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Editor/Founder: Bill Smith, Ph.D. [aka: OzarkGuru & 2010 AFP National Blogger of the Year]
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One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato (429-347 BC)

Friday, May 10, 2013

IRS Apologizes for Targeting Conservative Groups

Via Friends of the Chamber
The Associated Press - by STEPHEN OHLEMACHER

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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.

Agency officials found out about the practice last year and moved to correct it, the IRS said in a statement. The statement did not specify when officials found out.

About 75 groups were inappropriately targeted. None had their tax-exempt status revoked, Lerner said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called on the White House to investigate.

"Today's acknowledgement by the Obama administration that the IRS did in fact target conservative groups in the heat of last year's national election is not enough," McConnell said. "I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views."
Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive questionnaires.

The forms, which the groups made available at the time, sought information about group members' political activities, including details of their postings on social networking websites and about family members.

Certain tax-exempt charitable groups can conduct political activities but it cannot be their primary activity.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on their political views.

"There's absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people" who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a House Ways and Means subcommittee.

Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush. His 6-year term ended in November. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a successor. The agency is now being run by acting Commissioner Steven Miller.

"The Ways and Means Committee has persistently pushed the IRS to explain why it appeared to be unfairly targeting some political groups over others — a charge they repeatedly denied," said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee.

"The IRS's 'too little too late' response is unacceptable, and I will continue to work to ensure there are protections in place so no American, regardless of political affiliation, has their right to free speech threatened by the IRS," Boustany said.

Tea Party groups were livid on Friday.

"I don't think there's any question we were unfairly targeted," said Tom Zawistowski, who until recently was president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, an alliance of tea party groups in the state.

Zawistowski's group was among many conservative organizations that battled the IRS over what they saw as its discriminatory treatment of their effort to gain non-profit status. The group first applied for non-profit status in June 2009, and it was finally granted on Dec. 7, 2012, he said — one month after Election Day.

During the 2012 election, many tea party groups applied for tax-exempt status under section 501 (c) (4) of the federal tax code, which grants tax-exempt status to social welfare groups. Unlike other charitable groups, these organizations are allowed to participate in political activities but their primary activity must be social welfare.

That determination is up to the IRS.

Lerner said the number of groups filing for this tax-exempt status more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, to more than 3,400. To handle the influx, the IRS centralized its review of these applications in an office in Cincinnati.

Lerner said this was done to develop expertise among staffers and consistency in their reviews. As part of the review, staffers look for signs that groups are participating in political activity. If so, IRS agents take a closer look to make sure that politics isn't the group's primary activity, Lerner said.

As part of this process, agents in Cincinnati came up with a list of things to look for in an application. As part of the list, they included the words, "tea party" and "patriot," Lerner said.

"It's the line people that did it without talking to managers," Lerner. "They're IRS workers, they're revenue agents."

In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review, Lerner said. Of those, about a quarter were singled out because they had "tea party" or "patriot" somewhere in their applications.

The IRS statement said that once applications were chosen for review, they all "received the same, even-handed treatment."

Lerner said 150 of the cases have been closed and no group had its tax-exempt status revoked, though some withdrew their applications.

"Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale," the IRS said in a statement. "We fixed the situation last year and have made significant progress in moving the centralized cases through our system."

Marcus S. Owens, who spent a decade leading the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, said Friday that it made sense that the problem arose among workers in Cincinnati because the agency "really has delegated a lot of authority" to local offices to make decisions about handling their workload.

But Tea Party groups weren't buying the idea that the decision to target them was solely the responsibility of low-level IRS workers.

"It is suspicious that the activity of these 'low-level workers' was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred," said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, which describes itself as the nation's largest tea party organization.

"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."


Tags: IRS, admits, targeting, conservative groups, 2012 elections To share or post to your site, click on "Post Link". Please mention / link to the ARRA News Service. Thanks!
Posted by Bill Smith at 11:00 AM - Post Link

4 Comments:

Anonymous The Tea Party Patriots said...

What we've long suspected to be the case is now confirmed to be true. The Obama administration has used the IRS as a political weapon. The IRS may claim that it is 'sorry.' But given the damage that has been done, their apology is not accepted," said Niger Innis, Chief Strategist for TheTeaParty.net.

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? 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. We demand a thorough independent investigation into who did what, when, why, and how far up into the administration this scandal goes. We would expect intimidation like this from third-world, tin-pot dictators, not our own US government.

5/10/2013  
Anonymous House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said...

The admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history. Today, we are left with serious questions: who is ultimately responsible for this travesty? What actions will the Obama administration take to hold them accountable? And have other federal agencies used government powers to attack Americans for partisan reasons? House Republicans have made oversight of federal agencies a top priority on behalf of the American people, and I applaud the work that members such as Charles Boustany, Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan have done to bring this issue to light. I also strongly support Sen. McConnell’s call for a transparent, government-wide review to ensure similar practices are not happening elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy.

5/10/2013  
Anonymous Amanda Whitsitt Delffs said...

Another right wing conspiracy theory...NOT!

5/10/2013  
Anonymous John Stevens said...

Yep. The IRS apology is about as sincere as Obama's. With friends like these, who needs enemies?

5/11/2013  

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