(Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – Members of a Conservative Political Action Conference panel have called for attendees to stop the Internal Revenue Service's alleged targeting of conservative organizations.
Featuring individuals who have been audited by the IRS for their connections to Tea Party organizations, the panel detailed their objections on Thursday to what they call the "IRS Targeting Scandal."
Cleta Mitchell, partner at the law firm of Foley & Lardner, LLP, told those gathered at the Chesapeake room of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center that "we have to stop them!"
"These people are relentless," said Mitchell regarding the shifting guidelines and apparent efforts on the part of the IRS to make it hard for conservative organizations to get tax exempt status.
"It is an abandonment of the rule of law and we have to stop them," added Mitchell, receiving applause from the audience.
In addition to Mitchell, panelists included Hans A. von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow with The Heritage Foundation; Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots; Kevin Kookogey, president & founder of Linchpins of Liberty; Jordan Sekulow, executive director of America Center for Law and Justice; and Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch.
Kerry Picket, Washington, D.C.-based journalist for Breitbart News, moderated the discussion and took questions from the audience.
Spakovsky told The Christian Post that he joined the panel after testifying a week ago in the U.S. House of Representatives on whether or not the Justice Department was properly handling the IRS controversy.
"The biggest thing that I've been involved in was last week. I and seven other former federal election commissioners filed a joint public comment against those regulations," said Spakovsky. "[We were] telling the IRS that not only do they not have the authority to do this but they're intruding into the campaign finance regulation area which is the exclusive province of the FEC, not the IRS."
Over the past few years, several conservative and Tea Party organizations have filed complaints against the IRS over allegedly being targeted by the government organization due to political differences.
Last year, the scandal made headlines, with right-leaning political organizations having been harassed by the IRS in various ways.
As panelists detailed various abuses they experienced at the hands of the IRS, some expressed concern over how much good panels like the CPAC one could do in advancing the investigation of viewpoint discrimination at the IRS.
"There's a lot of folks at CPAC who are involved in the grassroots all over the country and this kind of panel I think helps inform them of what they need to know," said Spakovsky.
"So they can then take this kind of information back to their organizations and understand what they're dealing with, particularly with the IRS."
The panel was one of several events taking place at the American Conservative Union's annual CPAC event.
Taking place in the Washington, D.C. area, CPAC involves a gathering of numerous conservative groups, activists, and prominent public figures in the conservative movement.
Bill Norton, the Arizona-based National Support Team Constitutional Coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots, gave the opening remarks for the Thursday morning panel.
"This IRS scandal is not about the IRS targeting the Tea Party or conservative groups, it's about the government overreaching when it comes to principles of free speech," said Norton.
When asked by CP how likely progress can be made on the investigation of IRS' targeting of rightwing groups, Spakovsky said the upcoming elections may help.
"The only thing that makes a difference is the midterm elections. That can't change who's in the White House but if there is a significant change in the control of Congress … then they could actually start really pushing a lot harder against the Administration," said Spakovsky.
The topic of the IRS' targeting of conservative groups will be the focus of another panel at CPAC on Friday.
Titled "Obama's IRS: Political Arm of the Left?" the panel is set to again feature Cleta Mitchell, as well as National Review reporter Eliana Johnson, former U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, and will be moderated by Citizens United President David Bossie.