Tags: tea | party | irs | election

AEI's Veuger: IRS Held Tea Party Down in 2012 Elections

Monday, 24 Jun 2013 03:05 PM

By Dan Weil

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The Internal Revenue Service's targeting of tea party groups prevented the movement from producing more votes for Republicans in last year's elections, Stan Veuger, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute, recently wrote on Real Clear Markets.

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His numbers suggest those votes could have made the difference in allowing Mitt Romney to defeat President Barack Obama.

"Some conservatives suspect . . . the levers of government were used to attack an existential threat to the president's 2012 reelection," he says.

"The president and his party dismiss this as a paranoid fantasy. The evidence, however, is enough to make one believe that targeting tea party groups would have been an effective campaign strategy going into the 2012 election cycle."

In 2010, the tea party provided the GOP with 3 million to 6 million additional votes in House races, Veuger says. "That is an astonishing boost, given that all Republican House candidates combined received fewer than 45 million votes," he writes.

"It demonstrates conclusively how important the party's newly energized base was to its landslide victory in those elections, and how worried Democratic strategists must have been about the conservative movement's momentum."

So what impact could the tea party have had last year?

"The data show that had the tea party groups continued to grow at the pace seen in 2009 and 2010, and had their effect on the 2012 vote been similar to that seen in 2010, they would have brought the Republican Party as many as 5 million to 8.5 million votes compared to Obama's victory margin of 5 million."

In other words, the tea party could have brought a Romney victory.

Veuger cites Florida as an example. Obama won the state by only 75,000 votes. "That is less than 25 percent of our estimate of what the tea party's impact in Florida was in 2010."

"Unfortunately for Republicans, the IRS slowed tea party growth before the 2012 election," Veuger writes. Starting in March 2010, the IRS gave extra scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status from tea party groups.

"For the next two years, the IRS approved the applications of only four such groups, delaying all others while subjecting the applicants to highly intrusive, intimidating requests for information regarding their activities, membership, contacts, Facebook posts, and private thoughts," he states.

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"As a consequence, the founders, members, and donors of new tea party groups found themselves incapable of exercising their constitutional rights, and the tea party's impact was muted in the 2012 election cycle."

While the targeting of the tea party groups may have started in the agency's Cincinnati office, "IRS officials in Washington failed to blunt what might have been a case of political tone deafness from snowballing into the agency’s worst crisis in years," according to Politico.

"The transcripts [of interviews with IRS employees] paint a picture of an agency headquarters plagued by poor communication and mismanagement once it became aware of — and accepted responsibility for — the flagged tea party cases in early 2010," Politico reported.

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