"They want to throw us in jail," says Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin about the latest bombshell news of the IRS' targeting of the Tea Party movement.
Emails released under a federal court order showed the Obama administration's Justice Department and the IRS' Lois Lerner discussed working together to find a tea party case they could prosecute for supposed false claims about political activity.
“One prosecution would make an impact,” Ms. Lerner wrote in one of her emails.
Ms. Lerner has pleaded the Fifth Amendment rather than testify to Congress. She faces contempt of Congress charges because she had already made self-serving statements before clamming up when questioned.
“Clearly they were trying to find ways to throw us in jail,” says Ms. Martin, co-founder and president of Tea Party Patriots, the largest national grassroots Tea Party group. “They were looking to trump up charges to throw us in jail,” she told me in an interview on my daily talk show on The Washington Times Radio Network.
“I cannot overstate the silencing effect this has already had on groups all across the country,” said Ms. Martin. “While the IRS lied to Congress … they were looking for ways to trump up charges to throw us in jail.”
The new batch of emails was not provided by the IRS to congressional investigators, but was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch.
One of the emails specifically mentioned “Tea Party Patriots,” so Ms. Martin said the news of the Justice Department's coordination with the IRS caught her immediate attention:
“All day long I just kept thinking, had the inspector general not come out with his report, would I have been in jail yesterday? Would they have found some reason to throw me in jail and would my 11-year-old twins be wondering what Mommy did wrong to throw me in jail, when indeed I hadn't done anything wrong. It was just this Obama administration, this corrupt administration, trying to make people who disagreed with them be quiet.
“It's sickening. We have to get to the bottom of this. The people who did this must be held accountable. We will do everything we can to make sure they are held accountable. We are not backing down. We will not let this government intimidate us.”
Nevertheless, she says the IRS effort already has suppressed conservative groups: “I cannot overstate the silencing effect this has already had on groups all over the country.”
Ms. Martin also told my listeners that Tea Party Patriots has filed its own FOIA lawsuit against the IRS and the Treasury Department. The goal is to force disclosure of the secretive “off-plan” process used to develop proposed new stifling regulations on nonprofits that try to inform the public about what government is doing.
Responses to those FOIA requests were due in January, but the IRS kept dragging them out, most recently trying to extend its deadline until July. Instead, the Tea Party Patriots filed suit on April 15 to force the IRS to divulge the background and origin of those proposed regulations. More than 150,000 comments were submitted in response — a record number — mostly in opposition.
Ms. Martin says the regulations appear to be an extension of an out-of-control effort to target and suppress the tea party and other conservative groups.
“While they lied to Congress they were looking for ways to trump up charges to throw us in jail,” she told my audience. “We have government that has gone wild.
“To think that they were trying to throw volunteers in jail for speaking out against our government and being concerned about the direction of our country, for being concerned about our $17 trillion in debt … shows just how out of touch with reality and our founding principles the bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., the Obama administration and the 'Department of In-Justice' are.
“It's astounding that this is what's happening in our government and our country. It's not justice to try to punish people that disagree with you politically.”
Former Rep. Istook serves on the national board of Tea Party Patriots. Hear his daily radio show, noon to 3 p.m. Eastern, at www.kzlsam.com. Get Ernest's free email newsletter. Signup at eepurl.com/JPojD.