Posts Tagged ‘John Cornyn’

Is the IRS really targeting the tea party?

Posted on: March 26th, 2012 by Teddy Wilson No Comments

Residents gather during a Waco Tea Party event. (Photo Credit: Randomized Productions/Flickr)

Conservative activists and some Republican lawmakers are up in arms about what they describe as the Internal Revenue Service conducting a partisan and ideologically driven campaign against tea party groups around the country. They claim that progressive organizations are not experiencing the same level of scrutiny. However, some progressive groups say they have had similar experiences with the IRS, and at least one expert dismisses the notion that the government is engaged in an ideological witch hunt.

Tea party groups, as well as other non-profit organizations, can apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Under the 501(c) designation there are 28 different types of organizations that are exempt from paying some or all federal taxes. Typically, organizations like tea party groups will apply either for 501(c)3 or 501(c)4 status, depending on the organization’s activities. One of the differences between the designations is that donations to a 501(c)3 are tax deductible and donations to a 501(c)4 are not.

In an interview with the Texas Independent, Toby Walker of the Waco Tea Party said that the group applied for 501(c)4 status by filing a 1024 form with the IRS in July of 2010. About a month later the group was informed that the IRS would take 90 days to inform it of an approval, a denial, or a request for more information. “The 90 days came and went,” said Walker. “But on their web site it said that they were behind. We started calling and checking in, and they said they were backlogged.”

Then on Feb. 7 of this year, the Waco Tea Party received a letter from the IRS asking for the answers to 20 questions. “Some of the questions were acceptable,” said Walker. “We knew they were going to ask for more information, and we weren’t surprised to get the letter. What surprised us were a number of the questions that did not pertain to the 1024.”

“Red alert”

Walker specifically cited the seventeenth question as being a “red alert.” The question asks if the group has a “close relationship with any candidate for public office or political party.” The question also asks them to describe the relationship.

“I told our treasurer to find out what that means,” said Walker. “When we called the IRS they said that close relationship is subjective and to send them the names, and they will let us know. What does that mean?”

“It was so onerous to answer,” said Walker.

The letter asked for transcripts of the group’s social media activities, including posts on Facebook and Twitter. It also requested transcripts of the group’s online radio show. Walker said that the group was looking at significant costs for printing and shipping all of the documents required. “Just to do our Twitter account would be between 2,500 and 3,000 pages,” said Walker.

Walker said that she knew that “left leaning groups” that filed the same year had been approved. While she did not name the specific groups, Walker referred to a March 8 Roll Call article. The article stated that “several liberal groups contacted by Roll Call did not report similar experiences.”

The article specifically cited Protect Your Care, a 501(c)4 organization that describes its mission as providing a space to “champion the Affordable Care Act,” as an organization that did not receive any such questionnaire letter from the IRS. Roll Call also said that one other unnamed liberal 501(c)(4) organization was granted tax exempt status in May after receiving “only a modest six-part questionnaire.”

Progressives get same treatment

However, interviews conducted by the Texas Independent with three different progressive organizations call into question charges that the IRS is engaged in ideological discrimination. Each organization reported varying degrees of interactions with the IRS, and the amount of time it took each to receive final approval also varied. However, two of the organizations did receive correspondence from the IRS requesting more information, and these letters included similar questions to those received by the Waco Tea Party.

In College Station, Texas, the Brazos Progressives, a coalition of progressive groups and businesses, originally filed for 501(c)3 status and, after being denied, filed for and received 501(c)4 status. Clean Elections Texas, an organization that seeks to build support for a public funding option for candidates seeking public office in Texas, filed for 501(c)4 status and said that they avoided requests for more information by being advised on what specific information the IRS was looking for on the 1024 forms.

A staff member of a progressive organization in Texas spoke with the Texas Independent on the condition of anonymity due to the fact that their organization is undergoing a similar review as the Waco Tea Party. The staff member said that that while the organization’s application for 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 status went through “fairly smoothly,” the organization also had to answer extensive follow-up questions about its finances and mission.

“We received a questionnaire of around twenty questions,” said a staff member. “The letter was looking for a deeper understanding of our organization. There were no questions that were that surprising. I think they [the questions] were just about really drilling into why we wanted to have a tax exempt status. It made us focus on what we are working on and what kind of great good agenda, not just a partisan agenda, we are working toward.”

