It seems like only yesterday that President Obama was mocking those who fear the immense power of the Leviathan State has been turned to tyrannical ends. Actually, it was five days ago, when he told Ohio State graduates: “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”
How dare those crazy voices warn that Big Government could abuse its power to punish dissent! Why, the next thing you know, they’ll be accusing the IRS of slapping conservative and Tea Party groups with inappropriate tax audits! Except they’ll be too late, because as the Associated Press reports, the IRS just apologized for doing exactly that:
The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.
Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.
Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. She did not say when they found out.
Oh, well, that’s not so bad. It was just a practice initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati that somehow bubbled up to the national level. Wait, what?
The IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman, received a letter from twelve Republican senators back in March 2012, asking for an investigation of these inappropriate audits. (I guess Democrats don’t care about such things, at least not when they happen to political dissidents. Imagine the IRS hunting for words like “progressive” or “liberal” to trigger audits during the re-election campaign of a Republican President. While we’re on the subject, isn’t it rather sad that the “low-level workers” who launched this little project knew they wouldn’t get any liberal groups if they searched for the word “patriot?”)
The letter mentioned complaints from nonprofit organizations in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas. Not only was the selection process for auditing called into question, but the amount of information demanded by the IRS, and the tight time frame for producing it, were also challenged.
Shulman responded by denying that anything of the sort was going on, insisting to a House Ways and Means Subcommittee, “There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people.” Looks like that denial is deader than the Benghazi talking points. Now we just have to find out if Shulman was ignorant, or was lying to Congress. He was a Bush appointee whose term ended last November, so he might have trouble using the “Incompetence Defense” beloved of Obama Administration figures such as Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder, in which they claim they’re completely out of the loop and have no idea what their subordinates are doing.
HUMAN EVENTS published an article from conservative talk-show host Roger Hedgecock about the wave of unusual audits in March 2012:
Just since the first of this year, Tea Party groups in Hawaii, Texas, Ohio, California, Kentucky, and Virginia report receiving inquiries from the IRS challenging their claim to non-profit status.
Up to 80 conservative/constitutionalist groups, including 9/12 Project groups around the country have reportedly received these letters. The IRS letters all come from a single office of the IRS in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The letters contain lengthy questionnaires asking for information well beyond the facts necessary under the IRC to establish the legal parameters of the 501(c)(4) designation.
For example, the Kentucky 9/12 Project applied for a non-profit designation in December 2010. The IRS return letter stated that there would be a determination within 90 days. The Kentucky group next heard from the IRS on February 14, 2012 in a letter containing 30 main questions with a total of 88 separate inquiries.
The IRS letter demanded the schedule and contact of every event sponsored by the group, speaker???s names and what the speaker said, and every written communication associated with the event. The letter demanded the names and personal information of every member and volunteer.
Other questions in the letter demand the names of donors and ask for the names of ???board members or officers who have run or will run for office (including relatives)???
The letters give the groups two weeks to reply.
Hedgecock wrote that the IRS launched this spread of audit torpedoes following “a letter from six liberal U.S. Senators to the Commissioner of the IRS… Senators Bennett, Schumer, Franken, Udall, Shaheen, Whitehouse and Merkley requesting the IRS investigate political activity by these conservative groups.”
Oh, so Democrats do care about politically motivated IRS audits! Just not in the right way.
If the IRS thought the targeted groups would accept their apology and laugh the whole thing off as a crazy bit of low-level workplace tomfoolery, they’ll be disappointed by the reaction of Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Jenny Beth Martin. “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. It is suspicious that the activity of these ???low-level workers??? was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred.”
Nope, it doesn’t sound like she’s going to buy the Incompetence Defense.
“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,” demanded Martin. “We reject a simple apology that does nothing to alleviate the danger of this happening again. Only immediate and public actions on the part of the IRS and the president will suffice. We demand the immediate resignation of all complicit in this activity and insist Congress investigate.???