In what appears to be a brazen echo of the Lois Lerner scandal, a conservative watchdog group says the Biden administration is unfairly targeting it with an IRS audit in retaliation for its work which put a critical spotlight on would-be occupants of the Biden administration's inner sanctum.
The American Accountability Foundation (AAF), a conservative watchdog known for its longstanding scrutiny of public figures, alleges that the IRS has been "politically weaponized" - and began looking into their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status following their investigative work that spotlighted questionable aspects of President Biden's nominees to senior administrative roles. A letter from the IRS obtained by The Epoch Times indicates an examination of AAF's activities and requests extensive documentation, including all external communications.
AAF President Tom Jones sees this move as nothing short of a politically motivated crackdown, given the timing and nature of the IRS's audit request. According to Jones, the demand for records tied to current elected officials is a clear sign of targeting against the AAF's research and education activities. He has termed it a "deliberate attempt to punish and suppress" the foundation's work.
"This sudden request by the IRS is not random," Jones said in a statement, insisting that the records request is "clearly a sign that they are targeting our research and education activities."
"It's a deliberate attempt to punish and suppress AAF's activities. It is surely no coincidence that AAF—the very organization that exposed the weaponization of the IRS—is now the target of it," Jones added.
The AAF has been a thorn in the side of the Biden administration, running ad campaigns that brought to light the "radicalism" of nominees like Gigi Sohn for FCC chair, who eventually withdrew her nomination. The group's assertion is that it played a pivotal role in the unraveling of these candidacies by informing the public about what they perceived as extreme and partisan positions held by the nominees.
Not the first time
According to the report, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pressured the IRS to investigate other conservative groups like Turning Point USA and the Conservative Partnership Institute, alleging that their activities were politically charged and aimed at undermining democratic elections.
Cleta Mitchell, an attorney who represented conservative groups targeted by the IRS during Obama's presidency, sees a pattern in the AAF's ordeal - particularly given that the IRS has previously admitted wrongdoing in targeting conservative groups. The agency's past admissions of inappropriately increased scrutiny serve as a stark reminder that the IRS's actions are not forgotten and the potential for misuse of power remains a concern.
"As the attorney for many conservative, tea party groups targeted and harassed by the Obama IRS a decade ago, this certainly smacks of the exact same tactics used by the IRS then ... and apparently being used again now against AAF," Mitchell said in a statement, adding "Before the IRS starts down this road again, it would be worth remembering the scorn heaped upon it the last time it allowed itself to be used as a pawn by a liberal in the White House."
In 2017, the IRS ended up admitting that it was wrong when it based screenings of the groups' applications for tax-exempt status on their names, which included words like "Tea Party" or "patriots" on application forms. The IRS also acknowledged that it had acted inappropriately when it subjected the groups to increased scrutiny and delays, while demanding unnecessary information from them.
Depending on the type of exemption sought, groups applying for tax-exempt status under federal law may engage in limited amounts of political activity. Some experts have said that this fact—along with vague rules—can make it difficult for IRS agents to tell which groups overstep and become ineligible for exemption. -Epoch Times
According to the AAF, the latest action by the IRS is part of a pattern of "weaponized" federal agencies under the Biden administration. Other examples include the infamous October 2021 memo from AG Merrick Garland which instructed the FBI to keep tabs on parents protesting leftist indoctrination of their children.
"We demand that this abuses is put to an end at once," Jones said in a statement. "Our Constitution and Declaration of Independence guarantee our God-given right to speak the truth about the powerful without being punished and harassed."