A New Jersey chapter of the tea party is one of the groups the Internal Revenue Service has been targeting.
The West Jersey Tea Party received a letter from the IRS in 2011 requesting detailed information about its request for tax-exempt status, said founder Bill Haney.
“It was a very intimidating letter because they asked for all kinds of very personal information — not only of me but of the members of our group,” Haney said Tuesday. “The amount of time that they had spent working for the organization, the amount of money that they had donated to the organization.”
Attorney General Eric Holder says he’s ordered a Justice Department investigation into the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups for extra tax scrutiny.
He said the FBI was coordinating with the Department of Justice to see if any laws were broken.At a news conference Tuesday at the Justice Department, Holder called the practice “outrageous and unacceptable.”
Holder’s comments come a day after President Barack Obama said that, if the agency intentionally targeted such groups, “that’s outrageous and there’s no place for it.”
Haney says the IRS also wanted to know about the email communications members of his West Jersey Tea Party had with federal and state elected representatives.
He says that request was frightening and violates the Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
“The fact that they are singling out people for their political or religious or social views is a violation of the Fourth Amendment,” he said. “We’re promised the right of privacy and this was a violation of that right of privacy.”
Haney, who said the IRS letter demanded so much information that the group voted to give up seeking nonprofit status, added that organizations targeted by the IRS are considering filing a class-action lawsuit to recover the fees they paid to lawyers and accountants.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.