- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2013

A Texas group dedicated to combatting voter fraud applied for tax-exempt status in 2010 and has suffered three years of delays, been through four different IRS agents, undergone six FBI inquiries and submitted thousands of pages of documentation — and it still hasn’t been approved.

True the Vote is just one of the dozens of groups caught up in the IRS plan to give extra scrutiny to conservative groups in the 2010 and 2012 elections.

As Congress delves into the question of whether the burgeoning scandal was bureaucratic malfeasance, as the IRS now acknowledges, or a more sinister political witch hunt, as some Republicans believe, True the Vote’s experience is poking holes in the IRS‘ version of events, and lending credence to the nefarious explanations.

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In one example, the IRS asked other Texas-based tea party groups what their relationship was with True the Vote — a fishing expedition that group President Catherine Engelbrecht didn’t learn about until the IRS scandal burst onto front pages.

“It suggests that they are trying to construct some kind of web in which to trap groups that they believe are somehow working together,” Ms. Engelbrecht said.

The IRS‘ inspector general released a report last week that found the IRS targeted conservative groups for added scrutiny beginning in 2010, looking particularly at those that used “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.

The IRS acknowledges asking inappropriate questions but bristles at other charges. Acting Commissioner Steven Miller said the agency was trying to weed out groups engaging in political activity in violation of tax laws. He said the scrutiny was enhanced because of a surge of new groups after the 2010 Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case.

The IRS also said that the actions were taken by employees in an Ohio office, and that the agency has been taking steps to curtail inappropriate information requests in 2011.

But most of those claims appear to be untrue, based on the experience of True the Vote and other groups subjected to extra scrutiny.

Both Ms. Engelbrecht and True the Vote’s lawyer, Cleta Mitchell, said they had conversations with IRS agents who indicated that the files were being scrutinized in Washington, not in the Cincinnati office blamed by the IRS.

“More than one agent in Cincinnati has advised me that his/her instructions regarding the processing of my ‘tea party’ related organization client(s) were coming from the Washington, D.C., office,” Ms. Mitchell said in a letter to the IRS earlier this month.

And the probing letters continued well after the time the IRS said it began curtailing them, with the most recent inquiries to True the Vote coming in November and again in March.

Conservative target

True the Vote stemmed from Ms. Engelbrecht’s experience in the 2008 and 2009 elections, when she said she worked the polls and saw everything from administrative dysfunction to situations that looked like they could lead to fraud.

In July 2010, she and other supporters formed King Street Patriots under the tax code’s section 501(c )(4), which allows groups to do some politicking as long as it’s not their primary purpose.

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