Area conservative group caught in IRS dragnet, member says

EXTRAS


DEAN HUMPHREY/The Daily Sentinel—Kevin McCarney, of the Western Slope Conservative Alliance, shows paperwork the Internal Revenue Service returned to be filled out after his organization requested nonprofit, tax-exempt status.



The Western Slope Conservative Alliance is among as many as 5,000 organizations across the nation whose applications for nonprofit status were stymied by the Internal Revenue Service, a Grand Junction man said.

After officials with the organization filed their first requests for nonprofit status in 2010, they received information back in 2012.

“They sat on it for that long,” Kevin McCarney of the alliance said. The organization has since changed its name in part because of the difficulties it had with the IRS.

An IRS official has said the agency singled out applicants for nonprofit status that included words such as “tea party” and “conservative” in their names.

The IRS has said 300 organizations were affected. Congressional investigators said the number was approaching 500.

That practice runs counter to what should happen with organizations and individuals wishing to participate in the political process, McCarney said.

“Political speech should be protected to the hilt in this country,” he said.

The IRS response to the alliance application came in the form of a four-page questionnaire containing 12 questions, each with several subparts. A copy of the questionnaire is available on GJSentinel.com.

The IRS demanded that McCarney provide detailed responses, such as copies of the materials handed out at public events and the amount of time “in relation to 100 percent of all of your activities” spent in organizing events.

Other areas of inquiry included “copies of your website that your members can only access” and “copies of all the publications and/or advertising materials that you have distributed or will distribute.”

The IRS also sought resumes of the board members of each agency.

That question, McCarney said, would have given the IRS information it could use to investigate individuals.

At one point, he said, the IRS demanded information about the alliance’s relationship with Scott Tipton and Ken Buck.

The alliance had hosted “meet-and-greets” for Buck, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in 2010 and Tipton, the Republican who was elected to represent the 3rd Congressional District that year.

The alliance, McCarney said, was a conservative but nonpartisan organization that hosted meetings that were open to the public, but which made no endorsements that year and took no positions.

It cost the alliance $400 to begin the process of becoming a 401(c)(4) organization, a cost the alliance had to eat, McCarney said.

The successor group, Freedom!Colorado, has paid $400 to restart the process and McCarney said he’s waiting for a response to the new application.

Bennet wrote the IRS in 2012, two years after the program targeting conservative organizations began, and called on the agency to beware of political organizations taking liberties with the tax code.

Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said Bennet believes targeting people or organizations based on political ideology is wrong and was pleased that the Senate Finance Committee will investigate.

“It is also important that we don’t lose sight of the underlying issue that political organizations do not masquerade as social welfare organizations and take advantage of the tax exempt status that comes with it,” Bozzi said. “The review of those organizations must be conducted without any bias or partisanship.”

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said he welcomed the IRS apology, “but that is not nearly enough.”

Udall also welcomed Finance Committee hearings “to ensure this type of government overreach never happens again.”

Tipton earlier this week condemned the IRS actions and noted that he and others began questioning the actions of the IRS in 2012.


COMMENTS

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So let me get this straight, WSCA changed their name because of issues with the IRS? It had nothing to do with the fact that somebody else owned their name?

And they were collecting tax deductible donations without having IRS approval?

It seems to me that Kevin McCarney is clutching at straws to defend his own incompetence.

Kudos to the Daily Sentinel for Thursday’s coverage of the continuing IRS “scandal”:  Gary Harmon’s “Area group caught in IRS dragnet, member says”; Ruth Marcus’s “IRS complacency on tax-exempt rules overshadowed by political scandal”, and the AP’s “GOP, Dems push Holder over subpoenas to the AP”.

As local Tea Party member (and former Vice-Chairman of the Mesa County Republican Party) Kevin McCarney impliedly admitted, the Western Slope Conservative Alliance (“WSCA”) has always been an overtly political organization.  Moreover, it reportedly claimed to have non-existent tax-exempt status when soliciting funds at its functions.

As Marcus explained, federal law mandates that only entities “exclusively” engaged in promoting “social welfare” are entitled to tax-exempt status.  Since 1959, when the IRS issued regulations which redefined “exclusively” to mean “primarily”, tax-exempt groups have been “allowed to engage in partisan activity as long as it constitutes less than half their operations”. 

Thus, the real question remains:  what “social welfare” activities did the WSCA perform which ever entitled it to tax-exempt status?  Apparently, the WSCA believes that its very existence promotes “social welfare” – thereby depriving the term of any real meaning.

Because the Tea Party’s dominant theme was to bash government and complain about high taxes (even though Americans are among the least taxed industrial nations, with the lowest overall tax rate since World War II), it is perhaps understandable that some IRS workers in Cincinnati took umbrage (which does not excuse their illegal conduct, if any).

Ironically, the FBI is investigating possible violations of the Hatch Act – which prohibits partisan political activity by federal employees – in an area of the Tax Code that was to be free of partisan politics ab initio.

Therefore, as Senator Bennet’s spokesman aptly noted, the ultimate outcome of all the investigations should insure that “political organizations do not masquerade as social welfare organizations and take advantage of the tax-exempt status that comes with it”.

