House GOP report: the IRS did not target progressive groups
Further confirmation of something we already knew comes from a House GOP report that wipes out one of the big Democrat talking points on the IRS scandal, namely that both liberal and conservative groups were equally targeted. This claim is absurd on its face – seven left-wing groups are supposed to prove there wasn’t any political bias when measured against over a hundred Tea Party and pro-life targets? – but even that tiny handful of “progressive targets” doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. From the Daily Caller:
IRS agents testified before Congress that the agency’s political targeting did not apply to progressive groups as Democrats and the media have claimed, according to a bombshell new staff report prepared by the House Oversight Committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa.
IRS agents testified before Oversight that ACORN groups were scrutinized because the agency thought they were old organizations applying as new ones. Emerge America was scrutinized for potential “improper private benefit.” No evidence exists that the IRS requested additional information from any Occupy Wall Street group.
“Only seven applications in the IRS backlog contained the word ‘progressive,’ all of which were then approved by the IRS, while Tea Party groups received unprecedented review and experienced years-long delays. While some liberal-oriented groups were singled out for scrutiny, evidence shows it was due to non-political reasons,” according to the Oversight staff report, which was obtained by The Daily Caller.
It’s simply delirious to compare the treatment of those politically targeted conservative groups and the half-dozen progressive organizations on the list. If anything, the “evidence” Democrats use to to deny the existence of scandal only makes the scandal look worse. The few left-wing groups subjected to enhanced scrutiny were put under the IRS microscope for obvious, non-political reasons. To take the example that appears most frequently in liberal propaganda, the successor organizations to scandal-plagued left-wing group ACORN raised a few eyebrows at the Tax Exempt Organizations unit because they were using the same street addresses and officers as the supposedly defunct ACORN offices. Even then, the House report says these thinly-disguised ACORN groups “were apparently not subjected to the same systematic scrutiny and delay as Tea Party applicants.”
The Wall Street Journal adds that the report portrays the inclusion of a few liberal groups as a deliberate effort by IRS officials to cover up the partisan nature of the Tax Exempt Organizations crusade:
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.”
The House Oversight report notes that Tea Party groups were the exclusive focus of enhanced scrutiny at first, and even after the “Be On the Lookout” lists were expanded to include some progressive code words, the actual treatment of groups depended on their partisan polarity:
Contrary to Democratic claims, substantial documentary and testimonial evidence shows that the IRS systematically engaged in disparate treatment of conservative tax-exempt applicants. The Committee’s investigation shows that the initial applications sent to the Washington as “test” cases were all filed by Tea Party-affiliated groups. The IRS screening criteria used to identify and separate additional applications also initially captured exclusively Tea Party organizations. Even after the criteria were changed, documents show the IRS intended to identify and separate Tea Party applications for review.
No matter how hard the Administration and congressional Democrats try to spin the facts about the IRS targeting, it remains clear that the IRS treated conservative tax-exempt applicants differently. As detailed below, the IRS treated Tea Party and other conservative tax-exempt applicants unlike liberal or progressive applicants.
Also inconveniently for Democrats attempting to spin this scandal away, IRS officials Elizabeth Hofacre and Ron Bell explicitly stated, during congressional testimony, that only Tea Party groups were targeted through the summer of 2011. Democrats and left-wing media sources have tried to minimize the damage from their testimony by laughably suggesting that Hofacre and Bell used “Tea Party” as some sort of generic, non-partisan term for all political action groups, but that it emphatically not true – they were specifically asked to clarify what they meant when they said “Tea Party,” and explicitly rejected the notion that progressive groups were subjected to any comparable scrutiny. About all that remains of this destroyed Democrat talking point is the forlorn hope that some as-yet-unidentified mystery agent was secretly working on scrutinizing left-wing groups, without the knowledge of the team that was working over conservatives… and even if such an individual was produced, it would only underline the point that progressives weren’t getting anything remotely approaching the large-scale, highly organized harassment conservatives received.
It’s always worth pointing out that this scandal was not about Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status getting denied. That would have given us conclusions reached in a timely manner, which the affected groups could have appealed. Instead, they were subjected to endless inquisitions, with one Tea Party group still on hold after an astonishing fifty-one months. IRS officials testified that only Tea Party groups were kept on hold for ages, awaiting special approval from Washington, while the few progressive groups examined after the BOLO list expanded in July 2011 enjoyed much swifter resolution of their cases.
This enhanced scrutiny included demands for donor information… of precisely the sort that the no one at the IRS has leaked to hostile organizations in the past. In the wake of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich’s blacklisting, every potential donor has good reason to worry that his confidential information will find its way onto such a blacklist, especially since there isn’t much reason to believe the IRS has been reformed in any significant way. No one has been held responsible or punished, although there have been a couple of “retirements,” including Lerner. The President’s party alternates between claiming nothing was done wrong… and insisting wrong was done to progressive groups, too.
A dash of accountability may finally be achieved this week, as House Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) announced that his committee would vote this Thursday on a resolution to hold IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her refusal to testify.