The former head of the San Antonio Tea Party in Texas says the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of his organization terrified so many members that nearly 50 percent quit the group.
"Shortly after the Tea Party movement began we made an application to try to get nonprofit status,'' George Rodriguez told "The Steve Malzberg Show'' on Newsmax TV.
"Almost three months [later] we got this one letter for further information, which we thought was OK, but then we started getting a series of letters.''
Those letters, he said, were peppered with questions in which there were sub-questions.
"[They asked] who was attending your meetings, what were your meetings all about, give us a list of your donors, how much money are they giving you, etc. etc., phone numbers etc. etc. It was very, very intrusive," Rodriguez said.
"A lot of the folks began to get absolutely panicked … It caused a lot of division, it caused a lot of anxiety for folks within the movement at that point who were just flat scared. I mean I can't describe it in any other way.''
Rodriguez, who worked in various capacities at the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration and is now president of the South Texas Political Alliance, said with his 35 years of experience in politics, he knew "this was far, far, out of the norm.
"This was way beyond, the questions that were being asked were just not your normal questions for anybody applying for nonprofit status.''
Rodriguez, who was the first Hispanic president of a Tea Party in the United States, said he watching with interest in how the investigation into the IRS' activities is being handled.
"We need somebody to go to jail,'' he said, echoing republican House Speaker John Boehner.