So Much For That Alleged IRS Targeting Scandal


For the last year or so conservatives have been furiously striking the persecution pose, claiming that the IRS was engaged in a systematic campaign to deny non-profit status to Tea Party groups. That’s been known to be nonsense for quite a while now, but the release of new documents to ThinkProgress should kill it forever (substantively, that is; I’m sure Darrell Issa and the right wing media will keep playing pretend as long as they can anyway).

A series of IRS documents, provided to ThinkProgress under the Freedom of Information Act, appears to contradict the claims by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that only Tea Party organizations applying for tax-exempt status “received systematic scrutiny because of their political beliefs.” The 22 “Be On the Look Out” keywords lists, distributed to staff reviewing applications between August 12, 2010 and April 19, 2013, included more explicit references to progressive groups, ACORN successors, and medical marijuana organizations than to Tea Party entities…

The IRS provided the heavily-redacted lists to ThinkProgress, after nearly a year-long search. From the earliest lists through 2012, the “historical” section of the lists encouraged reviewers to watch out for “progressive” groups with names like “blue,” as their requests for 501(c)(3) charitable status might be inappropriate. Their inclusion in this section suggests that the concern predates the initial 2010 list.

Explicit references to “Tea Party,” included in the “emerging issues” section of the lists, also began in August 2010 — but stopped appearing after the May 10, 2011 list. From that point on, the lists instructed agents to flag all political advocacy groups of any stripe. The documents instructed the agents to forward any “organization involved with political, lobbying, or advocacy” applying for 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) status be forwarded to “group 7822″ for additional review. Groups under both categories are limited in the amount of of lobbying and political activity each can undertake.

Other types of groups received explicit scrutiny for longer than “progressive” or “Tea Party” organizations. These included applicants involved with “medical marijuana” but not “exclusively education” (19 appearances in the “watch list” section of the lists), which were to be forwarded to a “group 7888″ and groups believed to be possible successor-groups to ACORN, the now-shuttered Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (12 appearances on the “watch list” section). Those applications were also to be elevated to managers for further review. All 22 documents also flagged applicants with Puerto Rico addresses and certain types of “Testamentary Trusts.”

Last year, the IRS acknowledged that it had improperly flagged groups applying for tax-exempt status for additional scrutiny if they contained common Tea Party keywords in their applications. Rather than addressing the very real problem of political committees masquerading as 501(c)(4) groups to evade public disclosure laws, this approach instead delayed the process for several groups purely on the basis of their names. President Obama and members of both parties in Congress all agree that the IRS acted improperly in singling-out certain groups for more scrutiny than others.

Here’s a chart showing what types of groups were targeted:

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The problem here, free of all the partisan bullshit, is that the IRS has a very difficult time determining which organizations fall within the guidelines of the various 501(c) categories, especially categories 3 and 4. The laws are vague and so are the implementation rules. The right wing media did its usual argument-by-anecdote, referring to a few conservative groups that were targeted for additional scrutiny and screaming “OMG, Obama is persecuting us and trying to destroy us!” But the truth is that the IRS selected a wide variety of groups for scrutiny because of those vague rules and more liberal groups were targeted than conservatives ones. That will do absolutely nothing to make them stop making this same claim, of course, because it is useful to them and therefore must be true.

Comments

  1. timberwoof says

    Why did it take so much effort to obtain a copy of that document? Wouldn’t releasing that document show that the IRS wasn’t doing what it was accused of?

  2. mikeyb says

    So when have new facts ever changed right wing talking points. Bengazi Bengazi Bengazi Bengazi Obamacare Obamacare, IRS gate, Bengazi – now that’s done, whew! so Darryl Issa can go back on vacation in one of his multimillion dollar homes.

  3. says

    Explicit references to “Tea Party,” included in the “emerging issues” section of the lists, also began in August 2010 — but stopped appearing after the May 10, 2011 list.

    AH HAH! SO YOU ADMIT THAT OBAMA HAD HIS JACKBOOTED IRS THUGS TARGET TEA PARTY GROUPS FROM RIGHT AFTER WE “WON” HIS FIRST PRESIDENTIAL “ELECTION” ALL THE WAY UP TO AFTER HE “WON” HIS SECOND! CHECKMAET, DEMOCRATS!

  4. magistramarla says

    The military spouse’s group in which I served on the executive board applied for 501(c) (3) status in 2010. We dealt with heightened scrutiny simply because we were associated with the military, even though we were simply a group of (mostly) ladies who were raising money for scholarships and charities.
    It seemed that we were suspected of being a conservative group. Our group’s president joked that if anyone came to question us, she would make sure that I was present, since everyone knew that I was the most openly liberal member of the board. It’s ironic that I also happened to be the oldest member of that board.
    We simply considered the extra scrutiny a normal part of the procedure, and cheerfully submitted all of the requested paperwork and waited patiently until it was all accepted. I for one was happy to see the IRS doing their job.

