Pro-Life Groups Confirm: IRS Targeting Began in 2009

planned_parenthood_signThe list of categories included in the IRS’s effort to target conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status continues to widen. On Wednesday, the Thomas More Society, a Chicago-based public interest law firm, announced that cases they handled “demonstrate the agency’s abuse of pro-life organizations in addition to those identified as ‘tea party’, ‘patriot’, or ‘government spending’ groups.” Meanwhile, years of high-profile election involvement from the abortion advocacy group Planned Parenthood have gone unaddressed, including the group’s highly public campaigning against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election of 2012.

Two cases the Thomas More Society handled are particularly egregious. In the case of the Coalition for Life of Iowa, approval of their application for tax-exempt status was withheld. In a June 6, 2009 phone call to the group’s leaders, an IRS agent identified as “Ms. Richards” allegedly told them to send a letter to the agency signed by the entire board–under perjury of the law–stating that they do not picket or protest, or organize other groups to picket or protest outside of any Planned Parenthood clinic. The agent said that when the IRS received that letter, they would grant approval of the group’s tax-exempt status.

Yet the IRS continued to send the group letters, asking for more invasive information. That prompted Thomas More Society special counsel Sally Wagenmaker to send a letter to the IRS demanding an immediate granting of tax exempt status.

Wagenmaker expressed concerns about “the IRS’s disturbing ability” to thwart legitimate applicants in a variety of ways. These included sending them lengthy questionnaires and making wrong citations of applicable law, as they did with Coalition for Life of Iowa. Wagenmaker noted that the purpose behind these efforts was to effectively prevent groups that possessed neither the necessary fortitude, or access to legal advocates, from exercising their constitutional freedoms.

“The IRS’s role should only be to determine whether organizations fit the section 501(c)(3) test for ‘charitable, religious, or educational’ qualification, not to inquire about the content of prayers, protests, and petitions,” Wagenmaker said. “It’s high time that the IRS be called to account for its workers’ potential to trample on our constitutional rights, through such ostensibly innocuous means…what the Ways and Means committee will discuss may only be the tip of the iceberg of IRS abuses.”

In the case of Christian Voices for Life, the IRS withheld approval of the Fort Bend County, Texas, organization’s tax-exempt status, allegedly questioning their involvement with “40 Days for Life” and “Life Chain” events. The group was also subjected to “repeated and lengthy unconstitutional requests for information about the viewpoint and content of its educational communications, volunteer prayer vigils, and other protected activities,” reported the Society.

Wagenmaker again expressed her outrage. “The application of Christian Voices for Life clearly indicated that the organization qualified as a charitable organization under section 501(c)(3),” she said. “The IRS seemed to be intent on denying or delaying tax-exempt status based upon the organization’s pro-life message, rather than any legitimate exemption concern, through its exhaustive, cumbersome questioning. The implication that Christian Voices for Life somehow intended to engage in illegal activity was insulting.”

It was more than that. According to documents obtained by Fox News, the Texas pro-life organization was essentially told they had to promote abortion to balance their programming, when the IRS directed them to explain “whether the group’s educational programs educate both sides of the issues.”

After Wagenmaker began her pushback against the IRS, each group got their applications approved.

The timing of the former case is a critical revelation. A report about the IRS’s abuse of the Coalition for Life of Iowa was made available to the press by the Thomas More Society on August 4, 2009. Yet the timeline of IRS harassment, determined from the Inspector General for Tax Administration’s report on the scandal, dates the IRS targeting to March of 2010.

The Thomas More Society’s press release would mark the third “revision” of the timeline. Last Sunday, after reporting that IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a told a House Ways and Means subcommittee on March 22, 2012 that there was “absolutely no targeting” of conservative groups, the Associated Press, moved the timeline back to “as early as 2011.” The Inspector General’s report ostensibly moves it back to March 2010. Now it’s back to August 2009, meaning the IG’s report is flawed at best — or that another lie is being perpetrated by the Obama administration.

Furthermore, a third pro-life group, Cherish Life Ministries, was also told their application for tax-exempt status was turned down. According to World Net Daily, group founder Peter Shinn says the IRS told him he didn’t qualify. “The representative was telling me I had to provide information on all aspects of abortion, I couldn’t just educate the church from the pro-life perspective,” he said. “Every time I pressed her on this issue and asked her to clarify her position, she would state that it wasn’t what she was saying, and then, she would repeat it almost the same way.”

