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IRS tactics against conservatives outrage NH groups

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 13. 2013 9:47PM

David Stewart of Enfield at a Tea Party rally in Victory Park in Manchester protesting the last day to file a 2008 tax return, Wednesday, April 15, 2009. (Union Leader File Photo)

Some Granite State conservatives were quick to condemn the idea that the nation's tax collector is going after political organizations based on ideological leanings.

The former chairman of the state Republican Party said he is appalled at reports that Internal Revenue Service agents have been singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny of their tax-exempt status.

"This is egregious," said Jack Kimball, who has been active in Tea Party politics and heads the Granite State Patriots Liberty political action committee. "I think it's tyrannical ... this is the kind of stuff that has no place in America."

Kimball said he expects the IRS controversy to blow up into a full-scale scandal.

"This government is very much out of control," Kimball said. "It's not a surprise, it seems to be the tone of this administration."

State Rep. Bill O'Brien, R-Mont Vernon, a former House Speaker and current congressional candidate,
said the practice needs to be thoroughly condemned.

An attorney, O'Brien said he recently completed an application for tax-exempt status for a non-political group involved in animal welfare and found the differences in questions to be remarkable. O'Brien compared that application to reports of a questionnaire sent to a group active in conservative causes.

"I am concerned when I look over the communications (the IRS) had with a Texas conservative group where they were sending back multi-page questionnaires that had nothing to do with legitimately establishing a tax-exempt status," O'Brien said. "It was quite clear to me that it was being misused."

He said the abuses need to be stopped.

"I'm concerned that the agency would start looking at Tea Party groups, patriot groups, folks that are oriented toward Israel, and start targeting those groups," O'Brien said. "It's exactly what shouldn't happen. This is the group that will enforce many aspects of Obamacare; it's frightening, it's chilling."

Jason Somero of New Ipswich, who has been active in state-oriented Tea Party groups, said the practice shows an intolerance for political opponents.

"I would say it's not surprising," Somero said. "It seems to be the tone of this administration."

Democrats have also condemned the practice, Democratic Rep. Carol Shea Porter called it unacceptable.

"If reports of IRS employees violating this standard are true, they should be held accountable," Shea Porter said in a statement released Monday.

Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte called the practice Orwellian.

"There should be a zero tolerance policy for this type of behavior at the IRS," Ayotte said in a statement. "Those who are responsible must be held fully accountable."

For some, the situation brings flashbacks to the Watergate era, and the allegations that President Nixon used the power of the IRS to come down on political opponents.

"I remember feeling that one of the positive results of that national agony was when the IRS had apparently been put beyond political control," O'Brien said. "It's really disappointing to me and I'm sure to a lot of folks."

Reuters reported Monday that higher-level IRS officials took part in discussions as far back as August 2011 about targeting by lower-level tax agents of "Tea Party" and other conservative groups.

President Barack Obama said it was "outrageous" if true that the IRS gave extra scrutiny to right-leaning groups. "They have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity, and people have to have confidence that they're ... applying the laws in a nonpartisan way," he said at the White House.

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