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Blakeman: IRS Targeted Freedom's Watch and its Donors

By Paul Scicchitano   |   Friday, 31 May 2013 11:47 PM

At the same time IRS investigators were targeting tea party groups and other conservative organizations, the agency also was targeting the already established Freedom's Watch organization, and its largest donors, according to former president and CEO Bradley Blakeman.

In an exclusive interview on Friday, Blakeman said that he was personally targeted by the IRS, but declined to say how much he spent on a two-year battle to clear his name and that of his now-defunct organization. He said the amount was “considerable” in personal time, attorneys’ fees and money spent on an accounting firm specializing in executive compensation.

The IRS, Blakeman said, came up empty handed.

“At the end of the day they got nothing,” said Blakeman, referring to the audit of his personal taxes. The organization wound up paying a relatively small fee of $12,000 based on its $100 million annual budget. “As a matter of fact the IRS agent almost apologized for having put me through that.”

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Freedom's Watch was formed in 2007 to educate the public for the need for President George W. Bush’s troop surge in Iraq. The organization shut down in 2009, according to Blakeman, who is also a Newsmax contributor and frequent analyst on Fox News.

“The IRS targeted us on donors, donations and tried to intimidate our donors saying there was a gift tax. They said that our advocacy was not legitimate; it was political — and they sent gift tax letters to our major donors and tried to intimidate them. And then they also targeted me personally and said that I was over compensated.”

Blakeman had to prove otherwise.

“I had to prove that my compensation was just,” he said. “I had to hire an accounting firm that specializes in executive compensation.

"As a matter of fact the IRS agent almost apologized for having put me through that.”

While he did not know who in the agency authorized the audits on Freedom's Watch at the time, Blakeman said that he now understands the audits came out of the same division once run by embattled IRS official Lois Lerner who invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination at a congressional hearing last week. She has been placed on executive leave from the agency.

“We were told that somebody made a complaint,” Blakeman recalled. “They wouldn’t tell us who.”

He said that he had no idea such abuses were rampant within the agency.

“We knew it was political targeting, but we didn’t know that it was systemic within the IRS until now,” he explained. “Then we put two and two together and said ‘not only were they going after start-up 501 (c)(4)s but they were going after established and even defunct 501 (c)(4)s in an effort to intimidate, harass and put fear into those people who were involved.”

A former member of President Bush’s senior staff with a law degree, Blakeman acknowledged that he was frightened at the time.

“If anything I was paid less than I was worth — and they didn’t get a dime from me and we were able to prove that I was paid justly — but the intimidation was that I was personally liable for any over payment plus penalty and interest,” he asserted. “I was scared to death of the IRS coming after me because of their power — and I had to fight.”

Freedom's Watch spent a total of $56 million over its lifespan, including radio and TV spots as well as print advertising, he added.

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At one point, the group took on The New York Times for giving MoveOn.org a favorable ad rate.

“We uncovered it and then it went to the ombudsman and the ombudsman wrote a scathing rebuke of The Times.”

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