When the crap first hit the fan about the IRS auditing conservative political groups, particularly those with “Tea Party” in their names, the first defense, after “it didn’t happen” was that it happened to left wing groups as well.
The Internal Revenue Service targeted progressive groups applying for tax-exempt status in addition to conservative ones, according to IRS documents released by congressional Democrats on Monday.
The documents and an internal IRS report being sent to congressional committees reveal that the tax agency used terms that included “progressive” and “occupy” to flag progressive organizations for extra scrutiny before the 2012 elections.
The revelations greatly complicate the political scandal that has engulfed the IRS over the past few weeks. An inspector general report in mid-May revealed the tax agency had screened conservative groups with words like “tea party” in their name when considering applications for tax-exempt status. Lawmakers from both parties quickly denounced the creation of such “Be On The Lookout,” or BOLO, lists. Republicans in particular argued the finding proved the IRS was trying to tip the scales of the election during the heat of the campaign.
Now it appears the agency’s BOLOs were applied to organizations across the ideological spectrum. The IRS also screened groups advocating on behalf of Israeli settlements who were applying for non-profit 501(c)(4) status — a criterion that may on its own prove politically toxic.
This is hardly a defense of the heavy handed way in which the IRS dealt with the question of political speech but it takes some of the partisan edge off. It makes it look like cautious bureaucrats doing what cautious bureaucrats do, i.e. be cautious.
Unfortunately, that claim, like virtually every other thing any member of the IRS has said about this scandal is just balderdash. The “BOLO” request, though real, had zero impact on liberal groups while it triggered enhanced scrutiny of conservative groups. From the Wall Street Journal, GOP Report on IRS: Only Tea Party Groups Received ‘Systematic Scrutiny’:
A new report from House Republicans sheds more light on the early stages of tea-party targeting by the Internal Revenue Service, identifying the first three cases sent to Washington for special review in 2010.
The report also underscores the difficulties the targeted groups faced. Two of the three dropped their applications in the face of IRS questioning, the report shows. A third is waiting for a resolution of its case, a spokesman said.
The GOP report, the latest salvo in a protracted political battle in Washington, is aimed at refuting Democrats’ argument that liberal groups also were targeted by the IRS over recent years. The report by aides to Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, emphasizes that the targeting began as an IRS inquiry solely into tea-party groups. It also contends that subsequent efforts by IRS officials to make the review more neutral were little more than cosmetic changes, and the basic focus on conservative grassroots groups remained.
Although IRS documents showed the agency also was on the lookout for applications by some liberal-leaning groups, “only Tea Party applicants received systematic scrutiny because of their political beliefs,” the new report says. In addition, “public and nonpublic analyses of IRS data show that the IRS routinely approved liberal applications while holding and scrutinizing conservative applications.”
This Thursday, Mr. Issa’s committee will vote on holding former director of the IRS exempt organizations division, Obama apparatchik Lois Lerner, in contempt. This a useful first step. The IRS deserves the scrutiny of a special counsel empowered to bring criminal charges against every IRS employee who cooperated with Obama administration in successfully suppressing legal conservative groups. Only when the little Eichmanns in the federal government are made to feel pain will this massive federal overreach by the IRS, EPA, and other agencies cease.