WASHINGTON A group of anti-abortion activists in Iowa had to promise the Internal Revenue Service it wouldnt picket in front of Planned Parenthood.
Catherine Engelbrechts family and business in Texas were audited by the government after her voting-rights group sought tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Retired military veteran Mark Drabik of Nebraska became active in and donated to conservative causes, then found the IRS challenging his church donations.
While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as tea party or patriot in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
The emerging stories from real people raise questions about whether the IRS scrutiny extended beyond applicants for tax-exempt status and whether individuals who donated to these tax-exempt organizations or to conservative causes also were targeted.
Former IRS leaders have apologized for inappropriate scrutiny of conservative organizations. They havent to date, however, divulged who developed the criteria, how they were developed or when and how they extended to groups associated with conservative causes that didnt have tea party, patriot or similar catchwords in their names.
Widening congressional investigations and federal lawsuits are likely to reveal more about the scope and intent of the inappropriate treatment of conservative groups by the IRS. The House Ways and Means Committee plans a hearing Tuesday to allow victims to testify for the first time. In earlier hearings, one IRS official pleaded the Fifth to avoid answering questions.
The Treasury Department inspector general whos probing IRS activities, J. Russell George, recently acknowledged that hes looking into other watch lists created by IRS employees. He said he was barred by law from disclosing anything more.
Sue Martinek of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, already knows what happened to her and others involved in the Coalition for Life of Iowa.
She first sought tax-exempt status for the group in 2008, maintaining contact by mail and phone with a woman identified only as Ms. Richards in the Cincinnati office of the IRS thats now at the center of the scandal.
Martinek said the woman never offered a first name. A womans voice on a recording at her phone number doesnt give a name, and messages left by McClatchy brought no response.
Richards told Martinek by phone in early 2009 that the groups application had been approved, Martinek said. But Richards added a condition, according to Martinek. Board members first needed to sign a letter promising not to picket in front of Planned Parenthood offices, Martinek said.
We were pretty surprised. But we had never gone through the process before, Martinek said. I was sort of, If we have to, we have to, but this doesnt seem a good thing to do.
A board member suggested contacting the Thomas More Society, a public-interest group that provides free legal help on conservative hot-button issues. It saw the IRS request to the Iowa group as forcing the group to abandon its First Amendment rights.