Former Congressman Allen West on Sunday (R-FL) said that an admission by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that it had improperly scrutinized tea party groups was part of a wider conspiracy that included President Barack Obama's administration forcing Republican-owned car dealerships to be shut down during the auto bailout in 2009.
Fox News host Alisyn Camerota asked West if he had any indications that the recently-revealed IRS practice of examining whether tea party groups were abusing their tax-exempt status was not limited to "rogue, low-level IRS agents in the Cincinnati office who thought that they were going to personally stick it to the tea party."
"Well, of course," the tea party-favorite Republican declared. "The most important thing we need to come to understand is your First Amendment rights is you have the right to petition the government for redress of your grievances. If we start to have a government that is targeting certain groups for their political ideology because they don't believe it is in concert with their beliefs, this is Orwellian, to put it in the least manner."
"We've got to come back and have hearings on this," he continued. "This is something that is criminal."
Camerota wondered if West knew why the IRS had been asking tea party groups for their donor lists.
"One of the things you have to understand with those donor lists -- and this is something that was brought up before the Small Business and also the Oversight Committee when I was there in Congress -- they are after those list because they want to put a lot of pressure on individuals," West explained. "And there are a lot of folks out there concerned about coming out and being forthcoming about their support to political candidates and what have you."
"There were a lot of automobile dealerships that were closed down because people found out who they were providing funds and support to, when you go back and look at that auto bailout."
As part of Chrysler's bailout deal with the U.S. government in 2008, the company agreed to close about a quarter of its 3,200 dealerships. By 2009, conservative media outlets like The Washington Examiner and Fox News were suggesting that the Obama administration had been disproportionately targeting Republican-owned dealers.
But FactCheck.org looked into the claims in September of 2009 and found that the "best evidence shows that dealerships with Republican donors weren't disproportionately targeted – auto dealers overall tend to lean overwhelmingly Republican."
And even a Fox News study determined that "the data do not support the charges."
"Nobody has bothered to look up data for the control group: the list of dealerships which aren't being closed," FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver wrote in 2009. "It turns out that all car dealers are, in fact, overwhelmingly more likely to donate to Republicans than to Democrats -- not just those who are having their doors closed."
"Overall, 88 percent of the contributions from car dealers went to Republican candidates and just 12 percent to Democratic candidates," Silver pointed out. "There's no conspiracy here, folks -- just some bad math."