IRS Agents Targeted Her Patriotic Group in 2013. Now She Says It Could Get Far Worse.  

Tea Party Patriots founder Jenny Beth Martin warns that the escalating number of Internal Revenue Service agents under President Obama could signal the return to a politicized tax agency targeting conservatives. 

“I said back then, if they’re not held accountable, other bureaucrats will think that they are able to abuse the law in an even more egregious manner and get away with it,” Martin, a Florida resident, said in a phone interview with The Daily Signal.  

“What concerns me is what we’re hearing right now with these 87,000 new IRS agents, they have such enormous power, they can garnish wages, they can levy bank accounts, they can put liens on your property,” Martin said. 

Conservatives accused the Internal Revenue Service in 2013 of unfairly targeting their organizations when they applied for tax-exempt status.  

The agency admitted it had selected specific groups applying for tax-exempt status—either 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4)—for additional and intense scrutiny based only on their names and political affiliations. 

Most of the time, the IRS targeted conservative groups, looking for words in their names such as “freedom,” “liberty,” and “patriots.”

Conservative organizations had to wait for years to get information from the IRS about their applications. 

“I believe that we applied in 2010 and then that we did not hear back until about 2012,” Martin, 52, recalled. “So [it took] almost two years, which is odd because normally you get an approval very quickly.” 

She stated that when conservative groups did hear back, they were subjected a flurry of questions that went beyond what was necessary in order to determine if they are tax-exempt organizations.  

“They wanted to know what was said at our events. They wanted to have access to the back end of our website so they could read stuff on our website,” Martin said of the IRS questions. “So they were asking for things that were outside of what they should have been asking for.” 

Eventually, the IRS accusations of targeting conservatives became so severe that Congress had to intervene.  

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee summoned Douglas H. Shulman, then-IRS Commissioner, to testify about the claims in 2012. Shulman, who testified that the IRS was not targeting conservative organizations, resigned later that same year.  

Also in Republican lawmakers’ crosshairs: Lois Lerner, then director of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Unit, which approved or rejected applications for tax-exempt status.

Lerner appeared before the House committee May 22, 2013, and testified briefly that she had “not broken any laws” or “violated any IRS rules or regulations.” She then cited her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself and refused to testify further. 

Martin was summoned by the committee to testify on behalf of her group about how they had been targeted.  

The IRS approved the tax-exempt status of Tea Party Patriots at that time. 

“It still took another over a year before they finally approved our status,” Martin said. “[But] they called our attorneys, telling us it was approved the day before I was testifying before Congress about it.” 

Her organization took two and a half years to obtain final approval from IRS. 

Martin said to The Daily Signal, that Lerner was fired from the IRS and her group got its tax exemption. Martin also stated that the government employees responsible were not punished for slowing down in scrutinizing conservative organizations.  

“The people at the IRS who broke laws were never held accountable,” she said.  

To Martin, her prediction that the government would act to censor conservatives could be coming true, and it would have chilling consequences specifically for free speech.  

“The aftermath initially for us when they were targeting tea party groups is that it had a chilling effect on speech and a chilling effect on the First Amendment,” Martin told The Daily Signal.  “We were assembling together to exercise our grievances to our government peacefully.” 

She continued:  

If the targeting goes on the way that we’re seeing it right now, I think that people are going to be afraid to express who they support. I think they’re going to be much more careful about what they say, especially what they say in public or even online. 

Martin concluded the interview with a call to “repair the foundations” of faith in government by holding government agencies accountable. 

“If we do not find a way to fill the cracks and to repair the foundation, which in this case will be restoring faith in the government agencies and departments and seeing a chance of true accountability happening, then the problems will get worse,” she said. “So we have to find a way to hold the people accountable who are abusing their power.” 

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