Tea Party Groups Describe IRS 'Fear, Intimidation'

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Conservative groups targeted by the Internal Revenue Service told their side of the story to Congress in a hearing Tuesday.

"Betrayal," "fear," and "intimidation" are some of the words they used to describe how they felt while applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS.

"I'm a born-free American woman. I'm telling my government, 'You've forgotten your place,'" said Becky Gerriston, the president of a Tea Party group in Alabama.

One group says it waited three years before the agency approved its tax-exempt status. Another is still waiting. But they're all united in their belief that they were targeted because of their conservative views.

"The Wetumpka Tea Party filled out a complete application. Our organization fell within the boundaries of receiving a 501c4 status, yet our application was singled out solely because we had 'Tea Party' in our name," Wetumpka President Becky Garritson told lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee.

"Nearly three years in waiting for an answer is totally unacceptable," testified Dianne Belsom, Laurens County Tea Party of South Carolina. "The IRS needs to be fully investigated and held accountable for its incompetence, harassment and targeting of conservative groups."

The president of The Coalition for Life of Iowa testified that the IRS asked about the content of their prayers, and demanded they promise not to demonstrate outside Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Marriage testified that someone from within the IRS leaked their confidential tax documents to a gay activist group, the Human Rights Campaign.

 "The copy of our tax returns and our list of donors that was posted there was redacted," the NOM's John Eastman said. "Our computer forensic people were able to unlayer the redactions from that PDF file and discovered that the original document that was posted there had originated from within the IRS."

Eastman says that means it's very possible someone at the IRS committed a felony.
The House panel is one of three congressional committees investigating the IRS scandal. The Justice Department is conducting a separate criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel says he knows the agency has to correct its problems.

"The agency stands ready to confront the problems that occurred, hold accountable those who acted inappropriately," Werfel said.

But Republicans, far from satisfied, want to see just what action the IRS will take.

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