Tea party leaders banded together Thursday morning to sound a rallying cry for the first time since news broke last week that the IRS disproportionately scrutinized conservative nonprofits applying for tax-exempt status.
Convened by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former presidential candidate and chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, the news conference outside the Capitol included tea party allies in the House and Senate, national leaders and representatives from local groups around the country.
Their rhetoric left little room to wonder how they feel about the recent developments.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, called for an audit of the IRS, which she described as “thuggish.” Adam Brandon, the executive vice president of FreedomWorks, said the government was operating more like “a third world junta than a constitutional republic.”
“It’s an abuse of power, potentially by this administration, to advance their own political ends,” Bachmann told a crowd of reporters afterward. “And story after story after story leads one to the conclusion, based upon the presumptive evidence, that the administration was willing to misuse and abuse government power to advance its own re-election chances in the next election. That’s wrong.”
Lawmakers and political organizers pledged one after another that this is an issue that won’t temper a roaring boil anytime soon, and that they would continue to speak out until they had answers.
They were also joined by pro bono attorneys on Thursday, a clear signal that the voices of those targeted by the IRS will only grow louder.
“They lost funding, they lost donors,” said Jordan Sekulow, the executive director for the American Center for Law and Justice. “We have a group out of Tennessee that lost a $3,000 donation because they weren’t approved.
“There are monetary damages here. Events had to be canceled. Attorney fees before they hired us … groups hired local attorneys and were not allowed to even operate once they got approved,” Sekulow said.
Though revelations about IRS misconduct became public May 10, conservative organizations have been voicing concerns beginning around February 2012, at which point 27 of them became clients of Sekulow’s group.