By Calvin Thompson | Colorado Watchdog
DENVER — In the wake of the Internal Revenue Service profiling scandal, a Colorado tea party chapter now says it was given extra scrutiny by the tax-collecting agency after it applied for non-profit status.
La Plata County’s 4 Corners Liberty filed for 501(c)(4) status in 2011. Wendy Cox, one of its organizers, told Colorado Watchdog that soon after she sent in the application, she got the “the letter,” the now infamous questionnaire that tea party groups across the country have reported receiving.
“We got a bunch of questions,” she said. “All the questions were just so wrong. They asked for silly things that you could never possibly give them.”
The IRS letter asked 4 Corners Liberty for information on its website and social networking pages, the names of politicians the group maintained a relationship with, and a vague request for “all identified communications.”
Cox said she decided not to comply, and instead contacted attorney Jay Sekulow with the American Center for Law and Justice. The ACLJ has represented more than 30 tea party groups across the country on this issue. After ACLJ contacted the IRS, 4 Corners Liberty was granted 501(c)(4) nonprofit status, but Cox said other groups still faced hurdles.
Some Colorado tea party organizers told Colorado Watchdog they knew various branches were having trouble with IRS paperwork. Kyle Stults, director of communications for the Evergreen Tea Party, said the IRS snafu was a concern of the founding members. Group founder Kurt Bierkan highlighted those concerns in a statement to Watchdog.
“We were very aware of the rumors of IRS intimidation when we filed for 501(c)(4) status with the CO Secretary of State, but went ahead anyway as we had no choice if we were to continue,” Bierkan wrote. “There was no indication we were specifically targeted; nonetheless the atmosphere was toxic and required a determined, defiant attitude in order to persevere.”
According to Cox, at least a couple of nearby tea party groups were so discouraged so by IRS demands that they did not follow up on their 501(c)(4) applications, including the Durango Tea Party.
Organizers of the Durango Tea Party group were unavailable for comment.
At least one conservative organization didn’t see the point in applying for nonprofit status after hearing of the stonewalling practices of the IRS. Four Corners 9-12 Project, the Colorado branch of the national 9-12 project created by conservative media personality Glenn Beck, decided the application process was not an efficient use of its time.
“We had a member who advised against it,” said organizer Bud Garner.
Since 2010, when the IRS is first known to have targeted conservative organizations, many branches of Colorado’s movement have become defunct. But the tea party organizers are still bitter about the treatment.
“We did feel persecuted,” Bierkan wrote in his statement. “We were angry about that and defiant.”
Contact Calvin Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @watchdogco.