LEE COUNTY, Fla.- Leaders of two local Tea Party chapters say they are outraged and shocked by reports that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups for special attention. Both say it justifies concerns over big government.
"I am stunned and appalled that this is happening," says Byron Donalds, a leader of the Naples Tea Party. "This shows our concerns are real. If you try to go up against an agency like the IRS, good luck with that. You don't have the muscle, money or ability to fight back."
Mark Zehr of the Punta Gorda Tea Party agrees.
"This is so outrageous because they are going after groups like ours that are defending our constitution. They should be going after groups that want to undermine our constitution," he tells WINK News.
Neither the Naples nor the Punta Gorda group was targeted by teh IRS, Donalds and Zehr say, because they did not file for tax-exempt status in the past. The Naples group did incorporate as a tax-exempt group just a few weeks ago, but it has not yet filed tax returns or other tax information.
Both say they know of other groups in Florida and nationwide that have had an unusual number of questions from the IRS: questions about donations and group leaders and other financial information.
"I think this originated somewhere in the Obama administration, perhaps not with the president himself, but who knows? I don't trust what he says. But I suspect there was a plan here to target the conservative groups," says Zehr.