The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) illegally subjected conservative organizations to special scrutiny of the groups’ tax-exempt status, an agency official admitted Friday. Between 2010 and 2012, about 75 groups were targeted simply because they had the words “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12″ in their organizations’ names, said Lois G. Lerner, director of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Chairman said the committee would hold hearings on the scandal. “The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing,” said Rep. Dave Camp, Michigan Republican.
Lerner’s admission to reporters Friday — apparently prompted by the impending release of an inspector general’s report — appeared to confirm charges of political bias in IRS enforcement. Conservative activists have said that their groups’ applications for tax-exempt status as 501(c)4 organizations were delayed because they were required to answer intrusive questionnaires and subjected to other bureaucratic hassles.
The revelations directly contradict IRS Commissioner Douglas Schulman’s testimony to Congress. In March 2012, Schulman testified to a subcommittee of the House House Ways and Means Committee that there was “absolutely no targeting” on the basis of politics. Yet Lerner was told in June 2011 meeting that the groups were being singled out, according to the Associated Press, which obtained portions of a draft of the inspector general’s report:
The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But 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.
The 9/12 Project is a group started by conservative TV personality Glenn Beck. In a statement to the AP, Beck suggested that the revelations were hardly news to him and other conservatives.
“In February 2012, TheBlaze first reported what the IRS now admits to — that they unfairly targeted conservative groups including the 9/12 project,” Beck said, citing his website and TV network. “It is nice to see everyone else playing catch-up and finally asking the same questions that TheBlaze started raising over a year ago.”
Numerous commentators compared the IRS targeting of Tea Party groups to similar abuses against political groups targeted by the administration of President Richard Nixon. At least one pro-Israel group has complained of harassment by the IRS in recent years.
- Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press: IRS Knew Tea Party Targeted in 2011
- William Jacobson, Legal Insurrection: IRS anti-Tea Party scandal gets real
- James Taranto, Wall Street Journal: The New Nixon
- Twitchy: IRS: Our Tea Party witch hunt wasn’t ‘motivated by political bias’; No comment on disciplinary action
- Ben Smith, BuzzFeed: Pro-Israel Group Sees “Same Conduct” In IRS’s Tea Party Campaign
- Fox News: House Republicans swiftly announce hearing on IRS targeting conservative groups
- Ed Driscoll, Pajamas Media: ‘The IRS: First they Came for the Tea Partiers, Then They Came for the Jews’
- Zachary A. Goldfarb and Karen Tumulty, Washington Post: IRS admits targeting conservatives for tax scrutiny in 2012 election