OTR Interviews

Tea Party director: My experience on the IRS's creepy 'enemies list'

Executive director of Richmond, Va. Tea Party details their ordeal with the Internal Revenue Service


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 14, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: We are hearing from people who say they were targeted by the IRS. The Richmond Tea Party says it was subject to a grueling inquisition after applying for tax-exempt status. Richmond Tea Party executive director Larry Nordvig joins us.

Nice to see you, Larry.


VAN SUSTEREN: OK, were you targeted?

NORDVIG: Absolutely we were targeted. And it feels kind of creepy to be on anybody's enemy list, especially when it's the government's.

VAN SUSTEREN: The president has now admitted tonight -- he used "if" in the last couple days, as his press secretary, but tonight he says that it did happen. He admits it. Does that make you feel any better?

NORDVIG: Well, it doesn't make us feel better, but it makes us feel vindicated. You know, a year or a year-and-a-half ago, we were saying that we felt this was a problem. And I guess we get to say I told you so, but that doesn't really make us feel any better.

VAN SUSTEREN: You got a big questionnaire that they made you fill out. Tell me the process. What happened? You applied for tax-exempt status, and what happened?

NORDVIG: Yes, we did. We applied for tax-exempt status in December of '09. We did not receive that until July of 2012, so just last summer.

VAN SUSTEREN: So it took two-and-a-half years, almost.


VAN SUSTEREN: Two-and-a-half years to get a questionnaire. What happened in between then?

NORDVIG: Well, actually, it took about a year before we got our first 17 questions, and those were fairly benign. And I guess the organization I'm speaking for thought that it would be six months to a year to get the tax-exempt status.

Our first red flag was it began to take significantly longer. And then we got hit a year later with another set of questions, a total of about 55, but each question had multiple parts, bullets in it. And those questions were way outside the bounds of what the government should be asking, and that really alarmed us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Like what?

NORDVIG: OK, for example, they wanted to know information about our members, who they associate with. They -- what alarms me the most, I think, is they wanted to know our donors' names, personal information about them. They wanted to know whether they were going to run for office or have ever run for office.

The whole point behind getting a 501(c)4 tax-exempt is so that donors can donate anonymously. There's a lot of people that don't want their names attached to a political organization when they give money. And what impact this had on the Richmond Tea Party was people were afraid to give money, and that directly impacts our operation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who were you dealing with? Was it with the Cincinnati office or some -- do you know who you were dealing with?

NORDVIG: Yes, the signatures on the bottom of the page are the specialists that worked for the non-profit groups. And so it was just fairly two low-level specialists in Cincinnati that are on the paperwork. That's who we dealt with.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any reason to believe or are you suspicious that it went beyond these specialists?

NORDVIG: Absolutely. The suspicion comes from -- I just don't believe anybody could go rogue in a cubicle in Cincinnati and control targeting of so many different conservative groups all across the country. To me, in my mind, it's pretty obvious this was coordinated from somewhere else.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you -- if you heard -- and I don't know that to be true, but if you heard that a bunch of liberal groups got the same treatment, would that make it easier to you, that you were targeted? I don't know -- I have information that that happened, but...

NORDVIG: Well, you know, actually, I think -- I've been hearing that that did happen not that long ago, even. You know, the point here, Greta, is if -- this is an issue for all Americans. This is not just a right or left or center issue.

As a matter of fact, we've been so divided lately as a country, I look at this as an opportunity for groups to come together. All you have to do is replace your name, or let's say, the name "green" or "justice" or "progressive" instead of Tea Party, and feel -- how would you like to be targeted by the IRS and have your paperwork slowed down for two-and-a-half years? I don't think anybody wants that.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, prior to joining the Tea Party, were you ever, like -- were you involved in politics? Were you ever, like, arrested for protesting or do you have any terrorism threats or anything -- anything peculiar about you that would make the IRS want to take another look at you or are you -- is this sort of just something you started doing a couple years ago?

NORDVIG: No. I mean, you know, five years ago, I couldn't even spell IRS. But this -- I've been politically active only in the last couple of years. Like a lot of Americans, I'm really, really concerned for the direction of the country.

I think we're way off on the wrong track and we need to get back to limited -- constitutionally limited government, free market prosperity. And the purpose of the government is to protect our rights, our rights to life, liberty and property. And instead, they're aggressively coming after us in a very, very, oh, tyrannical way, might I say.

VAN SUSTEREN: Larry, thank you. Nice to see you, sir. Good luck, sir.

NORDVIG: Thank you.