By Derrick DePledge
So what kind of questions did the Internal Revenue Service demand when vetting tea party groups for tax-exempt status?
Very odd ones.
A copy of a January 2012 letter from the IRS exempt organizations office in Cincinnati to the Hawaii Tea Party on Maui shows that the federal government not only wanted to know whether the fledgling tea party group had ties with Republicans, but wanted the group to turn over training material received from Republican interests.
The IRS asked the Hawaii Tea Party to provide details about a relationship with The Leadership Institute, a Virginia-based advocacy group that trains conservative activists, and for copies of the institute's training material.
The IRS also asked for details about the group's relationship with Dylan Nonaka, along with copies of any training material used by Nonaka.
While the letter asks about Nonaka by name, it does not describe him. Nonaka is the former executive director of the Hawaii Republican Party and a Republican strategist. The letter also does not describe how Nonaka's -- or The Leadership Institute's -- training material is relevant to whether the Hawaii Tea Party was a social welfare organization eligible for tax-exempt status.
"Targeting groups wishing to express their First Amendment right is an act of tyranny by our federal government," Nonaka said Thursday in an email. "I am disappointed in the silence from our governor and congressional delegation on the deliberate targeting of Hawaii citizens. This is a nonpartisan issue. The federal government infringing on our fundamental constitutional rights is unacceptable."