“The IRS is asking similar questions of organizations from all over the political spectrum.”

The staff member, who said that he has worked for multiple 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 organizations during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, said that he has perceived no difference in how non-profits applying for tax-exempt status are treated. “When the IRS asks questions, then you answer them,” said the staff member. “If you are upset with being upfront and clear about your organization, then maybe you shouldn’t be filing for a 501(c)4 status.”

A comparison of the letter from the IRS released by the Waco Tea Party and of a letter provided by the progressive Texas organization found that both are extensively detailed, asked similar questions, and were tailored to each organization. Both letters asked for copies of the organization’s board meeting minutes and for copies of each organization’s web sites. Questions also addressed specific concerns that the IRS had with each organization but, on the whole, did not appear to treat the organizations differently.

Marcus Owens, an attorney who represents non-profit organizations and has previously worked with the IRS, told the Texas Independent that the IRS is attempting to “get behind the rhetoric” of organizations that are interested in public policy.

“The IRS is asking similar questions of organizations from all over the political spectrum,” said Owens. “The real issue for the IRS when it looks at organizations that apply for 501(c)4 status is whether or not they are social welfare organizations or something else. It’s not whether or not they should be exempt or not, but which code section they should be exempt under.”

While Owens did think that some of the questions were too broad and could have been worded better, he also said that groups applying for tax exempt status have options when questioned by the IRS.

“Fundamentally the IRS has a right ask the questions,” said Owens. “However, the IRS is usually open to negotiating how much information you need to provide. What is clear is that this application process is normally not improved by public posturing. It is the task of the organization or the organization’s representatives to add to the facts and make the case to the IRS.”

Walker says that when the Waco Tea Party received the letter from the IRS, the group contacted its members, volunteers, and supporters. At no time did the group contact the IRS directly for clarification of the questions or to negotiate what information would be acceptable.

The Waco Tea Party also sought out the American Center for Law and Justice for legal advice and representation.

The ACLJ has taken up the cause of the Waco Tea Party and other tea party groups. The ACLJ describes itself as “committed to ensuring the ongoing viability of freedom and liberty in the United States and around the world.” Founded in 1990 by television evangelist Pat Robertson, the group has gained notoriety for taking up conservative causes. These have included providing a legal defense for a public bus driver who was fired for refusing to take a woman to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas.

“When a branch of the fed government is violating citizens’ rights, they need to be investigated and put into their constitutional box.”

The ACLJ posted a petition on its web site to “Stop the IRS from Silencing the Tea Party.” The petition claims that under the Obama Administration the IRS “appears to be conducting politically motivated investigations of tea party organizations nationwide.” The petition characterizes the investigations as “bullying tactics” that are “designed to silence these organizations.” The petition calls for the Speaker of the House and others to “provide IRS oversight.” Other Republican lawmakers and candidates have joined in supporting these claims, and some have called for congressional investigations.

Rep. Flores gets involved

Republican Rep. Bill Flores (TX-17), whose district includes Waco, penned a letter to House Committee on Oversight on Government Reform Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa stating that he is “concerned that the IRS is targeting tea party organizations around the country.” The letter requests that Issa’s committee open an investigation into the issue and hold congressional hearings. Republican senators also sent a letter to Commissioner of the IRS Douglas Shulman, requesting a response to similar concerns and demanding that the agency hold further “demands for information.”

The Waco Tea Party also taken to social media to make its case that it is being targetted by the IRS, characterizing it as a battle between the “IRS versus the tea party.” Posting multiple status updates and links on Facebook and Twitter, the group has made the claim that you are “either with us or against us and the constitution.” The group has also promoted the petition drive by the ALCJ, tweeting “defend the tea party from the IRS, sign the petition and call Congress.”

Another recent tweet reads: “The left is trying to silence Rush, and the IRS is trying to silence the tea party.”

Walker shares the desire for an investigation and hearings. “Yes there needs to be congressional hearings,” she said. “When a branch of the fed government is violating citizens’ rights, they need to be investigated and put into their constitutional box.”

