Much of the heat surrounding the controversy between the Internal Revenue Service and the Tea Party has been placed on the Cincinnati office of the IRS. The clumsy keyword searches by that office are indefensible. A look by IREHR at the activities of two of the Tea Party groups closest to the Cincinnati field office, however, finds substantial questionable political intervention.
One of the featured speakers at the Tea Party Patriots “Audit the IRS” event in Washington DC on June 19 is Justin Binik-Thomas. The Ohio resident became a sudden celebrity in Tea Party circles after it was revealed that the IRS had asked a Tea Party group about their relationship to him.
A March 1, 2012 letter from Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service office to the Liberty Township (Ohio) Tea Party asked a number of questions relating to the group’s application for 501(c)(3) non-profit status. The now infamous Question 26 was, “Provide details regarding your relationship with Justin Bink-Thomas[sp].” Since the release of that letter, Binik-Thomas has been promoted as an “unassuming Cincinnati Tea Party member;” cast as an everyman singled out by a tyrannical government.
The IRS has yet to officially comment as to the reasons they inquired about Binik-Thomas, but an IREHR investigation of the matter reveals plenty of issues of concern.
Liberty Township is situated just to the north of Cincinnati. There has been plenty of crossover between the two groups, with the Liberty Township Tea Party and the Cincinnati Tea Party publicizing each other’s events. And Binik-Thomas lives in Deer Park, midway between the Liberty Township and Cincinnati.
The Double Life of Justin Binik-Thomas
An IREHR investigation found that Justin Binik-Thomas was one of the founders of the Cincinnati Tea Party. In fact, his official title is “Cincinnati Tea Party Vice President of National Affairs.” He’s also a Republican campaign manager. He held both positions simultaneously in 2010. He is far from being a run-of-the-mill member.
While holding the leadership position in the Tea Party, he simultaneously served as campaign manager for Cincinnati Tea Party founder Mike Wilson (until getting replaced near the end of the campaign), who was the 2010 Republican candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives 28th district. Binik-Thomas also runs a political consulting firm, Conservative Media Group, LLC. According to the group’s website, “We specialize in messaging for political candidates, educational services, and small start-ups.” Any objective observer would raise questions about a campaign manager and the non-profit corporation of which he is a leading member.
Wilson has his own history. The Cincinnati Tea Party endorsed his campaign, but he lost nevertheless. When Wilson came up short on votes on Election Day, he went to court and tried to block the vote count in heavily African American precincts in Lincoln Heights. Wilson ran again in 2012. He lost again in the November general election.
Another Cincinnati Tea Party Campaign Connection
Another of the “Audit the IRS” rally speakers from Cincinnati is George Brunemann Jr.As president of the Cincinnati Tea Party, Brunemann openly endorsed candidates at a July 15, 2012 Tea Party rally for Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel.
The election of 2012 is now more important than ever. If the current administration is given four more years, there will be no America, no American Dream by 2016.
The ONLY thing that matters now, is that we take the House, the Senate and the White House. NOTHING else matters because without those victories, Liberty will be lost forever. In Ohio that translates into two things: we MUST elect Josh Mandel to the Senate and we MUST elect Mitt Romney to the White House.
And to achieve that goal, the Republican Party and the Liberty Groups across Ohio need to join forces to create an unbeatable army. That does NOT mean that we agree on everything, it means we agree on ONE thing, Barack Obama and his team MUST BE DEFEATED.” [Emphasis in Original]
The Cincinnati Tea Party even republished that endorsement on their website.
On August 15, 2012, the group made it clear that they were supporting the Republican presidential nominee. Their website featured a photo of GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, with the caption “Shake hands with America’s (hopeful) next Vice President…” On September 9, the group helped organize a rally for Paul Ryan. An email from the group also made it clear who the group was supporting, “We encourage all Liberty and Tea Party members to be there to show support for team that will turn America back from the administration that has pushed our country to the edge of the cliff.”
The straight fact is that the Cincinnati Tea Party appears to be a de-facto arm of Republican campaigns. Half-hour up I-75 in Liberty Township, the situation was even worse.
Liberty Township Tea Party
Back to the letter that IRS sent to the Liberty Township Tea Party (LTTP) that has enraged Tea Partiers, Question 21 asked, “An attachment to the Form 1023 indicated that you will not endorse candidates or issues. Is this still accurate?”
The LTTP hasn’t released their answer to the question. However, evidence uncovered by IREHR indicates that the Liberty Township Tea Party not only endorsed candidates, they promoted Republican campaign events, shared Republican campaign videos, and more.
Leading up to the election, nearly all of the Liberty Township Tea Party’s activity on Facebook was electioneering in nature. Such activities often disqualify corporations for 501(c)(3) non-profit status.
The group explicitly endorsed political candidates. On October 31, LTTP leader Susan McLaughlin posted on the group’s Facebook page, “Election Day is less than one week away, and we have the momentum. We can win Ohio for Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Josh Mandel and our entire Republican team, but we’ve got to finish strong.” Five days before, the LTTP account posted on Facebook, “We all need to get involved in the Romney campaign. There is no more time to wait!” On October 17, they posted “Vote today in Ohio! Go to your local board of elections and cast your ballot for Mitt Romney!” The LTTP also posted on September 18, “If you believe our country can’t stand another 4 years of Barack Obama as president, we need you to get involved and help to stop that from happening.”
In the two month period before Election Day, November 6, 2012, the LTTP promoted 25 different campaign events for the Romney – Ryan campaign on the group’s Facebook page. They also posted two campaign event ads for Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel, two for Ohio Supreme Court candidate Sharon Kennedy, and two rallies against Obama.
In the same sixty-day period, the Tea Party group also posted fifteen different campaign videos from the Republican National Committee, three from the Romney campaign, two from Butler County Commissioner candidate TC Rogers, two from American Crossroads, one from the Republican Jewish Committee, one from the Josh Mandel Campaign, and one from the MAF Freedom PAC.
None of the activities of either group were barred. No-one’s free speech was curtailed. The Cincinnati Tea Party, however, asked the American taxpayers to subsidize their political campaigning with a tax break. The Liberty Township Tea Party asked the IRS to go even further and give a tax deduction to anyone who donated to support the group’s political activity and hide from the public the names of who they were subsidizing with the tax breaks.
Such activity should be anathema to anyone interested in good government.