Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, tells Newsmax that the IRS employees responsible for targeting tea party groups and other conservative organizations need to be terminated or forced to resign.
But she doubts that lower level IRS employees could have taken those actions without "managerial supervision," and she rejects the IRS' apology, saying it doesn’t go far enough.
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Martin was one of three founders of the Tea Party Patriots in 2009, and is now national coordinator. She is co-author of the book "Tea Party Patriots: The Second American Revolution."
The Internal Revenue Service singled out tea party groups for special scrutiny in deciding whether to grant them tax-exempt status, and Martin says her group was one of those unfairly scrutinized.
"The Tea Party Patriots applied for both the 501(c)(4) and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from the IRS and we had never had our final answer for approval from them," she says in an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Monday.
"We've had requests for lots of different information from us and so they're stringing us along. It's been years. Before 2009, they were approving 501(c)(4) and (c)(3) statuses usually between four and nine months. That's how long it took. But in our case it's been years and it's been that way with several other tea party groups around the country."
As to why the IRS targeted her group, Martin says: "I cannot answer why, which is why we need to have a congressional hearing to find out exactly what the motives were behind this.
"What we saw from the AP reporting is that they were targeting groups with 'tea party' and 'patriots' in the name and they also were flagging any groups that wanted to make America better or to educate on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, and it's just crazy."
At a press conference earlier on Monday, President Barack Obama said he first learned of the IRS harassment from news reports. He says that it’s outrageous, there’s no place for it, and that the IRS should be held fully accountable.
Asked if she believes the unfair scrutiny came about from the lower echelons of government only, or if these IRS workers got the orders to target her from higher-ups, Martin responds: "I don't know whether they got the orders from higher ups or not, which is part of the reason why we need to have an investigation and make sure we fully understand how high it went.
"On Friday, Lois Lerner, who is an attorney with the IRS, said it was only lower level employees. Well, on Saturday we found out that in June of 2011, this same lady, Lois Lerner, actually was aware of this situation with the tea party groups in the IRS. So is she a lower level employee?
"It doesn't make any sense that just a few lower level employees could have caused this much trouble for groups all over the country without some kind of managerial supervision involved."
There are also reports that this harassment extends beyond the tea party and conservative groups and that groups that are critical of the government, and maybe even a pro-Israel group, could have been targeted as well.
Martin comments: "It is very, very concerning that this many groups are having so much trouble. When you collect money and spend money on certain political activities, when you're trying to express your concern about legislation, you have to have a status from the IRS and you have to comply with SEC rules and IRS regulations. If they're holding it out and preventing you from ever getting your status approved, it affects your ability to exercise that free speech. And it concerns me greatly to find out that it's not just tea party groups but also potentially pro-Israel and Jewish groups. It seems like it's more widespread than originally thought."
The IRS has apologized, but Martin does not accept the apology.
"No, a simple apology is not enough. If an individual or a business made a mistake on their taxes, would the IRS accept just an apology? No they wouldn't.
"Those who did this need to be held accountable and they need to be disciplined. They need to be terminated or they need to resign. They are abusing their power by stringing groups along for as many years as this has been going on."
Martin's group might demand reimbursement from the IRS.
"We are working with our attorneys right now and with our accountants to find out how much money this has indeed cost us," she explains.
"We've spent a lot of time and resources on this over the years. We've helped other groups who've run into the same problems. We've made our attorneys available to those groups to help them as well. So we're looking at all of that to determine exactly how much it's cost us and whether we can actually sue for damages or not. It has been harmful to us.
"If we can sue, we will."
The IRS' targeting of conservative groups raises serious questions about how it plans to handle the taxes and penalties associated with Obamacare, according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Martin agrees.
"In fact, this is one of the first things I thought of on Friday, and this is exactly part of the reason why we're so concerned about Obamacare.
"The IRS and unelected bureaucrats should not have this much power over the American people. And when they're abusing this kind of power and it's something that is not as consequential as a person's health, it's very, very concerning.
"It should make us question, do you really want the IRS to have this much control over groups and abuse their power like this and potentially do it in the future when it comes to your own healthcare decisions? I know I don’t and I'm willing to bet most Americans don’t want that to happen either, regardless of political affiliation."
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