Tea Party Group Screams IRS Persecution, But Judge Ruled They Illegally Aided the GOP in 2012

true the vote

Catherine Engelbrecht, True the Vote’s president, is screaming IRS persecution to Breitbart, “The IRS treatment of us lends to the appearance of a politically-motivated abuse of power and an assault on free speech.” She continued, “We applied for nonprofit C-3 status early in 2010. Since that time the IRS has run us through a gauntlet of analysts and hundreds of questions over and over again.”

Actually, it’s not an assault on “free speech”, it’s an assault on the unlawful behavior of True the Vote, but Breitbart left that part out because it doesn’t fit their agenda. Who cares if True the Vote donates to Republicans or gets busted as NOT A NONPROFIT, but rather a PAC, eh? Oh, the screeching, hysterical persecution!

On March 28, 2012, Chron reported that a Texas Tea Party group with the word “Patriot” in its title was found by a judge to be a PAC and not a nonprofit. The judge ruled that as such, it illegally aided the Republican Party in poll watching efforts during the 2010 elections. The King Street Patriots/True the Vote are not a nonprofit, but a PAC:

A Travis County district court judge ruled this week that a Houston-based tea party group is not a nonprofit corporation as it claims, but an unregistered political action committee that illegally aided the Republican Party through its poll-watching efforts during the 2010 elections.

The summary judgment by Judge John Dietz upheld several Texas campaign finance laws that had been challenged on constitutional grounds by King Street Patriots, a tea party organization known for its “True the Vote” effort to uncover voter fraud.

The ruling grew out of a 2010 lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party against the King Street Patriots. The Democrats charged that the organization made unlawful political contributions to the Texas Republican Party and various Republican candidates by training poll watchers in cooperation with the party and its candidates and by holding candidate forums only for GOP candidates.

You might be thinking, well, heck, that’s just one state. And you’d be correct, except that the King Street Patriot’s True the Vote operates all over the country, and has run afoul of the law and ethics numerous times.

AlterNet was not impressed, writing in October of 2012 that True the Vote urged poll workers in key Ohio counties “to supplement their official state training with TrueTheVote materials.” Of course, as they point out, “it is a crime in Ohio to interfere with conducting an election. Moreover, after the 2004 presidential election the state signed a federal consent decree that, among other things, established uniform poll worker training.”

True the Vote, operating as the misnamed Voter Integrity Project in Ohio, was barred from Franklin County after allegations of falsified signatures. Falsifying the forms is a fifth degree felony, and even a neophyte is expected to be able to read this warning, which is handily placed right on the form.

There were charges yesterday that the candidates’ names had either been falsified or merely copied on forms requesting observer status for the True the Vote at several Franklin County polling places. Many are in predominantly African American neighborhoods.

There were allegations of True the Vote intimidating minorities as well. Targeting minorities also runs afoul of election law and tends to be frowned upon. True the Votes “voter fraud” allegations were tossed out in Florida. Turns out, that didn’t happen either.

Hannah Giles of James O’Keefe pimp and prostitute deceptively edited ACORN videos infamy is now palling around with True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht. They’ve formed Citizen Patriot Response. Spot the trend? If you were looking for folks who violated the law, and you needed a shortcut for it, what words would you pick out just based on the actions of True the Vote/King Street Patriots?

I’ve been pointing out that since Citizens United, the influx of conservative groups seeking tax exempt status blew up, yet conservative groups made up only 1/3 of all of the groups “targeted”. But another reason why conservatives may have been drawing the eye of the IRS is that with the growth of the Tea Party, many “neophytes” got involved, and they didn’t understand the rules. Mother Jones explained:

Since 2009, the Tea Party Patriots, a large national umbrella group, has claimed no fewer than 3,500 affiliates. Many applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, a prime reason the agency was so overwhelmed with applications. The people leading these groups were often neophytes politically and organizationally—or, as Dan Backer, a lawyer for TheTeaParty.net, explained in an interview with Mother Jones this week, “they didn’t understand the complexity of what’s involved.”

Ignorance is not an excuse in the eyes of the law. You are expected to operate within the law, no matter how ignorant you claim to be, or your behavior suggests that you are.

True the Vote also claims to be nonpartisan, but gave $5,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee. “The RSLC is the largest caucus of Republican state leaders and the only national organization whose mission is to elect down ballot, state-level Republican office-holders.” The IRS expressly prohibits 501(c)(3) organizations from engaging in political activity. So, you can see why the IRS would have to be asleep on the job to fail to scrutinize True the Vote and King Street Patriots and their offshoots of Patriot this and Patriot that.

Southern Studies reported:

True the Vote’s tax status has been a source of ongoing controversy. In their 2010 tax returns, True the Vote and the Houston-based tea party group that founded it, King Street Patriots, claimed to be a 501(c)(3) organization. However, the IRS doesn’t consider either group to be a 501(c)(3), a fact which the True the Vote website implicitly admits by saying its 501(c)(3) status is “pending.”

There has been no proof that the IRS targeted these groups for political reasons, and that is the only evidence that would create a scandal. There is ample evidence that True the Vote and King Street Patriots have repeatedly invited scrutiny due to their repeated and blatant disregard for the law.

It should surprise no one that Breitbart is defending a group that has run into legal trouble before. However, in reality land, it’s not persecution when you have been ruled by a judge to have violated the law, pretending to operate as a nonprofit when you are really operating as a PAC. It’s not persecution; it’s whining that special rules aren’t made for you and your group, and that you must conduct yourselves by the same standards as everyone else.

Image: Southern Studies

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