Why was the IRS interested in efforts to ensure the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was legitimate?
As the Obama Administration seeks to pivot to a new explanation for their activist Internal Revenue Service (IRS), we find out they took particular interest in the Verify the Recall effort which took place in Wisconsin during 2012.
Two of the three groups involved in Verify the Recall experienced delays in receiving their non-profit status. More ominously, the IRS asked at least one other conservative organization, in another state, about their relationship with the effort.
The North East Tarrant Texas Tea Party (NETTTP) never told the IRS they were working on the Verify the Recall project. The group may have posted the nationwide appeals for data entry volunteers on their website, but the project was being driven by the two Wisconsin-based tea party organizations. Yet the IRS asked the NETTTP to tell them all they knew about the Verify the Recall project.
"There is no explaining this away," Catherine Engelbrecht, President of True the Vote, told RightWisconsin in an exclusive interview. "It is a reprehensible abuse of power by the IRS to ask one organization for information about the activities of a separate organization while holding their non-profit status hostage."
In 2011 and 2012, Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, and a host of GOP State Senators faced recall elections after labor unrest over collective bargaining reforms passed in the Spring of 2011.
Verify the Recall was a grassroots election integrity project spearheaded by the Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty and We the People of the Republic, with the assistance of the Texas-based voter integrity group True The Vote. The two Wisconsin tea party groups built a massive database of recall petition signatories, publishing the petitions online. Given the stunning lack of oversight from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, the two Wisconsin tea party organizations sprang into action in January of 2012.
The result of the project helped Wisconsinites know who was forcing this expensive recall to move forward, busted the Democratic Party's myth of 1 million signatures, and added transparency and integrity to the recall process. Thousands of signatures were flagged as invalid, incomplete, or completely illegible. And Verify also provided transparency for judges, the media, prosecutors and other "non-partisan" employees who signed the recall.
We now know it also attracted the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS did not limit their inquiries about the Verify the Recall project to the groups who coordinated it, however.
On February 8, 2012 as a part of their application for tax exempt status, the IRS asked NETTTP 34 follow up questions. One of the first had to do with this project two Wisconsin-based organizations were undertaking with the assistance of the Texas-based True the Vote.
"Provide details regarding your relationship with Verify the Recall. Indicate the activities of Verify the Recall. Is Verify the Recall a tax exempt organization?"
In addition, of all the groups the IRS targeted across the country, True the Vote may have experienced the longest delay and the most questions. To date, they have waited for more than 3 years for their IRS determination letter as a 501(c)(3).
True the Vote received repeated questioning from the IRS. Engelbrecht recently told Breitbart News: "Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again. They’ve requested to see each and every tweet I’ve ever tweeted or Facebook post I’ve ever posted. They also asked to know every place I’ve ever spoken since our inception and to whom, and everywhere I intend to speak in the future."
True the Vote’s responses to these inquiries likely would have included details about Verify the Recall and the Wisconsin recall audit.
In May 2011, Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty applied for a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status with the IRS (Grandsons were approved in March 2010 for a 501c4 status). Over the past few years, they repeatedly followed up with the IRS but have never heard back. When asked about what he thought of the IRS’s delay, Wisconsin Grandsons of Liberty’s Tim Dake said, "It’s suspicious. A two-year wait and no response to repeated queries tells us that their focus is on something other than customer service."
The timing of all of these inquiries and delays is suspect, given all the political turmoil Wisconsin has had during the past few years.
The questions have to be asked: why were two of the Verify the Recall groups targeted?
Did the IRS’s extra scrutiny to these groups have any connection to the recall elections?
What impact did the scrutiny have on these groups and other groups during the recall election?
The chilling effect of the IRS’s actions is only beginning to be understood.
Batzel is the Wisconsin Executive Director for American Majority Action. Roth is the Associate Editor of RightWisconsin.