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IRS' assault on freedom

| Sunday, May 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Let's say you're like most people and believe the federal government has become too large, too wasteful, too crooked and too intrusive. Now imagine the morning mail arrives from the money-bleeding U.S. Postal Service ($16 billion in the hole last year) and there's a letter from the Internal Revenue Service with a stern warning about “penalties for perjury” and a long list of questions and probes about your friends, associates, ideas and political activities.

Here's an example, directed from the IRS to the Linchpins of Liberty in Franklin, Tenn.: “Provide details regarding all training you have provided or will provide. Indicate who has received or will receive the training and submit copies of the training material.”

“Liberty,” it seems, unless it's a gift from France standing quietly in New York Harbor, has become a concept that's now viewed by D.C.'s central planners and tax collectors as a bit too messy, subversive, uncontrolled and individualistic.

Following its review of IRS letters to 11 tea party groups and conservative organizations applying for tax-exempt status, Politico reported that the agency “wanted to know everything — in some cases, it even seemed curious about what members were thinking.”

Listed below is a sample of “the questions and requests that ABC News found in roughly half a dozen IRS questionnaires sent to tea party groups” from 2010 to 2012:

“Provide copies of the agendas and minutes of your Board meetings and, if applicable, membership meetings, including a description of legislative and electoral issues discussed, and whether candidates for political office were invited to address the meeting.”

“Submit the following information relating to your past and present directors, officers and key employees: (a) Provide a resume for each.”

“The names of donors, contributors and grantors. The amount of each of the donations, contributions, and grants and the dates you received them.”

“Fully describe your youth outreach program with the local school.”

“Provide a list of all issues that are important to your organization. Indicate your position regarding each issue.”

“Please explain in detail your organization's involvement with the Tea Party.”

“Provide copies of handbills you distributed at your monthly meetings.”

“The names of persons from your organization and the amount of time they spent on the event or program, or events.” The IRS also asked for “copies of all your current web pages, including blog posts” and “copies of all your newsletters, bulletins, flyers or any other media or literature you have disseminated to your members or others,” plus copies of related information on “Facebook and other social networking sites,” and “copies of stories or articles that have been published about you.”

And this: “Do you have a close relationship with any candidate for political office or political party? If so, describe fully the nature of that relationship.”

On June 29, 2011, IRS staffers told senior agency official Lois Lerner that they were giving special scrutiny to “statements in the case file” by groups that “criticize how the country is being run.” Also targeted were groups that focused on government spending, deficits, government debt, and educating people on ways to “make America a better place to live.”

On Jan. 15, 2012, the IRS widened its target list to include “political action type organizations” involved in education on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (rrreiland@aol.com).

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