Houston group among those targeted by IRS?

May 14, 2013 4:37:04 PM PDT
Last week, the IRS admitted it targeted groups with Tea Party or patriot in their name for extra scrutiny. The groups were applying for tax exempt status. True the Vote is one group based here in Houston.

True the Vote was the subject of harsh critique during the election season for some of their polling place monitoring work. Critics said it was designed to hurt Democratic candidates. It may be one of the things the IRS was looking at to keep the group from being tax exempt. But after three years of intense IRS questioning and investigations from other agencies, the Houston group can't get an answer.

True the Vote founder Catherine Englebrecht doesn't want to believe the federal government singled her out. But...

"These are odd days," she said.

Three years ago, her group asked the IRS for tax-exempt status. They're still waiting.

"After three years, why are we still in this mill?" she said.

True the Vote has been through five rounds of IRS questionnaires, the third of them came with nearly 150 questions.

"'We want to see every Facebook posting you've ever posted, and every tweet you've ever tweeted. And we want to know everywhere you've ever spoken,'" Englebrecht said.

They're one of many groups nationwide caught up in this web. On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the FBI is on the case and the day before, President Obama condemned it.

"I've got no patience with it. I will not tolerate it," Obama said.

But even that may not be enough.

"The Obama administration has sadly proven time and again that they've changed their position on things when it suits them. I hope that this is different," Englebrecht said.

True the Vote says there is no way this is the work of some isolated, low-level rogue IRS employees in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the IRS initially said. They know that because they've gotten questions from Ogden, Utah. And more concerning to Englebrecht, documents reveal IRS employees admitted the application was being reviewed by a task force at the IRS in Washington, DC.

"She said, 'I am just following directions and the directions are coming from Washington,'" Englebrecht said.

On top of that -- and maybe most concerning -- Englebrecht says her personal taxes were audited at the same time for the first time. And on the very day she got that lengthy questionnaire from the IRS, her business got its first visit from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in decades. Just months later, it received a visit from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

"In 20 years of being in business, none of that had ever happened," Englebrecht said.

But as she said, these are strange days. And even though she doesn't want to believe she was targeted, she tells us it's getting harder.

"I don't want to believe that I started an effort to encourage citizens to work at the polls, and some three years later, I've been investigated by every government agency that exists," Englebrecht said.

Later this week, the group plans to file a lawsuit, hoping to force the IRS to make a decision on their tax exempt status and asking for financial damages.

The IRS, by the way, has not commented much beyond saying an increase in applications created the delay.
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