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ISTOOK: Illegal IRS audits rob tea party supporters of their life savings

- - Friday, May 9, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Tea party supporters are losing their life savings due to the latest IRS targeting of the tea party, said a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents several tea party and other conservative nonprofits.

New revelations that the IRS has targeted tea party donors for expensive audits were no surprise to Cleta Mitchell, who says singling them out for expensive audits is illegal, is costing some people their retirement savings and is being handled in an unusually harsh manner.

The IRS was able to identify the tea party donors from its extensive information requests sent to tea party groups over the past two to three years.

"I actually had been concerned about this for some time," said Mrs. Mitchell Friday, as a guest on the "Ernest Istook Show" on the Washington Times Radio Network, "because I've had so many people from around the country who have contacted me" due to her many media interviews concerning the IRS targeting of the tea party.

Mrs. Mitchell said she and Jenny Beth Martin, president of Tea Party Patriots, both have been hearing the same story repeatedly about IRS audits:

"What people are telling us is that they had never been audited before and then they gave money or they gave in-kind services or they were involved with a tea party or conservative organization, and they were immediately subjected to audit."

The House Ways and Means Committee announced Wednesday that the IRS was auditing 10 percent of known tea party donors. That compares to an average audit rate of about 1 percent of taxpayers. The high rate of audits is despite IRS claims that overall audits are declining due to budget cuts.

Mrs. Mitchell described what she heard repeatedly from the persons audited:

"When they went with their CPA or their accountant or their lawyer to speak with the auditors from the IRS, ... the professionals came out of the meetings saying, 'I've never seen the IRS act like that before.' ... that they are very brusque, they're very rude, they almost come in with an agenda ... that the auditor has already found the person guilty."

For the persons audited, Mrs. Mitchell said they've told her, "It has cost them their retirement; it has cost them tens of thousands of dollars to fight the IRS; it's expensive." When I asked, she agreed that the stress wears on people's health also, not just their pocketbook. "It's frightening," she said.

Mrs. Mitchell said the 10 percent rate of audits came to light because the Ways & Means Committee staff obtained copies of documents that the IRS had collected from tea party groups and found that donor lists were among the papers.

That, she said, violated an IRS commitment to destroy those improperly obtained lists and not keep or use them. Based on its discovery, the congressional staff queried which persons were being audited and discovered the 10 percent rate.

Who ordered the audits? Mrs. Mitchell doesn't know, but agrees it would have needed to involve others at the IRS, not just Lois Lerner, the former head of tax-exempt organizations. Ms. Lerner has been held in contempt of Congress but claims she is entitled to Fifth Amendment protection from testifying about what she knows.

Hear portions of the "Ernest Istook Show" interview with Cleta Mitchell:

The IRS audits are costing some tea party donors their retirement savings.

IRS auditors are being abusive toward tea party donors when they meet with them.

Word was being spread about IRS audits of tea party supporters even before Congress confirmed how extensive the audits are.

The extent of the audits was uncovered because the IRS held onto donor lists despite promises not to do so.

The entire interview will be posted with former Congressman Ernest Istook's Friday podcast on www.washingtontimes.com/radio.