Tea Party Patriots may have raised over $2 million last year, but the group is still awaiting a verdict from the Internal Revenue Service on its tax-exempt status. Jenny Beth Martin, the group’s president, says Tea Party Patriots filed an application seeking tax exemption in 2010 and, more than three years later, it remains in limbo.
In the wake of the targeting scandal that roiled the IRS last May, the agency took steps to fast-track applications that had languished for months and even years. It sent some groups, including Tea Party Patriots, letters offering to approve their applications quickly if they agreed to keep their “political activity” below 40 percent of the groups’ work; in the regular approval process, IRS agents use a limit of 50 percent. The process was optional, and Tea Party Patriots turned down the IRS’s offer. “Because we were targeted, we were going to be held to a different standard,” Martin says.
Cleta Mitchell, an attorney at Foley & Lardner, says she represents additional groups that have received the same letter and, like Tea Party Patriots, are still awaiting approval from the IRS.
The letter that Tea Party Patriots and others received narrowly defined political activity: The publication of voter guides and the expenditure of time or money on any communication that identifies any candidates within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary election all fell under the umbrella.
The IRS did not respond to an e-mail inquiry about the fast-track approval process.
Martin says her group’s attorneys have been in phone calls with the IRS for the past few months. “Because we’re in limbo, we can’t even appeal it,” she says of the agency’s determination on the group’s application.