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Tea Party Is Partying and Martyring Like It's 2009

Tea Party Is Partying and Martyring Like It's 2009

Bill Berkowitz
May 22, 2013

A recent headline at the reliably conservative web site may say it all: "IRS Targeting Brings Tea Party Back From Dead." After a few years in the political wilderness, thanks to the IRS scandal, the Tea Party is once again in the national political spotlight, and it is clearly prospering from the exposure.

Tea Party activists are getting even more fired up than usual, legal entities are jumping into the fray and there is certain to be a flood of lawsuits filed, fundraising letters are being sent, Republican Party politicians are once again lurking, and protests are being staged.

On Tuesday, May 21, officially designated as "Rein in the IRS" day by the Tea Party Patriots, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of Tea Party supporters showed up at various locations around the U.S. reported that "two dozen Tea Party protesters rallied outside the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in downtown Boston ... demanding further investigation into the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of some Tea Party and conservative groups for scrutiny when applying for non-profit status."

Rallies were held outside IRS offices in Cincinnati, Atlanta; Louisville; Chicago; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Helena, Mont.; Philadelphia; Phoenix, and Providence, R.I., among others.

On the legal front, ABC News reported that Jay Sekulow, the chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative legal organization originally founded and funded by Pat Robertson, said the group will be bringing a lawsuit on behalf of many of those groups next week.

According to ABC News, "ACLJ represents 27 tea party organizations that feel they were unfairly targeted by the IRS. Ten of the groups ACLJ represents still have pending applications to get tax-exempt status, while 15 did receive tax-exempt status."

"The admission and apology by the IRS that the criteria used [in tea party applications] was not correct and inappropriate" is grounds for a suit, Sekulow said in an interview with ABC News because groups he represents are "still getting letters requesting information," and he believes, "if we don't file suit we won't bring an end to this."

Tea Party Patriots, a group that was founded in 2009 as a 501(c) (4) non-profit corporation in 2009, called for the "Rein in the IRS" demonstrations in a post on its web site:

"The IRS is out of control," the post read. "On behalf of Tea Party, Patriot groups, 9/12, liberty activists, and the American people, we are calling for anyone and everyone to protest the IRS' complete abuse of power on Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at noon local time."

ABC News also reported that The Tea Party Patriots, "wrote a letter to the IRS [last week] saying it was 'presently preparing lawsuits to be filed against the IRS on behalf of those organizations.' It wrote it was advising the IRS of the development in order to make sure relevant documents were not destroyed, saying it wanted 'to place a litigation hold on all documents, correspondence and other materials related to the 'targeting,' including all electronic information, emails (whether sent or received on government or personal email accounts or devices), correspondence, etc., all phone records, notes, and papers of the IRS employees who have been involved, at all levels within the Service.'"

As Devin Burghart, vice president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights, recently reported, Tea Party Patriots is "one of the largest of the movement's national factions, [and] it is taking advantage of the so-called IRS scandal to re-ignite the anger of Tea Partiers, encourage their (false) sense of victimhood, and increase their ranks."

In a recent piece titled "Tea Party Group Protesting IRS Has History of Questionable Political Involvement," Burghart pointed out that "As IREHR noted last year, Tea Party Patriots, Inc., which registered with the IRS as a 501(C)(4) non-profit organization, may have run afoul of its tax exempt status with ... electoral activity. Federally registered non-profit organizations with a 501(c)(4) status are prohibited from devoting a majority of their energy and resources to support electoral campaigns."

And so far, the Tea Party's outrage and indignation is paying off with the public. A recent CNN/ORC poll revealed that the Tea Party's approval ratings had risen; 37 percent of those surveyed had a positive view of the Tea Party, "up 9 points from their 28 percent positive rating in March, and just one percentage point shy of the movement's all-time high in previous CNN polls, reached twice at the height of the movement in 2010," reported.

Forty-five percent "still have a negative opinion of the Tea Party, [a] number [that] is down three points from the previous survey."

"Politically, the group that may have benefitted the most from last week's news is the Tea Party movement, which may be getting something akin to a 'sympathy vote' for being targeted by the highly unpopular IRS," CNN polling director Keating Holland said.

That hearings into the IRS scandal are likely to continue into the foreseeable future, that lawsuits are sure to be filed, and that springtime is traditional protest time in the U.S., should keep the fires burning for Tea Party groups across the country.

As long as the Tea Party can keep its political agenda off the front pages, and have the media focus on the IRS's behavior, the public may continue to feel sympathetic.


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