Waco Tea Party IRS Letter//

IRS Letter to Progressive Group//

Senators join Rubio’s effort to overturn federal birth control decision

Posted on: February 2nd, 2012 by The American Independent 2 Comments

Twenty U.S. senators have endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio’s effort to reverse a recent decision by the Obama administration to require that insurance providers — with the exception of religious employers — cover birth control as a preventive service, according to Rubio’s office. (more…)

Pay-to-play tradition for Perry appointees continues with Texas Tech regent appointment

Posted on: February 2nd, 2012 by Teddy Wilson No Comments

Now that Texas Gov. Rick Perry is out of the national spotlight, it’s back to business as usual in Texas. Last week Perry appointed John Walker to the Board of Regents for the Texas Tech University System. With this appointment Perry continues his long tradition of appointing campaign donors to state offices and giving plum positions to supporters.

A Texans for Public Justice report found that Perry’s regent appointees have contributed over $6 million to his campaigns since 2000. Those appointed to the boards of regents at the University Texas System, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University and University of Houston have given the most money to Perry’s campaigns.

Walker is the president and CEO of EnerVest Ltd, an oil and gas company that is described on its web site as “using private equity” to “acquire onshore properties with proven reserves, enhance and build up those assets, then sell prudently three to five years out.” In addition to being a Texas Tech alum, Walker is also a member of the National Petroleum Council, past chairman of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, and a past board member of the Natural Gas Council.

While Walker has contributed to Perry’s campaigns, four other Texas Tech Regents have contributed significantly more. According to Texas Ethics Commission records, Walker has contributed $75,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns, which is still above the $64,343 average from Texas Tech regent appointees. In addition to contributions to Perry’s campaigns, Walker also donated $1,000 to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and $7,000 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Before the donations to Perry’s campaign, Walker also initially contributed $26,000 to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign for governor, and it has been alleged that regents that supported Hutchison’s challenge of Perry faced political retribution. The Austin-American Statesman reported that two Texas Tech appointees said that Perry’s campaign pressured them to resign after they endorsed Hutchison.

Walker has been a much more active contributor to federal campaigns than he has to state campaigns. A review of Federal Elections Commission records found that Walker has contributed more than $73,000 to 22 different candidates, including $2,500 to Perry’s failed presidential campaign. In addition, Walker has contributed another $38,500 to political action committees, including $26,250 to the Republican National Committee.

The vast majority of Walker’s contributions have gone to Republican candidates. While he has contributed to several candidates from Texas such as more than $8,000 to Sen. John Cornyn and nearly $10,000 to Rep. Pete Olson, Walker has also contributed to candidates elsewhere including $2,400 to Sharon Angle in Nevada and $4,800 to Carly Fiorina in California.

Hutchison resolution aims to eliminate FCC’s net neutrality rules before they take effect

Posted on: October 13th, 2011 by Mary Tuma 2 Comments

In the fight to safeguard the openness of the Internet, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) remains a vocal opponent the Federal Communications Commission’s new rules protecting net neutrality. And as ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and author of an anti-net neutrality resolution, Hutchison is flexing her power over the commission. (more…)

Texas business lobbyists extend reach to Washington, pushing back on spending, EPA

Posted on: September 2nd, 2011 by Patrick Michels No Comments

Image by Matt MahurinOne of Texas’ most influential lobbying groups has expanded its reach to Washington, taking its arguments against government spending and environmental regulation to a national stage.

The Texas Association of Business announced its new venture (more…)

Senators agree on high-skilled immigration reform, but Democrats insist it must be comprehensive

Posted on: July 27th, 2011 by Nicolas Mendoza 1 Comment

The current employment-based immigration system is dysfunctional and needs reform, panelists and lawmakers stated at a Senate Judiciary committee hearing on Tuesday. Judiciary Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) presided over the hearing, which heard testimony from leaders in the business, higher education and immigrant communities, as well as three American mayors. (more…)

First DREAM Act U.S. Senate hearing pits supporters against opponents

Posted on: June 28th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

A few minutes into the the first ever Senate hearing on the DREAM Act, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., chairman of the subcommittee holding the meeting, had to tell supporters to not applaud any comments. #

The DREAM Act — reintroduced this year by Durbin — would grant people who entered the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 conditional permanent resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve in the military for two years. #

