Pa., N.J. tea party groups say IRS targeted them
Tea party groups in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among those who say they were improperly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS has come under fire for putting extra scrutiny on conservative organizations that applied for tax-exempt status. The Justice Department has launched a criminal probe into the actions of IRS agents, and the agency publicly acknowledged last week that it singled out tea party groups.
Conservative organizations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey say they are among the groups targeted.
Jennifer Stefano, the Pennsylvania director of Americans for Prosperity and a Philly-area activist, tried to start a grassroots tea party group a few years go. But extensive questions from the IRS forced her to shut it down.
Friends said "the IRS would come after me if I made even the smallest mistake," Stefano said in a statement. She told ABC News that she received "frightening" documents from the IRS.
Brenda Roames, president of the Greenwich Tea Party Patriots of South Jersey, told the South Jersey Times that her group received paperwork with intrusive questions after filing for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status in 2010.
"They wanted contact information on our members, any donors we had, Facebook comments, just ridiculous things that went back years," she told the newspaper. "It was an awful lot of information and not information normally asked for by the IRS."
Another New Jersey group also says it was targeted.
The West Jersey Tea Party, based in Medford, received a letter from the IRS in September 2011 asking for the names of every member, how much money they had donated, and hard and electronic copies of communication with elected officials, founder Bill Haney told NBC Philadelphia.
Three congressional committees are investigating the IRS. And a report from the Treasury inspector general for tax administration says IRS supervisors didn't adequately supervise the specialists who screened applications for tax-exempt status, even after learning that the agents weren't acting properly.
The IRS' inquiries have caused apprehension among some conservative groups. Groups like Stefano's have shut down, and the Bucks County-based Kitchen Table Patriots told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that the organization likely wouldn't seek to keep its tax-exempt status after dealing with hassles from the IRS.
Representatives from one western Pennsylvania-based organization would only speak to the Patriot-News if the group wasn't identified, out of fear of what the IRS could do. The group has given up applying for tax-exempt status.
"Whenever you get pushback from the IRS of this magnitude you're not able to deal with it," a member told the newspaper.