NorCal Tea Party leads federal suit against IRS

The NorCal Tea Party is the lead plaintiff in a class-action federal lawsuit filed today in Cincinnati against the Internal Revenue Service, seeking damages for what they call “illegal and harassing behavior in the handling and processing of their applications for nonprofit status.”

NorCal Tea PartyThe NorCal Tea Party, based in the Placer County city of Colfax, is an umbrella group to local chapters across the Golden State’s northern half. Helping it file this lawsuit is Citizens for Self-Governance, a Texas-based group founded and led by Grass Valley attorney Mark Meckler, a co-founder and former national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots.

Meckler and NorCal Tea Party President Ginny Rapini are scheduled to hold a news conference tomorrow, Tuesday, May 21, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with all those known and unknown who have been abused by a federal government run amok,” Meckler said. “Instead of just playing defense, it is time for the citizens to go on offense. We are, after all, ‘We the People.’ And when the federal government runs amok, it is up to us reign it in. Neither party in Congress can be relied upon to satisfactorily resolve this issue. They created the IRS, fund the IRS, and oversee the IRS. All of this abuse happened on their watch.”

The IRS’ apparent targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny about tax-exempt status is dogging the White House and setting the Capitol’s corridors ablaze with anger.

The lawsuit says the NorCal Tea Party “came together to exercise their right to free expression.”

“However, under pain of denial of tax-exempt status, the IRS and its agents singled out groups like NorCal Tea Party Patriots for intensive and intrusive scrutiny, probing their members’ associates, speech, activities, and beliefs,” the complaint says. “NorCal and its members suffered years of delay and expense while awaiting the exemption and spending valuable time and money answering the IRS’s questions. The result was a muffling and muzzling of free expression.”

The suit seeks damages for violation of the Privacy Act and of the NorCal Tea Party members’ constitutional rights, “including damages for loss of benefit of tax exempt status, cost of complying with burdensome requests, loss of donors and membership fees, damages for impairment of constitutionally protected rights, punitive damages, litigation costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees.”


Taking it to the streets for Tax Day

Tomorrow is Tax Day, and as usual that’ll bring people out onto the streets.

The Health and Human Services Network of California will have activists outside Post Office branches at 201 13th St. in Oakland at 3 p.m.; 1390 Market St. in San Francisco at noon; and more than a dozen other California cities to thank taxpayers while demanding that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share. They’ll also be gathering signatures on petitions to put Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measure – which would hike taxes on the wealthiest Californians while temporarily raising the sales tax rate by a quarter of a percent – on November’s ballot. At risk, they say, are vital needs such as food for hungry families, children’s health care, services for the elderly and disabled, and child care for working parents.

MoveOn.org activists will be preaching a similar sermon from 4 to 5 p.m. tomorrow at the Post Office at 20283 Santa Maria Ave. in Castro Valley. “Big corporations, like the Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank, continue to get away with dodging taxes while their millionaire CEO’s get a fat tax refund every year, thanks to the Bush tax cuts,” said Dave Siegel, co-council coordinator for MoveOn’s Southern Alameda County Council. “It’s every American’s duty to pay their fair share in taxes – no exceptions!”

Though many procrastinate as Tax Day approaches, anti-tax Tea Party activists got their protests done early. They rallied Saturday in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza and at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, and Sunday in San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez, to reiterate that they’re “Taxed Enough Already.”


ACLU, Tea Partiers beat back anti-leaflet policy

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California got a temporary restraining order from a Shasta County Superior Court judge today to keep Redding from enforcing a restrictive anti-leafleting policy also challenged by the North State Tea Party Alliance.

Strange bedfellows? Not really, if you hold both organizations to their stated, basic mission: protecting fundamental constitutional rights.

ACLU-NC attorney Linda Lye said her organization is “thrilled to be working with the Tea Party to protect free speech rights and defend the robust exchange of ideas in both principle and practice.”

City officials had adopted the restrictions last month regarding a plaza outside the Redding Municipal Library. The policy requires people wishing to leaflet to obtain a permit, prohibits more than one organization from leafleting at one time, bans the distribution of materials requesting charitable contributions, restricts leafleteers to a designated “free speech” bubble, contains what the ACLU described as “vague and overbroad prohibitions against offensive utterances, gestures and displays,” and prohibits leafleting in the library parking lot. Those violating these restrictions could be charged with a crime.

“The library is a cultural and intellectual cornerstone of the Redding community, and civic leaders should welcome and celebrate the library’s role as a public place for the free exchange of ideas,” plaintiffs’ co-counsel Thomas Burke, of the firm Davis Wright Tremaine, said in the ACLU’s news rlease.

John Oertel, a leader of the ACLU’s Shasta-Tehama-Trinity Chapter, said the policy “interferes with the fundamental right to speak freely and peacefully, and is totally unnecessary. There has been no history of aggressive or otherwise problematic incidents in the library plaza.”

In fact, shortly before the policy was adopted, ACLU members leafleted in the library plaza at the same time that Tea Party members were present; while the groups often take different positions on political issues, the ACLU acknowledged, their simultaneous presence caused no disruptions.