In his opening statement, DREAM Act opponent Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he sympathized with DREAM Act-eligible youth who did not violate U.S. immigration law, but he said the bill offers eligibility to people convicted of misdemeanors such as driving under the influence, burglary and drug possession. Cornyn added that this version of the DREAM Act has weak anti-immigration fraud provisions. #

Durbin countered by saying that the bill is for youth with strong moral standings and that it provides up to five years in prison for immigration fraud. #

The opening statement from Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., summarized the three points later echoed by other supporters: #

  1. The DREAM Act comports with the rule of law and accountability.
  2. The DREAM Act clarifies a distinction between a young person who lives in another country, comes to the U.S. with a student visa and then has a path to citizenship, and a young undocumented immigrant raised and educated in the U.S. who has no such path. “This distinction makes no sense,” Schumer said.
  3. The DREAM Act does not give legal status to all young people — only to those who stay out of trouble and obtain a higher degree or serve in the military.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who testified in favor of the DREAM Act, said passage is the smart thing to do for economic prosperity, military readiness and support for law enforcement efforts. #

Napolitano explained (.pdf) that the Department of Homeland Security has focused on identifying criminal aliens and border security. She said that the DREAM Act supports these priorities because it makes no sense to spend law enforcement dollars on youth who do not pose a public safety or national security threat. #

Referring to a recently issued Immigration and Customs Enforcement memo, Durbin asked Napolitano how Homeland Security would implement measures to make sure DREAM Act-eligible youth are not deported. Napolitano responded that her department is designing a process to identify people caught in the deportation process who are not removable. #

Napolitano responded to Durbin and Cornyn’s questions about people who have been accused or convicted of misdemeanors, saying that an ICE officer has to look at the totality of an applicant’s behavior. She said that the DREAM Act has stricter criteria than the regular naturalization process in how it deals with these cases. #

Dr. Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, testified that the Department of Defense strongly supports the DREAM Act, which would expand the pool of quality recruits for the armed forces. #

In his written statement (.pdf) Stanley said that about 2.1 million aliens currently in the U.S. would meet the age and residency requirements of the DREAM Act, but because of the stringent and numerous requirements, a much number would eventually apply and qualify for the DREAM Act’s conditional status. #

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke about the impact the DREAM Act would have on the U.S. economy, saying that without the DREAM Act, a generation will not develop its full potential. He also said that DREAM Act-eligible students would help fill many of the spots the U.S. will need in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.#

Duncan added in his written statement (.pdf) that passage of the DREAM Act supports economic prosperity, pointing to a UCLA study. #

Lt. Colonel Margaret Stock, a retired member of the U.S. Army Reserves and an immigration attorney, quoted the Council on Foreign Relations’ Independent Task Force on U.S. Immigration Policy (co-chaired by former Gov. Jeb Bush) when endorsing the DREAM Act: “The DREAM Act is no amnesty. It offers to young people who had no responsibility for their parents’ initial decision to bring them into the United States the opportunity to earn their way to remain here.” #

The last witness, Dr. Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, said in his statement (.pdf) that the current version of the DREAM Act has several problems. In his testimony, he highlighted four: #

  1. Cost: With the two years of college required by the DREAM Act, the rise in undocumented students would increase costs at public schools for taxpayers.
  2. Legalizing current undocumented immigrants would encourage more illegal migration. As potential solutions, he suggested strengthening E-Verify, Secure Communities and Section 287(g) immigration-enforcement programs.
  3. The DREAM Act is an invitation to fraud. The current version of the bill does not have a clear list of required documents.
  4. People convicted of certain misdemeanors would remain eligible for the DREAM Act.

NRSC chair Cornyn still not sure about Kyl’s ‘not intended to be factual’ Planned Parenthood stats

Posted on: April 18th, 2011 by Kyle Daly 4 Comments

Last week, Twitter was host to a Stephen Colbert-encouraged pillorying of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) following a spokesman’s claim that when Kyl said on the Senate floor that “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does” is abortion-related, it was “not intended to be a factual statement” (Kyl disowned the explanation, and the spokesman later retracted it). Yet Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) is standing by his fellow Senate Republican’s original claim. (more…)