Tea Party Called On IRS To Revoke Tax-Exempt Status Of NAACP

Understanding the IRS Tea Party targeting policy as something other than a terrible plot against freedom requires looking at the political context of 2010. Both parties attempted to use the IRS to intimidate their opponents. The Tea Party was more vulnerable on account of its explicit racist extremism.
The Tea Party, which is currently expressing outrage at having been targeted in some fashion for review by the IRS during 2010, in July of that year called upon the IRS to conduct an investigation of the NAACP, for “engaging in habitual partisan political behavior.”

The Tea Party encouraged its member groups and “similar organizations” to flood the IRS with complaints about the NAACP, demanding an investigation into whether the civil rights group had become too political to retain its tax-exempt status.

Why did the Tea Party feel this was an appropriate move?

Because the NAACP had issued a resolution at their 2010 national convention in Kansas City, MO calling on the Tea Party to renounce racism and other bigotry in their ranks. The resolution by the NAACP noted the heavy prevalence of racist posters and messaging and racist epithets (usually aimed at President Obama) at Tea Party events and on Tea Party websites.

The resolution also noted the demographic makeup of the Tea Party was decidedly white, well-off financially, with only 1% of the Tea Party being black people, and only 1% viewing persistent discrimination against "people of color" as being a real issue.

The reaction to this resolution was quick, as conservative pundits and the Tea Party groups began denouncing the NAACP as "racist".

The Saint Louis Tea Party Coalition passed its own resolution, complaining about the NAACP engaging in "the gutter tactic of attempting to silence opponents by inflammatory name-calling". The resolution concluded with a call on all Tea Party groups to attempt to silence the NAACP by getting the IRS to revoke the NAACP's tax-exempt status:
"Be it further resolved that these organizations call on the Internal Revenue Service to evenly apply their standards and consider the tax-exempt status of the NAACP considering the degree to which they are engaging in habitual partisan political behavior."
A few days after this, one Tea Party leader, Mark Williams, told CNN:
"I am disinclined to take lectures on racial sensitivity from a group [the NAACP] that insists on calling black people, 'Colored'...The Tea Party [movement] is about the constitution of this country...[and] ensuring equality for each and every individual human being."
To emphasize just how empty and misguided the NAACP charges against the Tea Party were, Williams then went on to write a racist screed so offensive, that the National Tea Party organization asked Williams' group, the Tea Party Express, to throw him out. When the Tea Party Express refused to do so, the national organization expelled the Tea Party Express and Williams.

As Eugene Robinson noted a few days later:
"When the nation's leading civil rights organization passed a resolution condemning displays of racism by Tea Party activists, leaders of the movement reacted with umbrage so thick you could cut it with a knife—then demonstrated that the NAACP's allegation was entirely justified."
Ironically, just a few weeks later, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, filed a formal complaint with the IRS, charging a Tea Party group, Americans For Prosperity Foundation, with running ads that were explicitly partisan, i.e. anti-Obama—a violation of the law. The complaint asked the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of the group.

In response to the complaint, which was eventually dismissed, Tim Phillips, president of Americans For  Prosperity Foundation was quoted as saying "the Democrats were going to the I.R.S. because they 'are scared of the impact A.F.P. is making.'"

What this shows is that the IRS was under intense pressure in 2010 from competing political groups to examine the tax exempt statuses of other groups. Democrats and Republicans were seeking to use the IRS to attempt to intimidate their political opponents.

On the other hand, the extreme rhetoric and conduct on the part of many Tea Party activists and leaders gave Democrats more leverage to argue that right-wing groups might be dangerous, or at least explicitly and primarily political in nature, and were improperly applying for and obtaining tax exemptions from the IRS.

This may also help to explain the focus by the IRS on screening Tea Party and similar organizations during 2010.

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