Two years ago in May 2010, when Michael Iannotti, an IRS agent with the New Haven IRS office, called my home to notify me that I was being audited, I was not terribly surprised. While my husband and I had never been audited throughout our 39-year marriage, I knew that the Obama administration had greatly expanded the offices of the IRS, hiring thousands of agents. I just assumed that we were among the many more audits the agency was doing that year.
But, when the agent insisted that I meet with him without my husband, and refused my request to have the CPA who has done our family’s taxes for 20 years meet with him as my representative, I began to wonder why I was being singled out. I make a small fraction of our family income. And, when the agent informed me that it was my business income and expenses — my writing income — that was being investigated, I began to worry that I may have published something that triggered this audit.
After all, I had been critical in my publications of the public funding for abortion that was very much a part of the Affordable Care Act. In March 2010, I had published a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Health Care Reform and the President’s Faithful Helpers,” which identified progressive Catholic groups such as Catholics United and its sister organization, Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, that were helping to pass the health-care law — replete with funding for abortion. I pointed out that George Soros was supporting these Catholic groups. I also published articles describing these groups in Catholic World Report and in the online publication Catholic Advocate.
Chris Korzen, president of Catholics United, and formerly an organizer with SEIU, was especially angry about the articles I was publishing. In late March, he called into a radio station (Al Kresta’s program on Ave Maria Radio) while I was being interviewed on the air to say that I was “lying” about the fact that Soros was supporting him. Fortunately, I had the IRS 990 forms from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good and Catholics United in front of me during my interview with Korzen and pointed out that during the same year he was working full-time for Catholics United, he was being paid $84,900 from Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a Soros-supported organization.
In May, when the call from the IRS came, I didn’t make a possible connection to my publications — until the requests for documents began. Almost all of the requests focused on deposits into our banking accounts — payments for articles or speaking engagements.
The actual audit occurred in the federal offices in New Haven. I was allowed to have my tax accountant on speaker phone (he is out of state) to help. The process was not onerous but again, it was focused primarily on deposits into our bank accounts — most of them very small deposits. He demanded to know the source of one larger deposit (a $12,000 deposit) but it turned out that the deposit was actually a refund check from the IRS itself.
The agent continued to ask for documentation for additional deposits for several months in 2010. And, when it was over, I began to wonder if I had been chosen by the IRS for a reason. I never made my concerns public — except with family, friends, and a few of my colleagues and students at King’s College. I did tell the staff at the Catholic Advocate because I decided that it would be best for my family if I did not write for them anymore. It seemed like a more political site than I usually write for, and I decided to stop writing for them because of the audit.
Since that time, I have learned of others — many of them pro-life advocates — who have been similarly chosen by the IRS. It seemed to me to be related to activities related to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Most recently, Bill Donohue, the president of the Catholic League, was notified by the IRS that he had been selected for an audit. But, unlike me, Bill Donohue has proof that it was Chris Korzen of Catholics United — the same Chris Korzen who called in to that radio station to call me a liar — who triggered the audit.
According to an article he published on Newsmax last week, Donohue got this proof from CNN. CNN had received a copy of the letter Korzen’s lawyers had written to the IRS that Donahue believes triggered the audit of his organization. CNN got the letter from Korzen himself because Korzen was attempting to stop CNN from interviewing Donohue after he had published several articles revealing the role that Catholics United was taking to promote the Affordable Care Act. According to Donohue, Korzen claimed that Donohue was not “an authentic Catholic commentator and representative of the Catholic Church” and said “that they should either drop me altogether or put me on with Alexia Kelley of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good” — the sister organization to Catholics United. According to Donahue, Korzen’s lawyers at Catholics United asked the IRS to question the source of funding that the Catholic League was receiving.
It was courageous of Bill Donohue to come forward to describe the targeting of his organization by the IRS. Unlike Mr. Donohue, I have no proof that my audit was politically motivated. I am describing the process not because I want the publicity; rather, I am hoping that now that Bill Donohue has led the way, others from the pro-life community who have been targeted by the IRS will come forward. It seems like a safe time now.
— Anne Hendershott is a professor of sociology at Franciscan University. She is the author of The Politics of Abortion.