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WI conservatives say IRS scandal having chilling effect

By   /   May 22, 2013  /   6 Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – The weather may be warming up in Wisconsin, but there’s a political chill on the conservative grassroots ground in the Badger State.

Wisconsin tea party members tell Wisconsin Reporter the Internal Revenue Service scandal has had a chilling effect on political dialogue in conservative circles.

While they once harbored suspicions the IRS might be targeting them for partisan reasons, now many tea party and patriot groups say they are convinced.

“It’s been scary” said Kim Simac, president and founder of the Eagle River-based  Northwoods Patriots told Wisconsin Reporter. “I had resigned myself to the idea that the cars could come up the driveway someday.”

CHILL IN THE AIR: Pro-Walker tea party members rally in late winter 2011. Conservative groups in the Badger State say the IRS scandal has hit a nerve among the grassroots movement.

Like scores of fellow conservative organizations nationally bearing the name “Tea Party” or “Patriots” or “9/12” seeking tax-exempt status, Simac’s Patriots confronted “intimidating” forms.

“We all knew it was going on. I’m just glad it’s being flushed out,” said Simac, who unsuccessfully ran against then-incumbent Sen. Jim Hoperin, D-Conover, in a 2011 recall election. “Everybody on both sides should want to have a legitimate, credible and reliable government.”

Lois Lerner, the IRS executive who led the division that flagged and stalled conservative groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, invoked her constitutional rights against self-incrimination Wednesday, refusing to talk about the scandal at a House Oversight Committee hearing. Lerner would only say she didn’t do anything wrong and broke no laws.

“I have not violated any IRS rules and regulations,” Lerner said adding that, contrary to lawmakers’ claims, she never lied to Congress.

But Lerner’s pleading the Fifth Amendment only fueled conservative concerns in the politically charged scandal. Republicans, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, have called on President Obama to appoint a special prosecutor. The president has declined that call.

On Sunday, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, called the scandal “rotten to the core,” asserting the IRS’ actions give the American people the opportunity to see “big government in practice.”

State Rep. Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, a year before his election in 2010, built the Fox Valley Initiative, a political action committee with a mission to “promote limited government, lower taxes, and integrity and accountability in government.”

Steineke said he hasn’t had anything to do with the PAC in a couple of years, but he still is connected to his region’s tea party grassroots movement. The conservative lawmaker admitted to being reluctant in talking to a reporter about the IRS scandal.

“When I got the message that you had called about this particular story, I hesitated to call back and speak out,” Steineke said of Wisconsin Reporter’s request for an interview. “Nobody wants to be a target of the IRS or any other federal agent.

“I had to think about it, and that is troubling,” he added. “But this is too important of an issue for us, whether we are state legislators or any other citizen — We have to speak out.”

Marv Munyon, secretary/treasurer for the Rock River Patriots, a southern Wisconsin tea party organization, told Wisconsin Reporter earlier this month he applied for 501(c)(4) for the group in April 2012. The organization had yet to be approved, although the IRS cashed the Rock River Patriots’ application fee of $400 on May 2, 2012, according to Munyon.

He said he received a letter Jan. 29, 2013, informing him “the initial screening of the application of your case should be assigned to an exempt organizations specialist for technical review. We assign applications to specialists in the order that we receive them.”

The letter further states, “Unfortunately, we are experiencing delays in working applications that require further development.”

Although he has filed the organization’s tax forms, noting the tax-exempt application was pending, Munyon said he still was awaiting word from the IRS.

“I just got a bunch of static out of the IRS,” he said.

John Pierce, vice chairman of the Fox Valley Initiative, said he doesn’t want the IRS scandal to be a “jumping off point” to make conservatives look like they’re sad, abused people. He just wants the facts to go where they may go.

“If Obama and his groups have the arrogance to continue to push this, I think the events will unfold,” Pierce said.

For now, he said, tea party organizations appear to be in the same boat.

“Some of us have been targeted, others not,” Pierce said. “I think this thing should be investigated.”

Contact M.D. Kittle at mkittle@wisconsinreporter.com

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Kittle is a 25-year veteran of radio, newspaper and online journalism. In July 2011, Kittle joined Watchdog.org as bureau chief for Wisconsin Reporter. He has spent much of the past three years covering the seismic political changes taking place in the Badger State. Last year, Kittle joined Watchdog’s national reporting team, covering everything from energy policy to governmental assaults on civil rights. Beyond being published in Wisconsin’s daily newspapers and in multimedia news outlets, Kittle’s work has appeared on Fox News, and in Human Events, Reason Magazine, Newsmax and Town Hall. His special investigation into a politically charged John Doe probe, “Wisconsin’s Secret War,” was the basis of a 2014 documentary on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze. Kittle has made several appearances on Fox News, including “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. He serves as weekly politics commentator for Lake 96.1 FM in Lake Geneva, and WRJN-AM 1400 in Racine. His resume includes multiple awards for journalism excellence from The Associated Press, Inland Press, Wisconsin Broadcast Association and other journalism associations. Contact Kittle at mkittle@watchdog.org.

  • Jack Lohman

    How dare us, impede the far-right wackos, and the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove as they try to take over our economy. I frankly prefer that political money on BOTH sides be eliminated with public funding of campaigns.

  • Amfortas5

    Jack, I see you have learned to mimic the talking points. Your IQ now
    equals your age. Like Mama Says “Stupid is as Stupid Does…. Was that you holding the dumb sign?

  • Jack Lohman

    Dig hole, insert head, drink their Kool-Aide.

  • Richardo

    Hey Jack boy, You forgot to name your side, Soros and the rest of the gang, Gates, Schultz, Buffet, Immelt, Bernanke and all the entertainers who use the airwaves to spew forth their progressive ideology, they own the economy the other side is merely trying to stop the bleeding. As an independent I am appalled at all the political infighting and lack of fixing that is going on in congress but especially the outright lack of details coming out about Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, Benghazi and the treatment of anyone who disagrees with the current administration along with the attack on christianity. Frankly, I’m for a clean house in congress and the current administration,

  • Jack Lohman

    As a Romney voter I am more in the center, though I do put Gates’ use of wealth higher than Blankfein’s. I agree on Fast & Furious and other scandals, but am not willing to give the R’s a free pass.

  • helpusall

    It is NOT about the left or the right, it is about RIGHT AND WRONG, it is about “abuse of power” by ANYONE with that “assumed” authority. Name calling and attacking citzens for their views is what the “left and right” both want. Bait & switch, point fingers, blame others, smoke screen, cause friction to destroy the U.S. is the ultimate goal. Every individual is responsible for the choices made individually. If a mistake is made, admit to it and correct it. Instead…… the “assumed powerful” cover it up and enjoin others for personal gain to aid in cover up. Their “bad”. The problem is an astounding weakness by those wrong doers to admit to failures and weakness to do the right thing, which causes threats of retaliation and further weakness out of fear or exposure. Courage is doing the “right” thing. Attacking fellow citizens for their right leaning or left leaning views does nothing. The guilty KNOW who they are and weakness, defensiveness, lashing out at the wrong people is not productive. Government, politicians, legislation is weak for not upholding the “LAWS” they make. Instead…. they “spin” and “twist” and “abrogate” those same laws because they are too WEAK to do the right thing. Engage your brain before you speak, don’t be influenced by the right & left, all are guilty of sin.