OTR Interviews

One grassroots organization's founder reveals: How the IRS and FEC targeted my group

American Future Fund founder claims IRS and Federal Election Commission had his group in their crosshairs

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 9, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight, there is new information. It is spreading! Mounting evidence the IRS and the FEC up to no good, colluding to target conservative groups! Well, one of the groups in the line of fire, the American Future Fund. Tonight, you will hear from its founder only "On the Record."

American Future Fund founder Nick Ryan joins us. Nice to see you, Nick.

NICK RYAN, AMERICAN FUTURE FUND FOUNDER: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: OK, before we get into the fact of (INAUDIBLE) actually being investigated by the FEC and the IRS. Let me ask you, what is the American Future Fund?

RYAN: We're a grass roots organization that I started in 2007. We're based in Des Moines, Iowa. And we were formed to give Americans that have a conservative and free market point of view a group to belong to, to organize and to air their -- air their voice.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is your status? Are you a 501(c)(4)?

RYAN: We are a 501(c)(4), yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: And how long have you been a 501(c)(4)?

RYAN: We were approved in October of 2008.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, you have learned just recently, I suspect, that your organization has come up in a series of correspondence between the FEC and the IRS?

RYAN: Yes. We learned that from the House Ways and Means Committee under chairman Dave Camp in investigating a lot of these IRS issues. And we found out from them that they turned up an e-mail that had an e-mail from an FEC lawyer that actually went to the IRS and went to Lois Lerner, who is a character in the sage, the IRS saga that continues to come up.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know why your name even sort of surfaced with the FEC to begin with?

RYAN: Yes. When we started our group, actually, the first ad that we ran was in March of 2008, and it was an ad that mentioned Senator Norm Coleman and Senator Amy Klobuchar, both in a positive light, and talked about how they worked together and how they worked well together.

And following that, the Minnesota DFL, which is their equivalent to the Democratic Party, actually filed a complaint against us, which then the IRS began to investigate.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your thought about this? I mean, what -- what - - you feel singled out and targeted? Or do you think that this is just sort of, you know, business (INAUDIBLE) you know, politics is a rough business, and the IRS has an obligation to check you out and the FEC does, too?

RYAN: You know, I think it's really unfortunate because what -- what it looks like to me is, when you saw all these other Tea Party groups that initially got targeted, pro-life groups, very small groups, the common thread was that most were conservative, and you could tell they were conservative.

But they were so small, and I couldn't really understand, well, you know, why would you just mass target very small groups, people focused on their own community, wanting to advocate for issues in their own community?

I was shocked that I didn't think that we were targeted because we've grown to be a fairly large organization. And now, lo and behold, it does come out that we actually were targeted and we were targeted when we also were a very small start-up group.

And so I think what that says to me is there's actually a culture within the bureaucracy of the IRS that they do seek out and they do target conservative groups. And by all accounts, it looks like they attempt to target them in their infancy, when they are small.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is -- was there any -- this was going on sort of behind your back, right? I take it that you were not aware of what was going on?

RYAN: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: And so who was the first -- who tipped you off that the IRS and the FEC had been -- or the FEC and the IRS were talking about you?

RYAN: We wouldn't know about any of this if it wasn't for the investigation of the Ways and Means Committee and the Oversight Committee.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know -- is there anything wrong, do you know, for the FEC and the IRS to talk to each other? I mean, these are both government agencies. Any problem with that?

RYAN: Two things that are concerning about it. First is you had Don McGahn on here the other night, who's a commissioner at the FEC. And the FEC, if they are going to seek out in an investigatory way and talk to other agencies about pending investigations, they're supposed to seek approval from their commissioners. They didn't do that.

The second thing is, if you look at the entire e-mail string, which the last instance was in February of 2009, and it goes back and it references conversations that took place between Lois Lerner and also the individual at the FEC. And some of that was taking place before we were an approved group.

And the question remains, with Lois Lerner, anyway, is what was she communicating with the FEC about? And unless she was communicating something that wasn't publicly available, then why on earth would the FEC even call? Because Lois Lerner couldn't divulge anything that was not publicly available.

VAN SUSTEREN: Going -- when you first got IRS 501(c)(4) status, did you -- did you go through sort of a normal set of hoops, or did you think then that you were targeted?

RYAN: No, I didn't think we were targeted at all.

VAN SUSTEREN: Looking back, do you think so or not?

RYAN: Looking back, I don't think so. Where the red flag really seemed to come up is, is in February of 2009, and...

VAN SUSTEREN: And that's the e-mail from the FEC to Lois Lerner at that point?

RYAN: Correct. Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think -- why do you think that -- is -- I mean, Lois Lerner is the common thread just sort of because that's her job, or you think -- do you suspect there's something more sinister involved?

RYAN: Well, I mean, I think that it would be very helpful if she testifies. It'd be very helpful if we could find out. And that doesn't appear as if that's going to happen.

One thing that is true is that she is the common thread. And you have what appears to be a very rogue actor within the bureaucracy of the IRS that has targeted a number of different groups. And until we can hear from her or, hopefully, get more information from the FEC and from the IRS with this mountain of e-mails that actually do exist that they have yet to turn over to the committees that are investigating them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you satisfied you have all the information about your organization between the FEC and the IRS, or do you think there's more?

RYAN: I think there's more. And you know, I'll be honest with you, when this entire thing started with the other small groups, I never would have thought that it would have turned into this. I never would have thought that it would have included us. But it seems as if every day that goes by or every week that goes by, as those investigations continue, more comes out. So I wouldn't be surprised with anything that comes out.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, the disturbing thing is that it's taking -- taking so long to get information. You know, the sort of volley of letters that go back and forth between Capitol Hill and the administration, you know, it's like pulling teeth trying to get the information to find out what happened.

RYAN: No, it's very frustrating and its frustrating from our perspective as a group, as well. But the one thing that's left out of this entire conversation, as well, is a criminal investigation because if there are individuals in the IRS that disclosed confidential tax information, it's a criminal matter.

And right now, the Justice Department says they are investigating it. I don't have a whole lot of confidence that they're going to bring any charges in that particular case. And I actually believe it should be removed from the Justice Department and they should appoint a special prosecutor with subpoena power to investigate it and do an investigation with integrity.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nick, thank you very much. Thank you for joining us.

RYAN: Thank you, Greta.