Mike Kent is an officer of the Redding Tea Party. He is a Libertarian, and he hosts a radio show on AM 1460 out of Redding. Kent has worked as a tax consultant for three decades, and is used to dealing with the IRS. He says he tried filing for a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status for "Patriots Educating Concerned Americans Now," based in Redding, in March 2010. Kent says he received a thick packet of forms in the mail, filled them out, and mailed them back to the IRS. He didn't hear from the IRS for nine months, he says, despite calling and emailing them several times. Finally, he received another set of questions. Some were similar to the questions he'd already answered, but most, he says, were new, invasive, and alarming. Says Kent, "They wanted to know who the members were, what we talked about, all of the questions have nothing to do with tax exempt status. 'What percentage of the volunteers' time, including labor and funds will be devoted to attempting to influence legislation.' Really?"
Kent says PECAN chose to file for a 501(c)(3) instead of 501(c)(4) because members would be operating in a purely educational realm, as opposed to advocating for political ideas or legislation. He says the IRS chose to "stonewall" his group and others to squash free speech. He says of the government, "It says we're not being treated equally, number one. It also says the government has been lying."
Kent chose not to answer the second round of questions from the IRS. Instead, in 1012 he contacted the American Center for Law and Justice, because they were known to help groups having trouble filing for tax exempt status with the IRS. The foundation plans to file a suit this week on behalf of several conservative groups across the country against the IRS. An internal investigation into misconduct at the IRS recently revealed that when screening applications, the search words “TEA PARTY”, “9/12” and “PATRIOT” were flagged for extra scrutiny.