Tea Party Patriots Dare the IRS to Act

February 14, 2011; Source: Mother Jones | Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones has written an excellent three part investigation of the Tea Party Patriots, serving as an interesting update to the Cohen Report's three part Tea Party series last August, September, and October.

Among the MoJo revelations are TPP's expensive telemarketing and direct-mail fundraising firms linked to mainstream Republican Party operatives and candidates, fears among local Tea Party operations that TPP is raising money from their members with a lot of it staying with the national group to pay for salaries and consultant expenses and little going back to the grassroots movement, the failure of TPP to apply to the IRS for 501(c)(4) tax status (despite public statements that it was a (c)(4)), TPP's unwillingness to be even minimally transparent with its finances (as well as not filing any 990s since its February 2009 founding), forcing potentially critical Tea Party organizations and TPP staff out (for asking for public disclosure of TPP's financial doings), and the tight, almost dictatorial control of the organization by founder and national coordinator Jenny Beth Martin and her husband.

The organization's hiring of telemarketers, its increasing links to mainstream Republican Party operations, and the personal aggrandizement being practiced by the organization's leadership are neither surprising nor particularly unusual. But TPP's failure to file any paperwork for its 501(c)(4) status or any public documents on its finances was predictable. As we said in our series, the Tea Party movement's strident opposition to anything governmental was evident in the failure of many local organizations to seek (c)(3) or (c)(4) status – and now that applies to the Tea Party Patriots itself, which had received big money donations from many sources, including $1 million from an anonymous donor.

It isn't that TPP doesn't know about the IRS regulations. This is a movement that doesn't really care about the niceties of nonprofit law, structure, finances, and government. In their animus toward government, they are flaunting the basics and daring the IRS or any governmental agency to go after them. If this really is an "I dare you" strategy on the part of the Tea Party Patriots, the strategic flaw is that Martin and others so alienate the local Tea Party membership that there may be little mobilized opposition from the grassroots if and when the IRS knocks on the Patriots' door.—Rick Cohen