The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was “inappropriate” targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week. The AP obtained part of the draft report, which has been shared with congressional aides.
According to the report, on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” `’Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says. Lerner instructed agents to change the criteria for flagging groups “immediately,” the report says.
Among the other revelations, on Aug. 4, 2011, staffers in the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”
On Jan, 25, 2012, the criteria for flagging suspect groups was changed to, “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,” the report says.
The portion of the draft report reviewed by the AP does not say whether Shulman or anyone else in the Obama administration outside the IRS was informed of the targeting. It is standard procedure for agency heads to consult with staff before responding to congressional inquiries, but it is unclear how much information Shulman sought.
Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush and his 6 year term ended in November last year. The agency is now run by an acting commissioner, Steven Miller.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee, said the report “raises serious questions as to who at IRS, Treasury and in the administration knew about this, why this practice was allowed to continue for as long as it did, and how widespread it was.”
“This timeline reveals at least two extremely unethical actions by the IRS. One, as early as 2010, they targeted groups for political purposes. Two, they willfully and knowingly lied to Congress for years despite being aware that Congress was investigating this practice,” Boustany said.
“This is an outrageous abuse of power. Going after organizations for referencing the Bill of Rights or expressing the intent to make this country a better place is repugnant,” Boustany added. “There is no excuse for this behavior.”
And, it wasn’t just patriot groups that garnered extra attention. A pro-Israel organization – Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was “connected to Israel,” its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny. In addition, the IRS agent said that the applications of some Israel-related organizations had been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organizaitons activities contradicted Obama’s public policies.”
And at least one purely religious Jewish organization not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel. Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”
In the 1970s, Richard Nixon used the IRS to investigate the tax returns of his “enemies.” In the 90’s Bill Clinton had the IRS audit the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, the National Review, the American Spectator, Citizens Against Government Waste, Citizens for Honest Government, Concerned Women for America and the San Diego Chapter of Christian Coalition. George Bush, more than likely, kept the IRS busy as well.
At least Obama has never made any secret of his dislike of Christians, pro-Israeli groups, the tea party, other patriot groups, or any conservative group for that matter that disagrees with his fundamental “transformation” of America. While there is no “clear” evidence that Obama asked the IRS to target these groups, his message has always been perfectly clear – you mess with me you will face retribution.
Now if you are wondering why the IRS would deliberately call attention to this mess, why they would throw themselves into the limelight with an apology, you obviously haven’t been paying a lot of attention the last few years. Knowing the investigation would be made public, the IRS was given the go to jump the gun, so to speak, and get their spin out first – Flood the airwaves with their shock and dismay, along with a heartfelt apology, giving the left and the drive-by media an opportunity to jump on the issue – to divert as much attention as possible from the damaging Benghazi hearing.