Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wants the tax-exempt status of Turning Point USA revoked because attendees at a convention of the youth-oriented conservative group didn’t follow federal COVID-19 protocols when they met in Florida two years ago, according to a report Wednesday by The Daily Signal.
Whitehouse, a Rhode Island Democrat, has engaged in ongoing pressure on the IRS to go after Turning Point, according to the outlet, which pointed to 176 pages of correspondence from and to the senator.
The conservative watchdog group American Accountability Foundation obtained the documents from the IRS through the Freedom of Information Act and shared them with The Daily Signal.
Tellingly, there no longer are any health concerns about a convention in 2020, so it’s obvious that the issue for Whitehouse is that Turning Point is guilty of rallying high school and college-age people around conservatism.
That’s apparently too much for the senator.
In January 2021, he called on IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to pull the plug on Turning Point as a result of the organization’s December 2020 event at then-President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, according to the report.
“Turning Point USA’s reckless decision to host potential ‘superspreader’ events, in open violation of local COVID-19 regulations, put children and others at risk, and was clearly contrary to the public good,” Whitehouse wrote.
“Tax-exempt status provides a substantial benefit to charitable organizations and reflects the federal government’s endorsement of an organization’s activities,” he said.
“Organizations that knowingly put in danger minors entrusted to their care should not enjoy the benefits of tax-exempt status. Accordingly, I urge the IRS to review whether it should revoke Turning Point USA’s tax-exempt status,” the senator said.
Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA’s founder and president, said in a tweet on Thursday that Whitehouse wanted the tax-exempt status suspended because the convention attendees weren’t forced to wear masks.
Newly-obtained documents reveal that Democrat Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse demanded the IRS revoke TPUSA’s tax-exempt status because we hosted an event without ordering attendees to *wear masks*
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) December 1, 2022
Whitehouse’s outrage was seen in dozens of letters with IRS officials. If you’d like to spend a quiet evening by the fire reading them, you’ll find them at this link. His back-and-forth with the agency continued to at least May of this year, The Daily Signal said.
Despite ongoing pressure from the senator, Rettig has resisted, citing IRS protections of taxpayer privacy.
Tom Jones, who heads the American Accountability Foundation, said it’s obvious the Rhode Island Democrat wants the IRS to target conservative groups.
“It’s abundantly clear that [Whitehouse] is trying to take the 87,000 new IRS agents and put them to work investigating me and my friends because he doesn’t like their politics,” Jones told The Daily Signal.
“It’s Lois Lerner on steroids,” Jones said, recalling the IRS official who went after conservative organizations during the Obama administration.
“The Lois Lerner stuff was a mid-level bureaucrat abusing [her] power to investigate conservative groups. This is a U.S. senator basically trying to turn the heat up on investigations by the Internal Revenue Service,” he said.
“So, if Sheldon Whitehouse had his way, Lois Lerner would just look like a test run of what Sheldon Whitehouse has in mind,” Jones said.
Aiming at conservatives, the senator is doing the equivalent of throwing “spaghetti-to-the-wall” to see what sticks, he said.
“It’s simply wrong, an abuse of his position,” Jones said. “Thankfully, the IRS hasn’t indulged in what Whitehouse is asking them to do, but you have to remain vigilant. He is a United States senator, close with the [Biden] White House.”
“At some point, the dam could break on this and conservative nonprofits could get a knock on their door from IRS agents because a U.S. senator wants them to investigate his political opponents.”
Jones’ organization “conducts research and investigations to advance conservative messaging,” according to its website.
As part of his efforts against nonprofit conservative organizations, Whitehead has been a critic of “dark money” in nonprofit funding, donations made by individuals and organizations whose identity is hidden.
At the state level, donor anonymity is legal, according to U.S. Supreme Court rulings.
And Whitehouse has not been critical of left-wing dark money. “You don’t hear a peep from Sheldon Whitehouse about New Venture Fund, Arabella Advisors, Sixteen Thirty, a laundry list of folks on the left,” Jones said.
Citing a compromise of campaign finance laws, in April 2021, Whitehouse joined with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and 38 other Democrats asking the IRS to unveil donors of tax-exempt organizations that were involved in political activism, The Daily Signal said.
Rettig essentially responded that it was the responsibility of other agencies to enforce campaign laws.
In August 2021, Whitehouse joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont in calling for more resources for the IRS for “enforcement focused on the ultra-rich and large corporations.” That resulted in the Senate’s passage of legislation adding those 87,000 new IRS agents.
The Western Journal reached out to Whitehouse and Turning Point USA for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
Last year in Springdale, Arkansas, I attended a meeting of the Washington County Turning Point Activism Hub.
What an array of conservative college students and young couples, including moms carrying babies, engulfed in enthusiasm for conservative principles!
It’s easy to see why Whitehouse and other leftists want Turning Point crushed.
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