Local Conservative Group Feels Targeted by IRS

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

FISHERSVILLE, Va.-- A conservative group in the Valley claims it was one of the groups targeted by the Internal Revenue Service during the 2012 elections.

Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots director Bruce Richmond said the group applied for a tax-exempt status in April of 2010.

He said IRS employees told his group it would the process would be longer because the Tea Party was considered a new group.

"We figured they were looking at them extra carefully," said Richmond.

However, Richmond said the group received the application materials in January of 2012.

"There is no way in the world that it takes all of that 20 months to do something that should be done in 90 days," said Richmond.

The IRS recognized it targeted conservative political groups during the 2012 election to check if they were violating their tax-exempt status.

The agency said groups with names like "Tea Party," "Patriot" or "9 12 Project" were singled out.

Richmond said his group had to spend 235 hours answering 38 detailed questions to be considered a non-profit.

He said the agency asked for all the newsletters sent by the organization, print out pages of any website and minutes from every meeting.

"It was 895 pages, seven inches thick and it weighed about 10 pounds ," said Richmond.

He said he felt the questions were intrusive and excessive.

"They were asking every little thing that they wanted to know about us, our people like they wanted a resume from anyone who had been in any leadership position and that's about 35 people. That's just way too much," said Richmond.

President Barack Obama said he condemns the IRS actions if they are true.

"If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on, and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous, and there's no place for it," said Obama.

He also said the agency should be not treat groups differently based on their views.

"You don't want the IRS ever being perceived as biased and anything less than neutral in terms of how they operate," said Obama.

IRS officials said there were no partisan reasons behind these actions. In addition, the agency blamed low-level employees, assuring high level officials were not aware of the situation.

Richmond does not believe this claim.

"If the lower level employees were doing this, somebody knew about it and this needs to be investigated," said Richmond.

IRS officials said 300 groups were singled out. However, none of them had the tax-exempt status revoked. They do recognize several groups withdrew their request due to the scrutiny.

The agency affirms it fixed its criteria for flagging suspect groups in 2012.

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