In a 2009 commencement speech at Arizona State, the president joked about using the IRS as an enforcement agent for dissenters. Little did I know that less than three years later the IRS would be asking groups about their association with . . . me.
The American Center for Law and Justice has reported that the IRS is targeting the nonprofit tax status of Tea Party and liberty groups across the nation. These conservative groups are now experiencing the targeted enforcement the President “joked” about.
The IRS questionnaires are quite detailed containing pages of multi-step questions. The organizations have been given two weeks to complete the query. This short deadline would be tough for any organization, let alone all-volunteer groups.
Most of the questions are pointed and obnoxious, but fairly standard by IRS standards: Explain fundraising, explain outreach, explain volunteers, explain your relationship with another group.
Some of the questions are baffling and don’t identify anything of redeeming social value, meaning they seem geared to utilize organizational resources instead of supporting or refuting a tax status.
Examples of these include requests to provide a hard copy printout of web pages, list all issues of importance to the group, and outline any training completed by or presented to the organization in question.
Still others are overreaching, such as whether officers serve on other organizations or have any plans to run for political office. Vague! What if the answer is “no” today and “yes” next year? Would that result in an IRS sponsored election-day surprise or, perhaps, another query issued in the days leading to a primary or general election?
A recent IRS request of one of the liberty groups in the Cincinnati region moved into new and dangerous territory by asking about family members and specific individuals. Well, one individual: Me. The question asked:”Provide details regarding your relationship with Justin Binik-Thomas.”
It is a bit unusual, and frankly irrelevant, to ask about families. Officers and employees have a certain duty and understanding when they sign on, but not so their families. If a family member is mentioned, what happens to them or to their business? Are they at risk or put on a watch list of sorts? Will they be audited?
Why ask about me? It could be my work with the Cincinnati Tea Party (CTP) since I am a founding member and past leader. But CTP chose to file as a political organization and its credentials are not being questioned.
This IRS query is directed to a liberty group nearly 30 miles away in another city and another county. I am neither a member nor a leader of their team, and I have never attended a meeting.
A caseworker assigned to me by my congresswoman said that I am the first individual she has seen listed in an IRS query during her decade-long career. I'm not sure I want this "first" attached to me. Are there other people called out by name that have yet to come forward?
Other questions come to mind: Does it relate to communications work I’ve done? Is it because I am Jewish Conservative? Because I own a small business? If it relates to my communications work, someone has good “Google skills,” but minimal common sense.
Admittedly, my name is unique and I would stand out in a list. If it relates to my religion, it brings many additional concerns to the forefront. Why being Jewish would matter is unclear, but it is one of the few things that distinguishes me from the many others working in this area.
We’ve learned in the last couple years that conservatism is alive and well. We’ve seen first-hand that many conservative viewpoints are held by a majority of the community. I am an active conservative and conservatism is a common thread between me and each of the organizations.
I again wonder how I tie in exactly. Am I so successful in my roles so as to be a threat to this administration? Am I so well known to be a valuable target? Or am I a pawn in a witch-hunt in the pursuit of another group or individual? How high does this go? Perhaps it is time for Congress to ask some pointed questions of the IRS.
Justin Binik-Thomas is a resident of the City of Deer Park, Ohio. He is a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University (MS) and The University of Cincinnati (AA, BS). In addition to working in the medical industry, he specializes in media relations and communications as owner/consultant with Conservative Media Group, LLC. The IRS query referenced in this article can be found at http://www.binikthomas.com/sunshine