An audit conducted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) inspector general found that over the past two years officials have been targeting nonprofit groups that are critical of the federal government and seek to educate Americans about the United States constitution.
The documents were obtained by the Washington Post and show that IRS staffers held a meeting with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner on Jun. 29, 2011 in which they discussed providing heightened attention to special cases that criticize the government.
Half a year later, the IRS implemented a new political test that consisted of the federal agency labeling groups applying for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organizations. The appendix of the report from the inspector general showed that on Jan. 15, 2012, the IRS made the decision to target “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement.”
Approximately 75 conservative entities were chosen for additional inquiry out of 225, such as questionnaires and inappropriate requests for their donors’ names. The admission was made in a conference call with reporters – at one time Lerner noted she is “not good at math.”
Essentially, the IRS scrutinized groups with “Tea Party,” “9/12 Project” or “patriot” in their names – the 9/12 Project is an initiative established by conservative media personality Glenn Beck. This scandal has confirmed many conservatives’ allegations that their applications were purposely being delayed and put under an intense microscope, while also being political targets.
Lerner, who is a lawyer by trade, issued an apology:
“They didn’t do it because of any political bias. It was an error in judgment and it wasn’t appropriate but that’s what they did,” said Lerner. “We’ve now corrected these issues, and we don’t expect that any of these will be repeated going forward. It was just wrong. We would like to apologize for that. It was not intentional.”
The White House also commented on the situation. Press Secretary Jay Carney, who did not confirm if any administration officials have reached out to the IRS regarding the matter, said it’s “an independent enforcement agency.”
“What we know about this is of concern and we certainly find the actions taken, as reported, to be inappropriate,” said Carney. “And we would fully expect the investigation to be thorough and for corrections to be made in a case like this.”
Comments from Washington did not satisfy some Tea Party groups. Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, called the actions “disturbing, illegal and outrageous.”
“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” said Martin. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach. President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again.”
Republicans in Congress have vowed to initiate investigations and establish hearings into the issue. Many of the GOP congressmen and senators believe the findings and admissions are quite worrisome and “should send a chill up your spine,” according to Michigan Republican Congressman Mike Rogers.
“The fact that Americans were targeted by the IRS because of their political beliefs is unconscionable,” said California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The committee will aggressively follow up on the IG report and hold responsible officials accountable for this political retaliation.”
Meanwhile, Louisiana Republican Congressman and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Charles Boustany has pegged the IRS for additional reviews regarding applications from conservative groups and has sent the agency for a request about the incident.
Kentucky Republican Senator and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell has openly called for the president “to conduct a transparent, government-wide review” of his administration for politicization, according to an issued statement.
Although there is a lot of people outraged, various experts say it’s going to be a lot more difficult in the future to analyze groups with a 501(c)4 tax status, who are prohibited from using more than half of their resources for electioneering activities. According to a statement issued by Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign, it will be hard for the IRS to pose questions without being accused of bias.
In the end, there will be connections made between President Obama and former President Richard Nixon. During the Nixon administration, he attempted to politicize the IRS and get them to perform tax audits of those on his political enemies list. TheTeaParty.net has already published remarks that hint at that linkage.
“What would Democrats have done if the Nixon administration ordered the IRS to actively target the National Organization of Women or the American Civil Liberties Union?” the organization said in a statement. “Nixon had his own enemies list and resigned. These activities are eerily similar, and yet Obama remains in office even in light of Fast and Furious, the Benghazi tragedy, and now the active targeting of his political opposition.”