STAUNTON — The topics of immigration and taxation were a part of Thursday’s Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots meeting, but so was the burgeoning IRS scandal that had touched the local group’s application for federal nonprofit status.
Members gathered at the Staunton VFW Post on Thursday night for a regular meeting. While they were anxious to talk about immigration reform, they also wanted to know what the FBI will learn as it investigates the IRS targeting of conservative organizations. The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots needed 26 months and 235 hours of volunteer labor to answer all the IRS questions and obtain 501(c)4 status.
“We just want to know the truth. We would like the truth,’’ said C.W. Barrett, a tea party member from Waynesboro. Barrett said all organizations should be treated impartially by government agencies when they apply for designations.
Chuck Haggard of Augusta County, a Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriot, said it was evident the IRS had an agenda. He helped compile the 892 pages of documents needed to answer all the IRS questions.
“We were not happy,’’ Haggard recalls. “We knew we were being harassed.”
Haggard said mere resignations of IRS officials such as thatWednesday of acting IRS Commissioner Stephen Miller are not enough. “I would like to see some people go to jail. This was an extraordinary abuse of power.”
Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriots Director Bruce Richmond told the organization Thursday night that giving up on the application or fighting the IRS legally were options. But ultimately, Richmond said “we decided to comply.”
He recalled having to submit the résumés of 30 leaders of the local tea party organization to the IRS and spending much time editing those résumés. Richmond said the financial costs of all the time needed for the application were $200.
Meanwhile, an official of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice said he anticipated filing a federal lawsuit over the IRS treatment of conservative organizations.
David French, a senior counsel in the organization’s Nashville office, said he expects to file a lawsuit in the next week or two. French said the lawsuit would allege a number of constitutional violations by the IRS, and would seek damages and injunctive and declaratory relief.
The American Center for Law and Justice has provided legal advice to 27 conservative organizations in 17 states over their difficulties with the IRS.
"I would like to see some people go to jail. This was an extraordinary abuse of power."
— Chuck Haggard, Shenandoah Valley Tea Party Patriot