Saturday, May 18, 2013

IRS wasn't only agency hassling fair-vote group

By Jon Cassidy |

HOUSTON — Since filing for tax exemption at a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2010, the founders of True the Vote, a Houston-based group that tries to prevent elections fraud, have been overwhelmed with scrutiny from a host of government agencies, in particular, by the Internal Revenue Service.



TRUE THE VOTE: Catherine Engelbrecht's organization has revealed multiple cases of voters casting ballots in two states in the same election.

Catherine and Bryan Englebrecht have suffered through 18 separate encounters with five government agencies, from surprise audits to FBI visits to never-ending demands for paperwork.

The government has been scrutinizing True the Vote, the Engelbrechts' tea party group, which is called King Street Patriots, and the family's oil services manufacturing business.

King Street Patriots sought tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit.

Engelbrecht kept silent about all this scrutiny for more than two years, but after the abuse-of-power stories coming out of Washington this past week, she decided to go public, appearing on several conservative talk radio shows this week.

True the Vote spokesman Logan Churchwell sent a timeline of the encounters, which include two unscheduled audits by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, six visits or phone calls by the Federal Bureau of Investigation looking for domestic terrorists, five rounds of questioning by the IRS over True the Vote's application and one round over King Street Patriot's  application, both of which were filed in July 2010, and neither of which has been approved yet.

That's not to mention the IRS audit (they actually got money back) or the audit by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and another by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Most of the audits went fine, aside from the hassle of having to shut down operations for the day, although OSHA "handed down a four grand fine where somebody didn't have a seat belt on," he said.

The most persistent and intrusive agency has been the IRS. Each round of questioningbuilt on the round before, asking as many as 40 questions, with five or more parts to each question.

"Imagine it's the worst essay test you ever took in college," Churchwell said.

The IRS basically wanted every piece of paper True the Vote had, plus printouts of every page on its website, and every tweet or Facebook post the group had ever made.

It would take around 300 pages of material to answer a round of questions, Churchwell said. True the Vote would be given two weeks assemble and return all the materials under pain of having its application cancelled, according to the IRS letter he provided.

Questions included:

  • "You stated the organization may create documentaries. Provide copies of any completed documentaries including printed transcripts.
  • "In regards to the organization's public education activities you state the organization seeks to educate the public and influential individuals. Define influential individuals."