Continued from page 1

They also formed True the Vote, filing for status under that tax code’s section 501(c )(3) governing charities, and dedicated it to training election workers and validating voting lists. True the Vote was an initiative of King Street Patriots, but the name was chosen carefully, Ms. Engelbrecht said.

“We didn’t put ‘tea party’ in our names because we really hoped we would be able to work with all kinds of folks. And at the time, there was an awful lot of turf-war fighting,” she said.

In December of that year, King Street Patriots received its first inquiry from the FBI about someone who might have attended one of its meetings. The FBI would make five more inquiries over the next year.

Meanwhile, True the Vote received its first IRS questionnaire in March 2011, followed by a second round that October, a third round in February 2012, a fourth set of questions in November 2012 and yet a fifth inquiry just two months ago.

Ms. Engelbrecht said as the inquiries proceeded, the questions grew weirder.

Along the way, True the Vote became a lightning rod for criticism from Democratic lawmakers and liberal groups who objected after the group became involved in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial recall election last year with an initiative called “Verify the Recall.”

That initiative involved asking volunteers to check the signatures of those who signed the petitions that put the recall election on the ballot.

Later, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said he would investigate the group after a newspaper reported True the Vote was trying to challenge some voters’ eligibility in other states.

Throughout, the group’s application for tax-exempt status continued to languish.

But things became particularly strange last year when two other Texas-based groups, the North East Tarrant Tea Party and the Clear Lake Tea Party — both of which had also applied for tax-exempt status — received questions from the IRS about their dealings with True the Vote and King Street Patriots.

Amid the questions about resumes for every board member, volunteers’ duties and speakers invited to talk to the group was question No. 2: “Provide details regarding your relationship with Verify the Recall. Indicate the activities of Verify the Recall. Is Verify the Recall a tax-exempt organization?”

Aside from the IRS asking another group about whether Verify the Recall is tax-exempt — when the IRS itself was holding up the parent group’s application — the questions worried Julie McCarty, president of the board of the North East Tarrant Tea Party.

“Unless you are educated like a CPA or a tax attorney, something like that, you don’t know all these rules and regulations,” she said. “It makes you think you’ve done something wrong.”

She said her group didn’t answer any of the IRS’s questions about True the Vote or anything else.

Instead, they are joining a lawsuit the American Center for Law and Justice plans to file this week demanding the IRS approve a number of applications it has held up.

Story Continues →