By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Conservative activists in the Merrimack Valley vigorously condemned the IRS’ alleged targeting of the Tea Party and other right-of-center groups, brought to light this week by an IRS supervisor.
“I think it’s very distressing,” said Christine Morabito of Haverhill, who has headed the Greater Boston Tea Party for the last year and a half. It’s “frightening,” she said, that the organizations affected are “advocates for limited government.”
Morabito said she hopes the Justice Department will take “swift disciplinary action” against the offenders.
“I definitely do,” she said, when asked if she thinks the alleged actions might backfire against the Obama administration.
Barbara Anderson, longtime executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation and author of Proposition 2 1/2, the state law that has limited real estate tax increases to 2.5 percent per year since 1981, said last night her eyes were glued to her television, “waiting for President Obama to apologize” for what the IRS did.
She said she wanted to hear assurance from the president that bureaucrats who harassed “patriotic” groups will be held accountable. Noting that the 2014 election cycle will soon he happening, she said the IRS’ alleged actions appear to be “a deliberate attempt to halt conservative political activity.”
Anderson said she hopes the controversy will cause Americans to “wake up” and vote against bigger and bigger government. If the accusations are accurate, she said, the Obama administration is either “completely incompetent or dangerous.”
State Rep. James Lyons, R-Andover, who spoke at a meeting of Merrimack Valley Tea Partiers at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2104 last night, noted he and other Republican legislators will offer a resolution in the House of Representatives condemning the IRS’ actions.
Lyons was asked if there was any guarantee against the state Department of Revenue emulating its federal counterpart.
“I don’t think we have any guarantee,” Lyons said.
Mary Stewart of Lynnfield wondered if other federal agencies might be going after conservative and Republican political activists. Stewart recently received “The American Community Survey” from the Census Bureau.
This random survey includes a reminder to those who receive it that “your answers are confidential and required by law.” Stewart said she found the questions — about employment, marital status, race and ethnicity among a host of other categories — “very invasive.”
Mark Mezzina, a college student who recently made a determined but unsuccessful run for the North Andover School Committee, said the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that would make the survey optional.
Stewart said she could not help but wonder if the survey was sent to her because of her long history as a Republican activist.
“It’s not a very comfortable thing,” former GOP congressional candidate Thomas Weaver said.
“We need to get back to limited government,” said Weaver, an entrepreneur whose company, DPW Systems, cleans industrial water. The Westford resident, an Annapolis graduate, ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 3rd District in 2010 and 2012.
He said he regrets that “government has gotten so large that it can use its branches to go after the people.”
The Environmental Protection Agency, he said, has made it a practice to charge conservative groups large amounts of money when they seek documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The EPA has been less stringent with liberal groups, he said.
Government agencies, Weaver said, “can be used as a weapon.”
Weaver offered a quote from Louis Brandeis, who served as a U.S. Supreme Court justice for 23 years in the first half of the 20th century:
“Our government ... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.”