IRS Targeted Tea Party Groups Beginning in 2011: Scandal Gets Worse (for the IRS)

Yesterday I wrote about the scandal with tax exempt organizations at the IRS. Basically, “low-level employees” according to Lois Lerner of the IRS independently decided to target tax exempt groups with “Tea Party,” “Conservative,” or “Patriot” in their names. Of course that contradicted former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman who testified to Congress that there was no such targeting.

However, the AP is now saying that the targeting began in 2011:

Senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner.

The AP report states that TIGTA (the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration) will be releasing a report this coming week on the issue (the report has been a year in the making). I expect that TIGTA report to get a lot more reading than the tax nerds who usually read TIGTA reports. But I digress….

While it’s unclear if former Commissioner Shulman knew of the targeting, it appears that the IRS Chief Counsel’s office knew. From the AP story:

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.”

When the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree editorially you know you have a problem. Today, the Post editorialized that they were aghast over the revelations.

The IRS insisted emphatically that partisanship had nothing to do with it. However, it seems that groups with “progressive” in their titles did not receive the same scrutiny.

If it was not partisanship, was it incompetence? Stupidity, on a breathtaking scale? At this point, the IRS has lost any standing to determine and report on what exactly happened. Certainly Congress will investigate, as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) promised.

The Journal editorial is similarly scathing toward the IRS:

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean the IRS isn’t out to get you. We only wish that were a joke…

Republicans were up in arms Friday about the IRS disclosure, and rightly so. We assume they will use their oversight power in the House to find out what happened, and whether these Cincinnati kids were really operating on their own.

Other than the power to prosecute, the taxing authority is the most awesome power the government has. It can ruin people and companies. When wielded for political purposes, it is a violation of the basic contract the American people have with their government. The abuse admitted by Ms. Lerner can’t be dismissed in a casual apology on a casual Friday as no big deal. It’s a very big and bad deal.

I recommend reading both editorials in their entirety.

There are lots of questions that need answering:

– Why were politically conservative groups targeted?
– Who at the IRS condoned these actions?
– Was this truly a spontaneous action by “low-level” employees at the Cincinnati Service Center or was this coordinated by Ms. Lerner or others?
– Was outside pressure (e.g. from the White House) put on the IRS to look at these groups?

I’m sure you may be able to think of others. I also suspect that the timing of the apology by Ms. Lerner has a lot to do with the upcoming TIGTA report.

I try to avoid talking politics in this blog. I happen to be a political conservative, but I would be furious if the IRS targeted groups with the word “Progressive” in their title. This is a huge deal, and with the IRS set to be the enforcement arm of Obamacare, expect Republicans to rightly wonder about it. If President Obama was expecting a budget increase for the IRS, this scandal almost certainly eliminated any chance of that happening.


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