James Dobson, Focus on the Family founder, claims IRS discrimination
Yesterday in this space, we noted that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder may not have time to weigh in on Colorado marijuana laws because of two mushrooming scandals -- one of them involving reports that the Internal Revenue Service placed extra scrutiny on Tea Party groups seeking nonprofit status.
Now, James Dobson, founder of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, has stepped forward to say his latest organization was targeted, too, even though the words "Tea Party" appear nowhere in its moniker.
The controversy is certainly being taken seriously at the White House, with Holder's Justice Department launching a criminal probe and President Barack Obama accepting the resignation of acting IRS director Steve Miller.
In his remarks about the matter, Obama has emphasized that the partisan discrimination being alleged is "inexcusable and Americans are right to be angry about it and I'm angry about it" no matter a group's particular slant.
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Whether or not conservative officials believe such statements are sincere, they're doing everything they can to take advantage of the situation, as any politician would in such circumstances. Witness Colorado Representative Cory Gardner, who's released an IRS document -- see it below -- that he says was sent to a Colorado-based group applying for 501(c)4 status.
"This document demonstrates the type of burdensome and politically motivated scrutiny placed on conservative groups," Gardner said in a statement. "This group also had its information illegally leaked to the media, which is an outrageous violation by IRS employees. Those responsible must to be held accountable and fired. Even that, however, will never fully right this wrong or make these groups whole again."
Into this fray steps Dobson, who built Focus on the Family into a powerhouse organization before announcing that he would be stepping down as chairman in February 2009. But he hasn't been idle since then. Among his current endeavors is Family Talk Action Corporation, which a news release describes as "a Christian ministry that was formed for the purpose of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ; of providing Christ-oriented advice and education to parents and children; and of speaking to cultural issues that affect the family."
Granted, ideology is also part of the mix: The only link on the bare-bones Family Talk Action page featured on Dobson's personal website is entitled, "Our Response to the 2012 Election." But oodles of other groups with prominent political orientation have been granted nonprofit status, including ones involving Dobson.
When it came to Family Talk Action, however, Dobson maintains that things were different.
James Dobson speaking at the National Press Club in 2008.
The Dobson release says that Family Talk Action filed for 501(c)(4) status on September 2, 2011, with the attorney handling the matter having "submitted scores of similar applications over his 26 year career with none being rejected."
The IRS didn't exactly rush to process the submission. The attorney is said to have finally phoned the agency in January and February of this year to ask when a ruling would be made on the application.
Problem: The staffer's voicemail box was full, preventing him from leaving messages. But he finally got through to a human in March, at which time the IRS rep in question is quoted as telling him she doubted an exemption would be granted. Why not? The representative supposedly replied that because it didn't present all views, Family Talk Action failed to qualify as educational and sounded like a "partisan right-wing group." She allegedly added, "You're political" because you "criticized President Obama, who was a candidate."
The attorney responded by demanding that the IRS issue a ruling and stressing that "if we have to litigate, we will."
Nine days later, the exemption was granted -- but clearly, Dobson is unhappy, not only about the long delay, but also because the IRS only moved after a lawsuit threat. In a statement, he says, "The American people deserve better treatment from its government than this. Christian ministries and others supporting the family must not be silenced or intimidated by the IRS or other branches of the government."
Even those not normally in Dobson's corner would likely agree with that. Here's the IRS document shared by Representative Gardner.
More from our Media archive circa 2008: "Focus on the Family's James Dobson Strikes Out Against the Fairness Doctrine."
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