The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups is something that would happen in a “dictatorship,” the co-founder of one of the largest Tea Party organizations in the country said Tuesday.
“This is chilling, and it's scary,” Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, said in an interview Tuesday morning on "The Alice Stewart Show."
Tea Party Patriots is one of several conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status that were investigated and targeted for extra scrutiny by the IRS. The Washington Post reported Monday that officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the probes, showing the scandal extended beyond the IRS’s Cincinnati branch.
“The people in power in the government will use government agencies to intimidate citizens and make them afraid to speak out and to act,” Martin said Tuesday. “And you do not expect that to happen in the United States of America. We're supposed to be free, and the government is supposed to be accountable to us. We're not supposed to be accountable to the government in this way. Unfortunately that's not how it's happening in this country.”
She said the IRS had not returned calls and inquiries from lawyers representing Tea Party Patriots.
“The IRS has completely abused their power, and we have to hold them accountable,” Martin said. “It can't happen to Tea Party groups. It can't happen to [MoveOn.org]. It can't happen to Organizing for America.
“This is wrong no matter who it's happening to, and we have to make sure those who did this are held accountable so it never happens to another group again,” she said.
President Obama on Monday said the IRS’s conduct, if true, was “outrageous,” and GOP lawmakers have called for resignations or firings. Steven Miller, the acting commissioner of the IRS, reportedly learned of the targeting by the IRS in May 2012.
On Tuesday, Miller apologized in an op-ed for USA Today, saying the agency “should have done a better job.”
Martin said her organization wants a full investigation.
“Well, we want to see Congress fully investigate what happened with the IRS, and we want the people who were involved in this, from the lower level all the way up the chain, to determining it and to be disciplined according to the atrocious abuse of power that they have shown,” she said. “We want to make sure there are steps in place to make sure this never happens again, ever. And then we're having our attorneys and accountants quantify the damage to Tea Party Patriots so that our organization can get justice to what's been done to us.”
In a separate interview also on "The Alice Stewart Show" on Tuesday, Amy Kremer, the chairwoman of the Tea Party Express, said that she remains unconvinced that only "low-level employees" are responsible.
“I think it's an absolute complete abuse of power, and I think we need to get to the bottom of it, and those that were responsible for it need to have consequences,” Kremer said. “You cannot convince me, ladies, that this was low-level employees doing it by themselves.”