Thank you, Mr. Hugenberg, you beat me to the “magic words.”  I’m somewhat surprised (well, maybe not THAT surprised) that the reporter didn’t ask Mr. McCarney specifically what “Social Welfare” activities the WSCA has engaged in.

I would challenge Mr. Huegenberg and Mr. D’Andrea to tell me when they have been to a WSCA or Freedom! Colorado Meeting. Then I would ask them to define Social Welfare.

The WSCA and Freedom! Colorado has conducted numerous informative meetings on a variety of topics like Immigration, Energy, Violence, Gun Issues, Global Warming and many others.

We have also hosted innumerable candidate forums and topic forums where the public could discuss the importance of the issues facing the community. These forums included the 2011 School Tax Issues, the 2011 Medical Marijuana debate, 2013 City Council and Tabor issues. In all of these forums all candidates are invited to attend. It is their choice to come or not.

All of these events hosted with the goal of providing the Public a full education on the issues.

That probably does not fit the definition of Social Welfare to the Left, but nothing is more important to the community than these issues and the effects of blind belief in them.

Kevin:

Having debated you on KNOZ last October (while the bogus application for tax-exempt status was pending, and when you were a Vice-Chair of the Mesa County Republican Party regurgitating since-discredited “talking points”) and followed your demogogic pronouncements in the Daily Sentinel, I doubt that I have any legitimate need to attend your meetings in order to appreciate the kind of pandering drivel you routinely spout.

For example, on April 13, 2013, you draped yourself in an American flag costume and posed a false – and fundamentally unpatriotic—choice between “freedom and slavery”, irresponsibly over-simplifying the complex problems our Country faces and the multi-faceted public policy options which fall in-between, and which real patriots (including President Obama and Governor Hickenlooper) must responsibly confront.  As Samuel Johnson stated on April 7, 1775, “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels” – and you seem determined to prove yourself to be one.

However, you raise a legitimate point as to the definition of “social welfare”.  This is the very issue that IRS employees were struggling with in Cincinnati – and which apparently prompted them to seek more information from many applicants in order to assess the ratio of their ostensibly “social welfare” activities versus their purely political activities.

Thus, revealingly, all the topics you listed as subjects for your “informative meetings” are essentially political.  Club 20 – a similarly “conservative” but deservedly more reputable local organization than either the “Western Colorado Conservative Alliance” (“WSCA”) or “Freedom! Colorado”—holds similar meetings addressing similar topics, but does not fraudulently purport to be eligible for tax-exempt status.  Rather, it created the Club 20 Education and Research Foundation – which is.

Arguably, in the broadest and therefore least meaningful sense, your groups’ forums may indeed promote “social welfare” – as would helping the homeless, supporting battered women’s shelters, and feeding the hungry (“non-political”, nonpartisan endeavors more recognizable as promoting “social welfare”).  The Republican Party, Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, Green Party, and American Constitution Party hold similar functions – but (to my knowledge) have not sought tax-exempt status.  By definition, in context, “party” necessarily implies “partisan”.  What makes the “Tea Party” any different?

On June 28, 2010, the WSCA effectively endorsed Ray Scott for election to HD 54.  Was that direct involvement in partisan politics – or merely benign “social welfare”?

In my opinion, the last thing your groups provide is “full education” on any issue – but rather epitomize “the effects of blind belief” in a rigid ideology based on fear and hatred.

Bill

I’m glad you’re in this discussion, Mr. McCarney.  Mr. Hugenberg and myself are not the ones whining about the IRS. Nor are we the ones applying for tax-exempt (and disclosure-exempt) status.  You are.  So help us out here—who have you had at your so-called “social welfare” events?  What points of view do they espouse?  Disclose—where does your money come from and how is it spent?  And if you refuse to disclose, what are you afraid of?

I would encourage you both to investigate the stipulations on the 501 C 4 status before you continue to comment. Again in your ignorance, since neither of you have ever attended a WSCA or Freedom! Colorado event, you can not judge what our groups did and what kind of information we provided.

Mr. Hugenberg is the perfect example of the left, making gratuitous ad hominum attacks on a personal level. The key to his second post is his first comment. He has never bothered to attend an event yet still feels he can judge the content of our programs.

He attempts to define what is social welfare by his narrow terms. I submit to you that immigration issues cost this state $1.5 billion per year. It would certainly be in the interest of the community welfare to solve this problem, as that money could be better spent elsewhere.

I would sumbit to you that the misguided policies of this current State Administration is costing the State of Colorado jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. I think it is in the welfare of the community that we ask why those jobs are leaving and are the show case bills really going to do anything to solve the actual problem.

The problem is that while Conservative like myself will have the courage to go on blatantly biased programs like those that used to be on KNOZ, people like Bill Hugenberg would never deign to attend an event to discuss the issues like ones that the WSCA or Freedom! Colorado regularly put on.

I would wager that Mr. Hugenberg was up in arms when Nixon used the IRS to attack his enemies. Now that it is the Left leading the charge this illegal behavior is okay. I would also wager that the next post from you or him would say that there is no proof the Democrats are involved in this even though 7 Democrat Senators encouraged the IRS to just what they have done, go after the Conservative Groups in this Country.

You two should be proud of your stand for censorship of any opinion differing from your own.

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