PLATTSBURGH — The Upstate New York Tea Party was not a target of the Internal Revenue Service but could have been, its leader says.
“We were warned that they will go after you,” Mark L. Barie said.
The Northern Tier businessman, who founded UNYTEA, said it never attained nonprofit status, as many Tea Party chapters across the country did.
The IRS recently revealed that it did indeed improperly target conservative nonprofit 501(c)(4) groups, such as Tea Party organizations, for extra audits and delays, stirring a nationwide controversy.
Barie, who stepped down from running UNYTEA last year due to health reasons, said they were warned by an attorney not to apply for tax-exempt status or New York State Board of Elections certification, as both could lead to problems.
“He told us they would go after us tooth and nail, and we would need a full-time lawyer and accountant,” he said.
“I thought he was being a little extreme, but I guess not.”
ANGERED AT IRS
UNYTEA obtained status as a federal political action committee from the Federal Elections Commission in Washington, D.C., instead. With that designation, the outfit is not subject to taxation, but donations to the organization are not tax-deductible.
“That was a bit of a hindrance because we could have had some bigger donations from some people, but we survived,” Barie said.
UNYTEA grew to more than 1,000 members, raising money by passing a hat at events they hosted.
Barie said he is angered by the IRS’s action but not surprised.
“Democrats got really nervous when Scott Brown won in Massachusetts,” he said, referencing the Republican who won the U.S. Senate race in 2010.
“And they have been telling the IRS for years to go after the Tea Party because the Tea Party was seen as a big help in Brown winning.