Prosperity); and elected leaders such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, head of the Republican Study Committee, and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, who grandstand and make political assertions and promises that are sheer fantasy.
Meanwhile, freshman House members were targeted and pressured by some of the aforementioned groups to vote against Boehner’s plan. South Carolina’s contingent was so troubled that members repaired to the chapel Thursday to pray and emerged promising to vote no. Why? Not because Jesus told them to but because they’re scared to death that DeMint will “primary” them — find someone in their own party to challenge them.
Where did they get an idea like that? Look no further than Sarah Palin’s Facebook page, where she warned freshmen about contested primaries and urged them to “remember us ‘little people’ who believed in them, donated to their campaigns, spent hours tirelessly volunteering for them, and trusted them with our votes.” Her close: “P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.” While they’re at it, they also should remember that Palin came to the Tea Party long after the invitations went out. The woman knows where to hitch a wagon.
Unfortunately for the country, which is poised to lose its place as the world’s most-trusted treasury and suffer economic repercussions we can ill afford, the stakes in this political game are too high to be in the hands of Tea Partyers who mistakenly think they have a mandate. Their sweep in the 2010 election was the exclusive result of anti-Obama sentiment and the sense that the president, in creating a health-care plan instead of focusing on jobs, had overplayed his hand. Invariably, as political pendulums swing, the victors become the very thing they sought to defeat.
Who’s overplaying their hand now?
It must be said that the Tea Party has not been monolithic — and the true grass-roots shouldn’t be conflated with leaders who disastrously signed on to the so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance” pledge. What is it with Republicans and their silly pledges? Didn’t they get enough Scouting? This pledge now has them hog-tied to a promise they can’t keep — the balanced-budget amendment. As many as a third desperately want a pardon from that commitment, according to sources close to the action.
Hubris is no one’s friend, and irony is a nag. The Tea Partyers who wanted to oust Barack Obama have greatly enhanced his chances for reelection by undermining their own leader and damaging the country in the process. The debt ceiling may have been raised and the crisis averted by the time this column appears, but that event should not erase the memory of what transpired. The Tea Party was a movement that changed the conversation in Washington, but it has steeped too long and has become toxic.
It’s time to toss it out.
By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 29, 2011