Tea Party groups are moving closer to their goal of being able to discuss the issues in the upcoming presidential election — while remaining tax-free.
After complaining loudly of unfair treatment at the hands of the IRS, at least eight Tea Party groups have been granted tax exemptions. And many more are in the hopper for approval, according to the IRS.
It took some congressional intervention, and some work by former IRS trial attorney Jay Seculow, as reported in Bloomberg BNA’s Daily Tax Report.
Seculow, now chief counsel for the Center for Law and Justice, took the groups under his wing in March, alleging that the IRS’s questions about their application for exemption violated their free speech and freedom of association rights.
A“coordinated and comprehensive response” to IRS’s probing questions about how the organizations are structured — and more importantly their membership lists – were the key to success, Seculow said. The IRS has now backed off the extensive follow-up questions it had been asking some of the groups for years, he said.
Add TEA Party Maui and the Richmond Tea Party to the list of those who have gotten the thumbs up so far.
“We’re elated,” said Bill Doyle, TEA Party Maui’s president. It’s something his group had been working on since May 2010. “We took a stand, and once the ACLJ got involved, I think the IRS realized we weren’t backing down. They realized they had overstepped their bounds.”
The IRS has a good reason for asking questions about how the groups intend to use their tax-exempt status.
The agency has been on the hot seat with both Democrats and Republicans over handing out exemptions under 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Not only will the Tea Party groups be allowed to educate and advocate on issues as social welfare organizations, but they also will be allowed to endorse or oppose political candidates for office as November approaches, as long as they don’t make that their primary activity.
And what is the goal of the Tea Parties?
According to ACLJ’s Gene Kapp, it’s to educate and advocate on issues – not endorse candidates.
Phil Rapp, executive director of the Richmond Tea Party, said his group will keep on doing what it has been doing since 2009: holding candidate forums to talk about the issues, posting Facebook messages on the need for adherence to the Constitution and limited government and advocating for legislation that supports those principles.
“We won’t be endorsing any candidates, but we will be interested in bringing about a change in Washington,” he said.