Tampa political group one of those unfairly scrutinized by IRS - WFLA News Channel 8

Tampa political group one of those unfairly scrutinized by IRS

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A Tampa political non-profit group believes it was one of the first in the country to be targeted by the Internal Revenue Service in what's become a firestorm in Washington.

"Every last single 330 million Americans ought to be quaking in their boots," said Tim Curtis, one of the organizers of Tampa 9-12. "This is not the function - not the role - of the federal government."

A report released Tuesday from The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration confirmed what some conservative groups have suspected for more than a year: The IRS used "inappropriate criteria" to single out Tea Party groups and other organizations "based upon their names or policy positions" when applying for tax-exempt status.

The 9-12 group states it's founded on "principles of economic freedom, a constitutionally limited government, and less taxation and government spending." Members started meeting in the summer of 2009.

"The name of the course we were studying was called 'The making of America' ... basically an American history course," Curtis said.

Eventually members filed for a 501 c 4 status to designate it as a political non-profit group.

"It's about a 17 or 18 page application," Curtis said. "They ask everything that you could possibly imagine except for the number of hairs on my head, which would have been easier to answer than some of the questions they asked us."

He expected that.

"It's a bureaucracy and of course we want to make sure people are doing things the right way."

But he said 6 months later, in August 2010, the IRS sent a letter back.

"This time they did come back and ask for the number of hairs on my head," he said. "They asked for such things as screen shots of our webpage. They wanted to know the types of material we were using. They wanted to know what we were saying in our meetings."

The 9-12 group eventually got its status but it was that extra scrutiny that delayed its and other organizations' applications nationwide. The Inspector General's report says starting in 2010 "ineffective management" allowed for improper criteria to stay in place for more than 18 months. The report says the IRS has fixed some of the problems but needs to do more.

In an Op-Ed piece for USA Today, Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said "mistakes were made but they were in no way due to any political or partisan motivation." He blamed an "increase in cases" and "lack of sensitivity."

"The commissioner of the IRS sat before congress just a year ago and flatly denied that any of this was going on," Curtis said.

That's what's angering some in Congress: Reports say Miller knew a year ago the IRS had targeted conservative groups and said nothing.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he's ordered a F.B.I. Investigation into the actions of the IRS.

"If not criminal, they were certainly outrageous and unacceptable, but we are examining the facts to see if there were criminal violations," Holder said.

Three congressional committees have already planned hearings into what happened.

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