BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – Adrienne King, an attorney who ran for lieutenant governor on the 2010 Republican ticket, was so inspired by the grassroots Tea Party movement, she volunteered to head the Honolulu Tea Party two years ago.
After holding two successful “April 15” rallies at the state capitol in 2011 and 2012, King followed in the footsteps of many other tea party organizers across the country and applied to the Internal Revenue Service for a 501-c-4 tax status so she could more easily fundraise.
But King was shocked and angered when she received a response from the IRS demanding she provide detailed information on tea party activities, materials, pictures, videos, names of speakers and attendees as well as copies and recordings of actual speeches made at the events.
The July 27, 2012 IRS letter said: “Please provide details of your tax rally and confirm whether this is an accurate list (of speakers). How were these speakers selected? How much time was devoted to each speaker? What topics were discussed? Please provided any other information about the speakers that you think would be helpful to us in processing your application as well as copies of any materials or recordings from the speeches.”
The Maui Tea Party received a similar letter from the IRS as have many other tea party leaders across the country, King said.
She and others believe the tea party organizations are being unfairly targeted by President Barack Obama’s administration because they oppose his policies. Tea Parties stand for “taxed enough already” and Obama has many proposals to increases taxes and has denigrated and singled out tea parties in his public speeches.
Matt Kibbe, President and CEO of FreedomWorks, which helps to organize tea party events nationwide, said the IRS’ treatment of the Hawaii tea parties is reflective of what is happening across the country to other tea parties.
“The IRS targeting of the Honolulu Tea Party is just the latest, most outrageous example of how far the Obama Administration will go in its attempts to deny us our right to free speech,” Kibbe said.
As local groups have attempted to follow the rules, Kibbe said they have faced endless bureaucratic roadblocks, onerous permit requirements, new ‘fees,’ requirements of insurance just to assemble in public space, and outright prohibitions from governments not wanting to give a potent social movement a voice in their own governance.
“From day one, Tea Partiers have been subjected to a new, arbitrary set of rules as they attempted to peacefully petition their government for a redress of grievances, which is their constitutional right under the First Amendment,” Kibbe said.
“The political nature of these roadblocks became particularly obvious when Occupy Wall Street — despite the violence and property damage at many events — suffered no such “individualized” enforcement,” Kibbe added.
Dick Armey, Former U.S. House Majority Leader and chairman of Freedomworks, said he finds it “more than curious” that the IRS has taken a particular interest in the pending tax status of local Tea Party groups like the Honolulu Tea Party in the midst of one of the tightest presidential elections in memory.
“If this isn’t a conscious, systematic political intimidation of citizens by the executive branch, I don’t know what is,” Armey said.
Grover Norquist, president of the Washington DC-based Americans for Tax Reform, said he served on the Commission on Restructuring the IRS during the Clinton years when the Heritage Foundation, Citizens Against Government Waste and many conservative groups were audited – and could not find any left of center groups similarly targeted.
“Obama thinks the IRS is part of his opposition research team,” Norquist said. “He is not from Hawaii. He is Chicago, through and through.”
King said she has retained the services of American Center for Law and Justice to respond to the IRS.
But added: “If you want to know what its like to live under a dictatorship, give Obama 4 more years…this is just a taste of what’s coming. It’s very insidious. People are too trusting and before they know it, it will be too late.”
Hawaii Reporter sought comment from the IRS, but David A. Tucker II, a spokesperson for the Internal Revenue Service, said because this story deals with a specific organization, he cannot comment or respond to our questions. That is due to disclosure provisions of the Internal Revenue Code, which make it against the law for him to discuss any taxpayer’s or organization’s information.
“These laws protect their privacy,” Tucker said.