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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Congressional Report Quashes The Lie That The IRS Targeted Liberal/Progressive Groups

Now that some of the mainstream media outlets are mentioning the IRS scandal, progressives are coming out of the rafters pointing out that progressive outlets applying for 501 (C)(3) status were targeted as well as the conservative groups.  To paraphrase Bill Clinton, that depends what as--is. Yes its true that there were some progressive groups on the original BOLO (be on the look out) list, but their applications weren't subject to the same enhanced scrutiny, extra questions, delays, etc., that conservative groups received.

Two months ago, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released staff report debunking the claim that the IRS targeted liberal groups as well as Conservative groups.“ The full  report called "Debunking the Myth that the IRS Targeted Progressives: How the IRS and Congressional Democrats Misled America about Disparate Treatment.” is embedded at the end of his post.

According to the report's summary
“[T]he Administration and congressional Democrats have seized upon the notion that the IRS’s targeting was not just limited to conservative applicants,” the report states. “These Democratic claims are flat-out wrong and have no basis in any thorough examination of the facts.  Yet, the Administration’s chief defenders continue to make these assertions in a concerted effort to deflect and distract from the truth about the IRS’s targeting of tax-exempt applicants.”

“[T]here is simply no evidence that any liberal or progressive group received enhanced scrutiny because its application reflected the organization’s political views.
Among the key findings of the report and their corresponding pages each of the bullet points are backed up by emails and/or testimony:
  • IRS’s selected three “test” cases were all conservative organizations: Prescott Tea Party, American Junto, the Albuquerque Tea Party were sent to D.C. for further review (pp. 14-18)
  • MYTH: Progressive groups were also targeted. 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. The IRS’s independent watchdog, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), confirms that the IRS treated conservative applicants differently from liberal groups. The inspector general, J. Russell George, wrote that while TIGTA found indications that the IRS had improperly identified Tea Party groups, it “did not find evidence that the criteria [Democrats] identified, labeled ‘Progressives,’ were used by the IRS to select potential political cases during the 2010 to 2012 timeframe we audited.” He concluded that TIGTA “found no  indication in any of these other materials that ‘Progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention. In fact The IRS
    approved every group with the word “progressive” in its name.(pp. 32-35)
  • MYTHS:  False Democratic claims of political targeting about specific groups exposed: Where the IRS identified liberal-oriented groups for scrutiny, evidence shows that it did so for objective, non-political reasons and not because of the groups’ political beliefs. (p.32)
  • IRS selectively released documents supporting the misleading claims. The IRS cited 6103 protections for taxpayer information to withhold details about the targeting from the American public, but reversed its decision in August 2013 to release information helpful to its cause. (pp. 11)
  • ACORN groups – IRS employees testified that former ACORN affiliates were scrutinized out of concern that they were old organizations improperly applying as new ones and not because of their political beliefs. (pp. 40–42)
  • Emerge America – IRS employees testified that Emerge Groups were scrutinized after some had already been approved and the IRS became concerned about improper private benefit – not because of their political beliefs. (pp. 42–44)
  • Occupy Wall Street – The Committee has found no evidence that the IRS subjected Occupy applicants to burdensome and intrusive information requests or even seen evidence that “Occupy Wall Street” or an affiliate organization applied to the IRS for non-profit status. (pp. 44–45).
The liberal's claim of that their groups were targeted along with the conservative groups is reminiscent of an apocryphal tale about Microsoft:
A helicopter was flying above Seattle when an electrical malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter's position and course to fly to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter's window. The pilot's sign said "WHERE AM I?" in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign and held it in a building window. Their sign read: "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER." The pilot smiled, waved, looked at her map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER" sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded "I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because they gave me a technically correct, but completely useless answer."

The Democratic claim that liberal groups were also targeted is is technically correct but totally useless.  Both political persuasions may have been added to the IRS BOLO lists, however it was only the conservative organizations which were subject to the enhanced scrutiny and delayed applications at the center of the IRS scandal.

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