CINCINNATI – Tea party activists waving flags and signs, singing patriotic songs and chanting anti-IRS slogans held rallies outside federal buildings across the country Tuesday to protest the agency’s extra scrutiny of conservative groups.
A crowd packed the sidewalks in front of and across the street from a Cincinnati federal building housing the Internal Revenue Service offices that handled tax-exempt status applications.
“It’s going to be up to the grass-roots movement to do something,” said Paul Wheeler, dressed in Colonial-era attire with tri-cornered hat and holding a sign saying: “Internal ‘Revenge’ Service Stop.” He said he came from Indianapolis, some 100 miles way, because Cincinnati is “the epicenter of some of the complaints.”
IRS officials have acknowledged that some conservative groups received inappropriate attention.
Some former IRS staffers say Cincinnati employees shouldn’t be vilified. Former senior manager Bonnie Esrig said the office was a nonpolitical environment, and tax-exempt status workloads had soared because of court decisions and rules changes. Esrig, who said she wasn’t involved in handling the conservative group applications, said she believed the workers were trying to streamline the research and avoid repetition.
“I don’t believe anybody had a political agenda,” said Esrig, who retired from the Cincinnati office in January after 38 years.
There were also rallies outside IRS offices in Atlanta; Louisville; Chicago; Cherry Hill, N.J.; Denver; Kansas City, Mo.; Helena; Philadelphia; Phoenix; and Providence, R.I.