The Internal Revenue Service has granted tax-exempt status to one of the largest Tea Party organizations in the U.S. — a designation that came after a three-year delay and on the eve of a congressional hearing about the agency’s proposed nonprofit rules.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, shared the news, smirking as she spoke, at a five-year anniversary party in Washington for the small-government movement today.
Audience members groaned, applauded and chuckled — some disbelievingly muttered “what a coincidence.”
Earlier, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky were among the lawmakers in attendance to praise the movement and urge on the Tea Partiers. Ohio’s Rep. Jim Jordan, fresh from the IRS hearing, told the group to keep fighting the tax agency.
Martin said she got the call from an IRS representative about 24 hours ago, as she was preparing her congressional testimony. She said her group, which serves as a nationwide network for about 1,000 Tea Party affiliates, expended thousands of dollars on legal fees and countless hours in its quest to become a nonprofit.
IRS officials last year admitted targeting for extra scrutiny Tea Party organizations and other Republican-leaning groups as they examined their requests for nonprofit status. That led the agency to propose the rules now being debated.
At the House Oversight hearing, Martin sat next to a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union — typically not a Republican ally — as both decried the IRS’s proposed nonprofit rules as misguided.
The IRS says its plan will clarify what kinds of political activity — and how much — nonprofit groups can engage in while retaining tax-exempt status. Groups including the Tea Party Patriots and the ACLU say the IRS would be illegally restricting free speech.