Grassley: IRS Told Pro-Life Group to Swear It Would Not Protest Planned Parenthood

By Melanie Arter | May 21, 2013 | 11:28am EDT

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( - Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said Tuesday that a pro-life group in Iowa was told by an IRS agent that its application would not be approved until the group’s board of directors swore it would not protest Planned Parenthood.

“This comes directly from Iowa, one of my constituents attempted to establish 501(c)(3) charity called Coalition for Life of Iowa. She told my staff that an IRS agent told her ‘Your application’s ready to go. However, it will not be approved until you send a letter signed by your entire board under penalty of perjury saying that you will not protest at Planned Parenthood,’” Grassley said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.

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Grassley called it “outrageous” that the statement would even be “made by anybody in government that somehow you’ve got to compromise your First Amendment rights.”

In addition to the order that the group promise not to protest Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, Grassley’s constituent received a letter from the IRS with “several invasive questions, including the details of the group’s prayer meeting,” he said.

“Now stop to think about it – the government getting involved in somebody having a prayer meeting. It appears that the IRS essentially offered this group a quid pro quo – You can become a charity if you don’t protest in front of a Planned Parenthood, generally speaking so you don’t have to worry about 6103,” Grassley said.

Section 6103 of the Criminal Tax Manual refers to the confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information.

He asked outgoing IRS Acting Commission Steven Miller if it was “appropriate even for an IRS employee to offer quid pro quo in the example like this.”

“The answer’s no,” Miller said. “We shouldn’t be trading,” he continued before Grassley interrupted him.

“Okay, let’s move on. That’s a good answer, because that’s the answer you ought to give, but how on earth could you let something like this happen under your leadership and do either of you feel any responsibility or remorse for treating American citizens this way?” Grassley asked.

“I think I started my public statement with an apology, sir, and I would continue that,” Miller said.

“I don’t know what happened in your given case, and as you well are aware, I can’t speak to it under the 6103 rules, but I do apologize for the treatment of folks, and look, there are two things that happened with these cases,” he continued.

“First was the selection, and the selection criteria was bad. Second was their treatment once they were in that group, and that too was bad, sir. It was. I don’t know whether this particular organization was inside or outside of that group, but the service that folks got was not the service that we should be providing anyone. There’s no question about that,” Miller concluded.

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