The Internal Revenue Service asked tea party groups to see donor rolls.
It asked for printouts of Facebook posts.
And it asked what books people were reading.
A POLITICO review of documents from 11 tea party and conservative groups that the IRS scrutinized in 2012 shows the agency wanted to know everything — in some cases, it even seemed curious what members were thinking. The review included interviews with groups or their representatives from Hawaii, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and elsewhere.
The long-awaited Treasury Department inspector general report released Tuesday says the agency itself decided some of its questions to conservative groups were way over the line — especially the one about donors.
The report shows that top IRS officials put a stop to some of the questions in early 2012, including the ones that asked tea party groups who their donors were, what issues were important to them and whether their top officers ever planned to run for office. And they told the investigators they planned to destroy the donor lists that had already been sent in.
But interviews with members of the groups paint a more dramatic picture than the bland language of the report, which just says the IRS “requested irrelevant (unnecessary) information because of a lack of managerial review, at all levels, of questions before they were sent to organizations seeking tax-exempt status.”
“They were asking for a U-Haul truck’s worth of information,” said Toby Marie Walker, the president of the Waco Tea Party.
Some groups even gave up in the face of the IRS questions.
Several of the groups were asked for résumés of top officers and descriptions of interviews with the media. One group was asked to provide “minutes of all board meetings since your creation.”
Some of the letters asked for copies of the groups’ Web pages, blog posts and social media postings — making some tea party members worry they’d be punished for their tweets or Facebook comments by their followers.
And each letter had a stern warning about “penalties of perjury” — which became intimidating for groups that were being asked about future activities, like future donations or endorsements.
In one instance, the American Patriots Against Government Excess was asked to provide summaries or copies of all material passed out at meetings. The group had been reading “The 5000 Year Leap” by Cleon Skousen and the U.S. Constitution.
The group’s president, Marion Bower, sent a copy of both to the IRS. “I don’t have time to write a book report for them,” she said.
The Albuquerque Tea Party was asked about connections to other groups — Conspiracy Brews, Marianne Chiffelle’s Breakfasts, Concerned Citizens for Limited Government, Concerned Citizens for Common Sense.
The Hawaii Tea Party was about Dylan Nonaka, the former head of the Hawaii Republican Party.