CANTON — A Woodstock-based national tea party group is considering legal action against the Internal Revenue Service after members said they were among the conservative groups “targeted” by the federal agency, which subjected them to heavy scrutiny and lengthy delays in their filings for nonprofit status.
In a report released by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS is said to have “developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words ‘tea party’ in their names.” This may “have led to inconsistent treatment of organizations applying for tax-exempt status,” the report states.
Tea Party Patriots was one of those groups, said Debbie Dooley, a national organizer and board of directors member for the Woodstock-headquartered group.
Dooley said Wednesday that her group has directed their attorney to look into what recourse they have in being paid for the attorney and accounting fees that resulted from the IRS’ scrutiny on their organization.
“We’re still gathering information about the cost,” she said. “But we’re talking about six digits, a minimum of six digits. It’s going to be a huge, huge, huge sum,” she said.
Dooley said IRS “intimidated” Tea Party Patriots with “invasive” questions and requests about their donors and supporters, leading to chronic delays in their nonprofit status filings.
“They delayed and delayed and delayed our applications,” she said.
Tea Party Patriots was founded in 2009, and Dooley said the trouble promptly heated up following the 2010 election.
They voiced their concerns more than a few times to their attorney, congressmen and members of the press, but those concerns we not taken seriously, she said.
“We had been complaining for years. All tea parties have (complained) for
several years that we were being unfairly targeted,” she said. “And people ridiculed us, they mocked us, but we see we’re
Dooley said it was “tyranny.”
“They wanted our donor list, what congressmen supported us, they wanted to know (what) emails we sent out,” she said.
Dooley said the IRS requested information about the group’s Facebook page, asking for screenshots of their posts and those of their supporters.
Tea Party Patriots resisted those requests and did not turn over Facebook information, Dooley said.
“The bottom line is this is the United States of America,” she said. “This is not a Communist nation. And we were being intimidated and silenced by the IRS, our government.”
The intimidation worked, Dooley said.
“We were afraid — because we were held under all this scrutiny — to really do anything,” she said. “We were even afraid to put out literature that had Obamacare on it. This is why it was done. It was done to intimidate conservative groups.”
Dooley said Tea Party Patriots eventually got their nonprofit status, but it took around three years.
She said they will hold a press conference soon to announce the amount of money the ordeal cost them and what their plans are.