"From February through August 2010, no official criteria [for the heightened review] existed, but specialists had been asked to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications, and the IRS Determinations Unit had begun searching its database for applications with 'Tea Party,' 'Patriots,' or '9/12' in the organization's name as well as other 'political sounding' names," according to the detailed Treasury inspector general findings.This information comes from documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.
By June 2011, some IRS specialists were probing applications using the following criteria to identify tea-party cases, according to the Treasury inspector general findings: "'Tea Party,' 'Patriots' or '9/12 Project' is referenced in the case file; issues include government spending, government debt or taxes; education of the public by advocacy/lobbying to 'make America a better place to live'; statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run."
At the end of June 2011:
RS staffers held a briefing with senior agency official Lois G. Lerner in which they described giving special attention to instances where “statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run.” Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the agency, raised objections and the agency revised its criteria a week later.According to the Inspector Generals report, the IRS did not adopt a more neutral test for social welfare groups until May 17, 2012 almost a year after Lerner learned was first informed about the problem.
But six months later, the IRS applied a new political test to groups that applied for tax-exempt status as “social welfare” groups, the document says. On Jan. 15, 2012 the agency decided to target “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform movement.,” according to the appendix in the IG report, which was requested by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has yet to be released.
At that point, the IRS again updated its criteria to focus on “organizations with indicators of significant amounts of political campaign intervention (raising questions as to exempt purpose and/or excess private benefit.)”And we also know its wasn't just right-wing groups, but the pro-Israel group Z-street has been suing the IRS since 2010 because their application was for tax-exempt status was delayed (according to the IRS) the organization was “connected to Israel,” and needed additional scrutiny.
Its yet to be seen where the IRS got its "marching orders" to target conservative and Israel-related groups. I am sure any investigation by Congress will be called by the Democrats "politically motivated.