“These exchanges are a direct form of democracy – we need more of them, not fewer. People across the political spectrum have a stake in preserving our right to express our ideas and perspectives,” said local ACLU chapter chairman Don Yost, and a plaintiff in the case.

But, lest you think everyone up there was of a mind, the Redding Tea Party – apparently larger than the North State Tea Party Alliance involved in this case – didn’t think this to be such a big deal.

Redding Tea Party organizer Erin Ryan said today the alliance is basically an offshoot that “pretty regularly find themselves some windmills to tilt at” and didn’t act when city officials solicited public input during a lengthy comment period before the policy was adopted. “Those guys basically refused to participate in the creation of the ordinance, and then when it came out, they went crazy about it.”

Ryan said Oertel and Yost came to a meeting of her group in January…

…but the Redding Tea Party didn’t feel a need to get involved, given that local people simply didn’t want to be harangued as they entered and left the library and have its parking lot cluttered with discarded paper. She said she doesn’t want to throw anyone under the bus, but “I hate to see them making a mountain out of a molehill.”


East Bay political events round-up

Here is a round-up of upcoming East Bay political events:


The Pleasanton TEA Party and the Tri-Valley Patriots, conservative political action groups,  will officially merge during a Saturday event featuring California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro, of Lafayette, among other speakers.

The group will also host a tax day protest on Friday from 1-4 p.m. in Pleasanton at the corner of Santa Rita and Black streets.

Pleasanton TEA Party founder and Dr. Bridget Melson said the merger came about after she moved to Southern California and needed new partners to help keep the local group moving ahead. Melson remains on its board and also serves on the California Republican Party’s strategy committee as a TEA Party representative.

The combined Tri-Valley TEA Party has 15,000 members, Melson said.

The Saturday event is in Hayward and open to the public, but those interested in attending must RSVP and obtain the location and address from Melson at drb@pleasantonteaparty.com.

Other speakers include NAACP and TEA Party member Antoine Miller and  Frederick Douglass Foundation President Kevin McGary.


Steve Chessin, president of Californians for Electoral Reform, is the featured speaker at the Thursday evening meeting of the Lamorinda Democratic Club.

The meeting will be held at the Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 3491 Mt. Diablo Blvd, in Lafayette.

Chessin will discuss ranked-choice voting and instant runoff voting, alternatives to the traditional winner-takes-all election method used in most communities.

The club’s social hour will begin at 6:30 p.m., with a business meeting at 7:15 p.m., and Chessin’s presentation to begin at 8 p.m. The cost is $5.

During the club’s business meeting, Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission Chairman Chair Mike McGill will speak about the agency’s purpose.

Walnut Creek

Technology expert Tom Mahon is the featured speaker at a noon potluck session on Saturday at the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center.

Mahon, a Walnut Creek resident who has written about technology in Silicon Valley for over 30 years as a publicist, journalist, novelist, dramatist and activist, has “spoken and written widely on the need to reconnect technical capability with social responsibility; to re-integrate technical knowledge with self-knowledge,” according to the center.

Mahon is currently completing an eBook titled “Reconnecting Calm: Reclaiming our Humanity in a Silicon Civilization.”

The center is located at 55 Eckley Lane in Walnut Creek. For more information, call 925-933-7850 or visit www.mtdpc.org.

The event is free but bring a potluck item to share plus something for Monument Crisis Center such as cereal, canned or dry goods; toddler-size diapers; shampoo, soap, toothbrush or toothpaste.

Walnut Creek

California High-Speed Rail Authority Planning Manager Will Gimpel will discuss the project at the April 20 evening meeting of the Diablo Valley Democratic Club.

Using a video and slide show, Gimpel will explain the cost of the project and how Diablo Valley residents will access the trains.

The event is free and open to the public. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Ygnacio Valley Library, 2661 Oak Grove Road, Walnut Creek.

For more information, visit www.dvdems.org or call 946-0469.


East Bay TEA Party ranks candidates

The Nor Cal/Pleasanton TEA Party has ranked statewide and congressional candidates based on its assessment of where they stand on the organization’s core tenets, social issues and experience.

Check it out at http://www.pleasantonteaparty.com/ptpsvoterguide.htm

It is fascinating to watch what started as a loosely aligned group of voters evolve into an organization, whose members gather, deliberate and vote on a platform. The rankings are not intended as endorsements but the message is clear. I wonder if we will see a move toward the creation of another official political party in California or the U.S.?


TEA Party will boycott San Francisco

Let’s get this straight.

San Francisco is boycotting Arizona over its immigration crackdown. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has even put the kibosh on all those city employee golf, er, business, trips to Phoenix.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg wants California to follow suit.

And now, California TEA Party groups  are boycotting San Francisco with a protest march in …  San Francisco.

President and founder of the Pleasanton/NorCal TEA Party, Dr. Bridget Melson, sent out an announcement of the May 1 event, which will start at 2 p.m. at the Civic Center at 24th and Mission streets.

“I say spend your money anywhere else than in San Francisco, vacation elsewhere, dine elsewhere — if you protest (in San Francisco), bring your own food, coffee and water,” she said in her news release.

I guess that means they won’t be stopping for a sourdough bread bowl at Fisherman’s Wharf?

Read on for the full news release:

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