When front-line tax agents in Cincinnati used the term “tea party,” they didn’t just mean conservative groups. Instead, a “tea party” case could refer to an application for tax-exemption from any group — including liberal ones — believed to be engaging in political activity, one IRS official told congressional investigators.
“Since the first case that came up to Washington happened to have that name, it appeared to me that that’s what they were calling it that as a shorthand, because the first case had been that,” said Holly Paz, the Internal Revenue Service’s director of rulings and agreements. She said “tea party” could mean any political group, just like “Coke” is used as a generic term for soda, or people refer to tissues as “Kleenex.”
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