Tags: friends | Abe | IRS | Hollywood

IRS Targets Hollywood Conservatives

Image: IRS Targets Hollywood Conservatives From left: Gary Sinise, Kelsey Grammer and Jon Voight

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 09:28 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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A conservative group in Hollywood, shrouded in secrecy for fear of a backlash from powerful movie industry liberals, is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service after applying for tax-exempt status.

Friends of Abe has attempted to stay under the radar and is fiercely determined to protect the identity of its 1,500 members, The New York Times reports.

But now the group has come under the scrutiny of the IRS after the federal agency requested information about its meetings with politicians including 2012 vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, former Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, and 2012 presidential hopeful Hermain Cain, according to anonymous sources who have inside knowledge of the probe.

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The report says the IRS has been investigating Friends of Abe — named after Abraham Lincoln — for two years and has had access to its security-protected website containing all the members' names.

Ever since the organization was launched a decade ago, it has endeavored to keep a veil of silence surrounding its members, even banning cameras at events to avoid publication of pictures of its associates.

The Times claims, however, that some supporters, who include Gary Sinise, Kelsey Grammer and Jon Voight, have admitted to their conservative leanings in public.

“It’s a growing movement, and word is getting out that there’s many of us in this business,” singer Pat Boone told The Washington Times in 2008. At the time, he was one of the few conservative stars who spoke openly about the group's existence.  “If certain studio execs - hirers and firers - learn that this is a movement and growing, and that some of these people that they hire are of this inclination, these people could be unemployed,” Boone explained.

In 2011, Clint Howard, a conservative actor who is the brother of actor and director Ron Howard, told Newsmax that conservatives are still outcasts who have “trepidations” that their political orientation in a sea of outspoken liberals will sink their careers.

Though he was openly conservative, Howard still stressed that he had to choose his words carefully when discussing politics in Hollywood.

“For years conservative-minded people have been kind of subjected to a lot of — I wouldn’t say bullying, no it’s not bullying,” he told Newsmax. “Conservative minded people have been subjected to a very liberal work place, and it has been frustrating.”

The IRS investigation comes at a time when the agency has been under fire in Congress for targeting groups the tea party movement and other conservative groups over their tax exempt status.

Unlike those groups, Friends of Abe is hoping to win approval from the agency for a status allowing members to claim a tax deduction as long as they do not take part in any partisan political activity.

Jeremy Boreing, executive director of Friends of Abe, told the Times that his organization has "has absolutely no political agenda." He added, "It exists to create fellowship among like-minded individuals."

The organization — whose name is a take on Friends of Bill which consists of people loyal to former President Bill Clinton — was launched in 2005 through an email chain connecting conservatives in the film industry. Although Sinise, best known for his role as Lt. Dan in "Forrest Gump," was the initial leader, he stepped back from his position as the organization grew stronger.

In conversations with the IRS, the group was specifically asked about meetings with Ryan, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Republican Los Angeles mayoral candidate Kevin James, who is unrelated to the "King of Queens" actor of the same name.

The agency is also said to have been particularly interested in Cain speaking at a Friends of Abe event in 2011.

Over the past few years, the group has  staged events that have included such notable Republican guests as House Speaker John Boehner and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, as well as political strategists Karl Rove and Frank Luntz and conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Mark Levin.

"The IRS would say that if you are inviting only conservative candidates, that’s a problem," Marcus Owens, a former director of the agency's exempt organizations division, told The Times.

"But it’s never really been litigated."

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