National Tea Party figure Mark Meckler told his hometown constituents Tuesday they shouldn’t look for any presidential directive for the IRS to overscrutinize conservative groups’ tax filings, but they should focus on changing the federal government’s culture that allowed it to happen.
“In this fight, we are not against the president,” Meckler said, “The real fight is about government … The IRS is just a symptom.”
Meckler, a Chicago Park resident, spoke to a Nevada County Fairground’s room packed with scores of Nevada County Tea Party members Tuesday at the local group’s meeting.
The IRS has been under fire since last month after admitting it targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups that wanted the tax-exempt designation for tough examinations.
While investigators have said that agency screening for those groups had stopped in May 2012, screening of groups seeking tax-exempt status was broader and lasted longer than had been previously disclosed, the new head of the agency acknowledged Monday.
Terms including “Israel,” ‘’Progressive” and “Occupy” were used by agency workers to help pick groups for closer examination, according to an internal IRS document obtained by The Associated Press.
The revelations made it clear that screening for other kinds of organizations continued until earlier this month, when the agency’s new chief, Danny Werfel, said he discovered it and ordered it halted.
“Wild conspiracy theories we’ve been circulating among ourselves for years have turned out to be true,” Meckler said. “We knew we were being targeted.”
Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released 15 lists of terms that the IRS agency used and has provided to congressional investigators. Some of the lists, which evolved over time, used the terms “Progressive” and “Tea Party” and others, including “Medical Marijuana,” ‘’Occupied Territory Advocacy,” ‘’Healthcare legislation,” ‘’Newspaper Entities” and “Paying National Debt.”
The lists were dated between August 2010 and April 2013 — the month before the IRS targeting of conservative groups was revealed. They ranged from 11 pages to 17 pages but were heavily blacked out to protect sensitive taxpayer information.
Neither the IRS document obtained by AP or the 15 IRS lists of terms addressed how many progressive groups received close scrutiny or how the agency treated their requests.
Dozens of conservative groups saw their applications experience lengthy delays, and they received unusually intrusive questions about their donors and other details that agency officials have conceded were inappropriate.
At the end of his remarks Tuesday, Meckler put the onus on his fellow Tea Party members in the town where he launched a chapter four years ago that has since sprouted into a national movement. He encouraged and directed attendees to get involved in local government — as volunteers, on school boards, on city councils and other branches of local governance.
“We have to get involved,” Meckler said, noting that people haven’t been involved enough and that the only way to change the culture of government is from within.
While Meckler doubted that any memo or email will ever be found where an official directed the IRS to target certain groups, he said it is natural human nature for them to not cooperate with organizations that aim to limit government and reduce its size.
“If we get our way, people will lose their jobs, families will have difficult times … we need to understand the human consequence,” Meckler said, continuing on to note that IRS employees and other government officials who stand to be curtailed by advocates for reduction would naturally not want to enable them through cooperation.
“There is a reason the IRS targeted the Tea Party,” Meckler said, pointing to the organization’s successes in 2010 elections.
“They slowed the Tea Party movement (in the 2012 election) for sure,” Meckler said. “but they haven’t stopped us.”
The Nevada County Tea Party garnered its federal IRS tax exemption in November after first applying more than a year earlier, according to Garcia, who has said that without the IRS tax exemption, California tax agencies would not recognize her organization’s nonprofit status.
Just this June the group’s state exemption was recognized, nearly two years after the group’s first application, its president, Nancy Garcia, recently told The Union.
On May 28, the Nevada County Tea Party’s board voted to join Meckler’s Citizens for Self Governance and the NorCal Tea Party in a class-action lawsuit against the IRS.
“We get submissions every day of people who want to join us,” Meckler said. “We’re sorting through those. Some of the them are crackpots, some of them are legitimate and some of them have legitimate complaints but don’t fit within our class action.”
The next step is to amend the complaint to add those organizations to the lawsuit, likely to occur in mid-July, Meckler told The Union.
Part of certifying the class of the lawsuit will determine when the period of discovery will take place, when Meckler said his team plans to request the list of every IRS target.
Meckler expects a fight that could last years.
“I’m not sure what will happen,” he said. “I sort of feel like we are in a win-win situation. The government is either going to turn that over to us, in which case we will know the extent of the targeting, or they will allow class certification and not fight. It really puts them in a bad spot.”
The Associated Press’ Alan Farm contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530- 477-4236.