Tennessee tea party groups targeted in IRS probe - WSMV Channel 4

Tennessee tea party groups targeted in IRS probe

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Tea party members across the country, including in Middle Tennessee, are outraged with the Internal Revenue Service, as the agency is now under federal investigation for targeting certain conservative groups.

Many of those groups apply for what is called 501(c)(4) status, which keeps much of their operation exempt from taxes as long as they promote what the government calls "social welfare."

New documents reveal that the IRS put extra scrutiny on applications from groups that protest government spending, including some targeted members in the Volunteer State.

A local conservative group is one of many claiming the IRS targeted them for political reasons.

Kevin Kookogey, founder of Linchpins of Liberty, says the IRS delayed his group's application for tax-exempt status in 2011 because of his conservative affiliation.

The IRS apologized Friday for inappropriate "flagging" of conservative groups, including many with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their names.

Kookogey said Monday that after waiting for months he was told his application had been delayed while agents waited for guidance from superiors on how to handle his group and similar organizations.

"Almost exactly eight weeks later I got the same letter that hundreds of other groups had gotten, asking for information that was well beyond the scope of the law or what the law would allow. That's when the American Center for Law and Justice got involved," said Kookogey.

The ACLJ is representing 27 groups targeted for special scrutiny by the IRS.

The ACLJ said the groups were asked to reveal member names, how they're selected, who they associate with and even what they discuss.

Kookogey said Friday's apology confirmed his suspicions that the IRS was out of line.

"I don't think people believed us. I think there was cynicism on the part of some that, ‘Oh, you're just paranoid that the IRS is coming after you.' But this confirms our suspicions and I think the fact that the story is unfolding, everyday we're going to learn more," said Kookogey.

Kookogey said he's already been in contact with committees in Washington, D.C. about testifying in future Congressional hearings on the matter and his group may even consider filing suit against the IRS.

"This is the worst kind of abuse of power. I mean, this is Nixonian. This is using government power against somebody because of their political ideology," said Ben Cunningham, president of Nashville Tea Party.

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