KNIGHT: Turning the tables on the IRS

After hot Tea Party pursuit, the pointy heads are starting to sweat

It’s pretty clear that the Internal Revenue Service acted illegally in its abuse of Tea Party and other conservative groups and individuals since 2009.

Why else would Lois G. Lerner, director of the IRS’ division of exempt organizations, take the Fifth Amendment before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee?

She invoked it last Wednesday after reading a statement in which she claimed, “I have not done anything wrong.” My lying eyes conclude that the lady has something to hide, but hates the idea that we think so. By contrast, most organized-crime figures who are dragged before congressional committees shrug, look down, plead the Fifth, and don’t bother pretending that they’re innocent. That’s why they have lawyers.

For the past three years, the IRS has behaved like Soviet-style apparatchiks, using power and fear to stunt a grass-roots movement that flexed mightily in 2010, but then mysteriously quieted down. Now we know why. When the IRS began carpet-bombing conservatives with punitive audits and demanding to know things like what kind of prayers were uttered at meetings, the Big Chill was under way.

In fact, it’s still going on despite misleading media reports that all that bad stuff was in the distant past, such as 2012. As Hillary Rodham Clinton might insist, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

A 40-page memorandum released on May 20 by Cleta Mitchell, a prominent lawyer representing conservative nonprofit organizations, shows exactly why the IRS is still a threat to our constitutional republic.

“Prior to 2010, the time frame for review and receipt of IRS tax-exempt status would typically be three months to one year for a 501(c)(3) organization and three to six months for a 501(c)(4) or (c)(6) organization,” she writes. In 2010, the IRS “changed its system for reviewing and processing applications. The timeline for some of the clients I currently represent demonstrates that the IRS is still holding up the applications for exempt-status recognition of dozens — if not hundreds — of conservative organizations.”

In four cases, she reveals a pattern of years-long indifference, followed by ever-increasing scrutiny.

Here are some of the questions the IRS posed in letters that follow a statement warning respondents that they risk a criminal charge of perjury if they get anything wrong or leave anything out:

Provide a list of all issues that are important to your organization. Indicate your position regarding each issue.

Have you conducted or will you conduct rallies or exhibitions for or against any public policies, legislations, public officers, political candidates, or like kinds?

Provide the following for all the events you have conducted and will conduct for 2012 and 2013:

The time, location and content schedule of each rally or exhibition.

Provide copies of handouts you provided or will provide to the public.

The names of persons from your organization and the amount of time they have spent or will spend on the event. Indicate the name and amount of time they spent on the event. Indicate the name and amount of compensation paid or will be paid to each person.

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