He further noted that the agent he spoke to accused him of creating a political organization. “I asked her why she said we were a political organization and she said it was because we had said in our application that we did less than 5 percent political activity. I explained to her that this was what was stated in the application and all we were doing was acknowledging that we were doing less than 5 percent political activity,” he said.

Shinn continued to press the issue. “She did get nervous though in the end when I pressed her that I wanted specific information about why I had to educate from a pro-abortion perspective not just pro-life,” Shinn revealed. “I explained to her that the Pro-Life Action League even has pro-life in their title and they certainly don’t teach pro-abortion topics and they are still 501(c)(3). I also told her that Planned Parenthood does not teach about pro-life issues yet they are also still a 501(c)(3).”

Planned Parenthood is also a government-funded behemoth. Its 2011-2012 annual report revealed the organization received $542.4 million from taxpayers in the form of government grants and reimbursements, amounting to 45 percent of it total revenue. Planned Parenthood’s years of involvement in electoral politics has gone unaddressed by the IRS. In 2012, Planned Parenthood played a very visible role in the recall against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, actively campaigning for Walker’s opponent, Tom Barrett. A spokesperson for Wisconsin’s Planned Parenthood arm bragged to the Huffington Post about their work going “door to door all over the state to motivate people to vote” and that “voters are bringing to the polls friends and family members who have never voted before.”

In a statement released to FrontPage, Ms.Wagenmaker used an apt analogy to describe what the IRS’s harassment of the Coalition for Life of Iowa amounted to: “Why the IRS injected Planned Parenthood into its questions to the Iowa group, as if to protect this elephant against a mosquito (relatively speaking, at least in terms of their relatively financial positions), caused me concern then as it still does now,” she wrote.

That the IRS is harassing or protecting anyone reeks of government abuse and political partisanship of the worst kind.

The president’s “solution” for the crisis? On Wednesday, he announced the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who was already scheduled to resign in June–even as ABC News reported yesterday that Sarah Hall Ingram, the IRS official who served as commissioner of the office responsible for tax-exempt organizations during the time conservative organization were being targeted, is now the commissioner in charge of the IRS office responsible for Obamacare.

Furthermore, the president ducked a direct question about White House involvement in the scandal. According to a White House transcript, he was asked the following question: “Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your counsel’s office found out on April 22nd?”

His answer: “Let me make sure that I answer your specific question. I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press. Typically, the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared. They tend to be a process that everybody is trying to protect the integrity of. But what I’m absolutely certain of is that the actions that were described in that IG report are unacceptable.”

Note that the specific question wasn’t answered. Note also that at least one part of the IG’s report, the timeline, may be inaccurate. Note still further that the initial number of conservative groups targeted for extra scrutiny has expanded from 75 to nearly 500, that at least two other offices besides the one in Cincinnati were involved, and that the number of employees involved in Cincinnati has doubled from two to four–all of whom told Fox News “they simply did what their bosses ordered.”

The House Ways and Means Committee holds the first congressional hearing on the IRS scandal today. The Senate begins their IRS hearings on May 21. Congress has a lot of work to do.

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  • Chezwick

    "The most transparent Administration in history"…..it all seems so quaint now. Absolutely loving every minute of this. And the drip, drip, drip of revelations will just keep coming.

    My guess is that Obama will probably ride out the storm, but his presidency will be crippled for the duration….and that means his agenda and his ability to further screw the country will be seriously degraded. It's a fine, fine day..

  • objectivefactsmatter

    "Note that the specific question wasn’t answered. "

    Par for the course.

  • STEVE CHAVEZ

    GO AFTER AND EXPOSE those Senators and Congresspersons who publicly announced that Conservative groups be targeted.

    BOMBARD THE SYSTEM WITH GROUPS applying for tax-exempt status. This would be exactly what the SOVIET KGB and Communist Party USA did in the 80's and whose groups, and members, we are dealing with today.

    CPUSA TACTIC EXAMPLE: The U.S. Peace Council, run by the 80's CPUSA, had affiliates in every state which were led by a member of that state's Communist Party. In my case, the New Mexico Peace Council. That one person, IN THIS PUBLIC GROUP, Gerry Bradley, who aided far-left Progressive Martin Heinrich become Congressman and now Senator, had a core group of members in the NM Peace Council. He then ordered his members to start their own group. So, now ten members now became ten groups and they signed up as members in each others group.

