It's been two and a half years since Kevin Kookogey first asked the Internal Revenue Service to grant nonprofit status to Linchpins of Liberty, his group aimed at teaching children conservative political principles and American history. He's still waiting.
Linchpins, he argues, was swept up in what the IRS admitted last month was inappropriate scrutiny of conservative groups. He and two dozen others sued the government last week over what they say were unconstitutional requests. He's in D.C. today with a few others to tell lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee about his experience dealing with all the questions.
"The only purpose was to delay and to obfuscate," Kookogey says, "to make it as difficult as possible for me."
He first sought nonprofit status in January 2011 to formalize what he had been doing for a while: teaching kids about conservative political philosophy, American history, and Western civilization. It started with his children, whom he homeschooled, but grew as the kids of family friends and others in the neighborhood began to come over for the dining-room discussions.
The first substantive response to the request came five months later in the form of a request for more information, he says.
"The letter I got at that time was pretty in-depth, seeking information that was not only intimidating but beyond the bounds of the law," he argues.
The IRS asked even more questions in February 2012 and again on May 6, 2013, just four days before the scandal broke. That February letter, in particular, asked for information on 31 points, many of them with several parts. Some focused on how the group would raise and spend money and how involved it would be with political candidates and campaigns. But some sought wide-ranging details of the group's:
- online activities;
- board members and their families;
- and "issues" of import to the organization.
"It was a mountain of facts," Kookogey says.
During the months of back and forth with the IRS, Kookogey landed and lost a promised $30,000 grant, which rested on the tax status of his organization, he said. One of the most disturbing questions sought information on his students, some of them minors, Kookogey said.
"They were asking me to identify those that I'm teaching, which puts me in a really difficult position."
That was why he got attorneys involved, Kookogey says. The lawsuit from 25 conservative groups, including Linchpins, was filed on Wednesday and accuses the IRS of having a "comprehensive, pervasive, invidious, and organized scheme" to delay and effectively deny approval to the groups. Representatives from four of the groups involved in the suit testify before the House Ways and Means committee Tuesday.
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