By Mark Weber Director, Institute for Historical Review June 2013
In recent weeks there’s been quite a lot in the news about revelations that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted tax exempt groups for special scrutiny because of their views or outlook. Outrage over this profiling led to an apology by the IRS, and the agency’s chief was obliged to resign his post. President Obama said that “intentionally targeting conservative” groups by the IRS is “outrageous, and there's no place for it."
Fifteen years ago the federal tax agency responded to Jewish-Zionist pressure by targeting the IHR for similar special scrutiny -- but in this case no apology was ever issued, and no one ever resigned.
Here’s what happened.
In 1997-98 we applied for IRS recognition as a tax exempt, not-for-profit, public interest educational enterprise – or for what is known as 501(c)(3) status. We sought this because anyone who makes a donation to a 501(c)(3) group can deduct that amount from his income for tax purposes.
As part of the qualification process, we had to compile documents, fill out detailed forms, and provide a lot of paperwork. The IRS also sent an agent to our office to audit our financial records. But after a good bit of paper shuffling and scrutiny, in 1998 the IHR’s parent corporation was granted this special status.
The Anti-Defamation League, one of the largest and most influential Jewish-Zionist groups, responded by calling on the IRS to cancel our not-for- profit, tax exempt status. In a statement, the ADL denounced the IHR as a “major center” for “anti-Semitic vitriol,” and as an organization that distributes material “saturated with anti-Semitic innuendo.” In Washington, DC, the “US Congressional Task Force Against Anti-Semitism” joined the campaign, likewise calling on the IRS to withdraw the Institute’s tax exempt status. US Representative Tom Lantos, a Jewish Congressman from northern California, publicly rebuked the federal agency, calling its recognition of the IHR as a public interest educational organization “an absolute outrage.”
A short time later the IRS sent another agent to our office to once again go through our records to find a reason or a pretext to withdraw our tax exempt status. I asked the agent who visited our office on May 15, 1999, why he was going through our financial records, given that another IRS inspector had done the same thing some months earlier. The agent acknowledged to me that he was conducting this second audit in response to complaints from the ADL and Congressman Lantos.
But we had been careful to observe IRS rules and guidelines, and this follow- up IRS scrutiny failed to discover any legally valid grounds for withdrawing our tax exempt status.
Successfully maintaining the Institute’s status as a not-for-profit, public interest educational enterprise has obliged us to uphold a high level of accountability and transparency. We’ve also been careful to keep our customer and donor lists confidential, and never to rent, sell or lend them to any outside organization or entity.