    SO, EVERY MEMBER OF ALL CONSERVATIVE GROUPS THAT ARE BEING HARASSED, need to start their own group therefore bombarding the system and proving that there is a CONSPIRACY by employees, who are political zealots.

    EXPOSE MEMBERS OF CONGRESS and their spitting on their oath to defend the Constitution!

  • Asher

    Know this: Everything that is evil under the sun is in the Obama administration, especially with the immorality, and the destruction of innocent babies. The planet is doomed as it was in the Days of Noah.

  • ltcdmward

    Excerpt of a letter I sent to my Congressman (member of Oversight & Govt Reform Committee):

    "Of particular concern is the content of a report from the Thomas Moore Law Center, which handles religious oriented legal issues, that was held up and read from by one Committee member. That member indicated that one Pro-Life group that applied for tax exempt status received a follow-up letter from the IRS that asked the question (read by the Congressman from the More report): "What is the content of the prayers at your meetings/gatherings" (or something to that SPECIFIC effect).

    With the above being brought to light, as well as other inappropriate IRS questions being revealed, I am both outraged and concerned that OUR government demonstrably has both low or entry level employees and, apparently, supervisors and managers that are either (1) totally unfamiliar with basic American constitutional values and common decency or (2) are being unduly influenced from outside. That some IRS employee and/or supervisor would originate and allow fielding a question like the above to an AMERICAN citizen is unconscionable and demonstrates a level of either profound ignorance or a deliberate and cynical on its face use of methodology and techniques — encourage from outside — to retard application approval for political purposes. As a former military and government employee I thoroughly believe it's the latter. Outside people and outside standards.

    I believe this is more than just a problem that can be resolved by mere training, as asserted by some and alluded to by Mr. George, the Treasury Department Inspector General. This appears to be an attitude or disciplinary problem and perhaps a problem of recruiting or selection — for both "workers" and supervisors/managers.

    Most importantly: I implore you to communicate to the members of the Ways & Means Committee and to the House Speaker, Mr. Boehner, that the House's investigation must thoroughly "drill down" all the way into this, yes, scandal. Do not let go and be thorough. You must absolutely start at the very bottom to determine who — by name — originated each offensive and inappropriate question on every application in question and the name of the supervisor that by omission or commission countenanced such. In this scandal, every stone in the bureaucratic "food chain" must be turned over. "

  • Carlie Coats

    Time for a bunch of Bivens lawsuits (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bivens_v._Six_Unkno… for more info): the United States Supreme Court ruled that when Constitutional rights (in this case, unreasonable search and seizures) have been violated by federal agents, the victim may sue those individual agents for damages.

    Those IRS agents should have to pay many tens of millions of dollars in damages.

  • Toa

    Not to trivialize this horrendous situation, but I don't see where the IRS was ever NOT prone to harrass Conservatives foremost.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    RE: "Pro-Life Groups Confirm: IRS Targeting Began in 2009"

    Barack Obama has always fought against this mainstream view of abortion law.

    Most Americans are unaware of how extreme Obama is on abortion; Obama does not hold to the "keep abortion rare" mentality that his predecessor, Bill Clinton publicly espoused.

    There is no evidence that President Obama opposes ANY form of abortion.

    Obama declared that the need to protect abortion was so grave that it would be wrong to require medical care for babies who survive since that might chip away at abortion "rights" — even though the bill specifically stated that it would have no impact on a woman's right to an abortion.

    Obama has referred to babies born in botched abortions as a fetus outside the womb.

    Obama appears to be trying to justify the murder through inattention of a born human being because the mother wanted to kill the child. (read into that)

    Read more: The True Extremist on Abortion – American Thinker article http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/10/the_true_e

  • gee59

    They have also targeted pro-Israel groups but the same IG says that is not abuse.

    They claim because Israel is the victim of terrorism they need extra vigilance of NGOs supporting them. Humm I believe that the United States has been the victim of terrorism as well (9/11, Boston, etc). Guess that means any NGO supporting America needs three years of extreme auditing too.

  • CurmudgyOneJr

    It's all FUBAR. Because the American voter is basically stupid, or uncaring, or lazy and uninformed — take your pick.

  • poetcomic1

    Welcome to the Cannibal’s Pot and non-Western rule. We are being made into a corrupt, cynical and debased third world hell-hole. Bit by bit.