Mid-Columbia tea party group target in IRS debacle

Tri-City HeraldMay 16, 2013 

— The president of a Mid-Columbia tea party group said she didn’t have much regard for the Internal Revenue Service before her organization was targeted because of its nonprofit application.

And Jamie Wheeler isn’t pleased now that she knows the Tri-Cities Tea Party’s long delay in seeking 501(c)(4) tax status was something experienced by similar groups across the country.

Wheeler became president of the group in January and was a member when it applied in 2010 for 501(c)(4) status, which would allow it to participate in elections and lobbying in a limited manner, she said.

The group first received a 20-page application from the IRS requesting board member resumes and other information, Wheeler said. After that paperwork was sent in, the group received an even more detailed 60-page questionnaire.

That’s when the group contacted the conservative American Center for Law and Justice. They were told a number of other tea party organizations were having similar issues, she said.

The group’s application never was approved, despite paying a $400 filing fee, she said.

“That was one of the main frustrations,” Wheeler said. “Everybody on the tea party, we’re all volunteers, we just want to educate voters. Why would it be a big deal to get a 501(c)(4)?”

The board, which meets about once a month, has gone through turnover in recent months and still is catching up on the issue, Wheeler said.

Wheeler doesn’t buy arguments that the IRS didn’t approve the applications because it was overloaded.

“I think they saw for a grassroots movement, we’re pretty organized,” she said. “We were there to serve the people versus a party. I definitely think there were ulterior motives because it wasn’t just us.”

Wheeler hopes the situation will help get more people involved, she said.

“We’re really hoping that the bill that’s currently in D.C. that will get rid of the IRS will start to gain momentum,” she said.

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