Washington Post, Liberal Groups Got IRS Scrutiny, Too, Inspector General Suggests:
A federal watchdog has identified scores of cases in which the Internal Revenue Service may have targeted liberal-leaning groups for extra scrutiny based on their names or political leanings, a finding that could undermine claims that conservatives were unfairly targeted under President Barack Obama.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reviewed cases between 2004 and 2013, which includes the period TIGTA previously examined in a 2013 report that faulted the IRS for using inappropriate political criteria to select groups for heightened scrutiny.
That earlier report found that 96 groups with names referencing “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12” were selected for intensive review between May 2010 and May 2012, and the House Ways and Means Committee later identified another 152 right-leaning groups that were subjected to scrutiny. Those findings fueled accusations by Republican lawmakers that the Obama administration engaged in politically motivated targeting of conservatives.
But Democrats have long challenged those claims, arguing that liberal-leaning groups were given close scrutiny alongside the conservative groups. The 2013 TIGTA report, they argued, was based on selective criteria that omitted numerous nonconservative groups that were also subjected to close IRS review.
The new report examines a broader range of criteria used by the IRS. It does not characterize the politics of the groups that were selected for scrutiny, a TIGTA spokeswoman emphasized Wednesday. But many of the 17 criteria the report examined had obvious political overtones — including affiliation with the now-defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), as well as names referencing “Progressive,” “Green Energy,” “Medical Marijuana,” and “Occupy.”
Together, the watchdog identified 146 cases in which the IRS examined groups for suspicion of engaging in disallowed political activity using those criteria. Eighty-three of those were definitively chosen for scrutiny because of the selection criteria, the inspector general found; the report could not definitively determine how the other cases were chosen.
The Washington Post reviewed a version of the TIGTA report dated Sept. 28 that has been circulated to various lawmakers and committees on Capitol Hill. The full report is set to be released to the public Thursday.
The new report reiterates the inspector general’s earlier criticism of the IRS review process at the time, calling it “inappropriate” to target groups for scrutiny based on their names rather than on actual evidence of illicit political activity that would leave them ineligible for tax exemptions.
Groups that were selected for review waited months — years, in some cases — for their applications to be reviewed and were subjected to onerous and, in some cases, improper requests for information on their donors and activities. ...
Brady said in a statement Wednesday that the new TIGTA report “reinforces what government watchdogs and congressional investigators have confirmed time and time again: bureaucrats at the IRS, such as Lois Lerner, arbitrarily and haphazardly administered the tax code and targeted taxpayers based on political ideology.” He pledged to “continue holding the IRS accountable for their actions.”
Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.), who served as the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee during the height of the IRS scandal, said Wednesday that the report confirmed “political manipulation by the Republicans.” “They were trying to squeeze whatever political juice they could out of this,” he said. “Incompetence is different than a political witch hunt. There never was one, at least one that anybody could identify.”
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