  5. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    …claiming it’s “discrimination” for the IRS to monitor Tea Party groups as a higher probability of being tax cheats is like claiming it’s “discrimination” to assume NAMBLA members have a higher probability of molesting children.

  6. DaveL says

    the release of new documents to ThinkProgress should kill it forever

    Ah, Ed, ever the optimist, eh?

    How many conservatives still refer to Obama as an illegal Muslim immigrant from Kenya? Hell, how many of them
    still think the earth is 6000 years old?

  7. tfkreference says

    In Minnesota, some organization is starting to run ads accusing Al Franken of being behind this “attack on free speech” (not scare quotes there, but real ones).

  8. comfychair says

    Absence of evidence: “See?! They’ve shredded it all! They must be hiding something!!”

    Existence of evidence: “Oh my god now they’re just blatantly fabricating documents – it must be EVEN WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!!!”

  9. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    @ coffeehound :10 & 11 : Actually “stray” kinda works there too.

    @8. DaveL :

    How many conservatives still refer to Obama as an illegal Muslim immigrant from Kenya? Hell, how many of them still think the earth is 6000 years old?

    I dunno how many?

    (Pauses for quick google search & cup of tea)

    Okay for the first one this poll :

    albeit out of date now (2010) suggests just under half – 45% of Republicans* think Obama is ” ..was not born in the United States and is therefore ineligible for the presidency..” which seems the closest match to the question as asked. Nearly 60 % of those polled think he’s Muslim too.

    * Whether “conservative” and Republican” are synomnymns /same thing is another question again and as always statistics will be open to dispute and arguing over potentially loaded questions, numbers and backgrounds of those polled or not polled, etc … Still.

  10. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    Now for the second question asked by Dave L :

    Hell, how many of them still think the earth is 6000 years old?

    Pauses for web search and cuppa, returns with this link :

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/10/how-many-americans-actually-believe-the-earth-is-only-6000-years-old/

    Answer, it turns out, it, umm, er, ..

    …depends on how you phrase the question! Somewhere in the very wide range of 18% to 46% of the US population it seems. Although that’s for the the whole US population I gather, not just conservatives – however you define those.

    So maybe not that helpful. Sigh.

    Lessee whatelse we got? , By Hemant Mehta “Friendly Athiest” blog has a post in 2012 June 1st titled ‘Gallup Poll: 46% of Americans Are Creationists’ which seems to refer (&links there) to one of the polls mentioned in the first link but additionally notes :

    Also, to no one’s surprise, Republicans and frequent church-goers were more likely to think God poofed us into existence.

    But doesn’t say what the percentage(s) is. (Are.)

    Hmm.. may have to get someone with better google-fu than me on this one.

  11. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    ^ Oh wait, (facepalm) that link in Mehta’s post and now here :

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx

    Two-thirds of Americans who attend religious services weekly choose the creationist alternative, compared with 25% of those who say they seldom or never attend church.

    Plus here :

    Highly religious Americans are more likely to be Republican than those who are less religious, which helps explain the relationship between partisanship and beliefs about human origins. The major distinction is between Republicans and everyone else. While 58% of Republicans believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years, 39% of independents and 41% of Democrats agree.

    Seems to be the (or at least *an*) answer at last. From a few years ago now though.

  12. says

    StevoR:

    A far more interesting polling question would be how many RepubliKKKonservaloonz get their “news” and analysis from FuckTheNew’sCorpse, Talkingshitheadz radio and viral e-mails.

    I’m guessing that there is a degree of unanimity there which approaches the voting process for NK’s Dear Leader.

  13. says

    The IRS consistently denied by attempts to set up “The democommie in-depth self-research on the effects of sex’n’drugs’n’rock’n’roll study group” as a non-profit even though I WEAR Levi’s 501’s! True story.

  14. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    The thing that most amazed me about the whole “controversy” is that the TP organizations claimed that they were unfairly targeted by the IRS, and therefore they were prevented from campaigning in the 2012 election! Say what?

    And of course this also ignores the fact that whether or not they finally wound up being tax deductible, they could still have campaigned. Not legally (at least in some ways), if they’re supposed to be tax deductible, but nothing physically prevented them from campaigning while they were being investigated.

  15. Eric Ressner says

    Gvlgeologist @20: Actually, I think the “issue” was that they couldn’t tell potential contributors that their contributions would be tax-deductible.

    They would have us ignore the fact (for which I have no evidence whatsoever but an unambiguous gut feeling) that the overwhelming majority of TP wackaloons are taking the standard deduction because the poor don’t need no steenkin’ Schedule A, or are so outrageously 0.1% rich that they don’t care.

  16. says

    “Gvlgeologist @20: Actually, I think the “issue” was that they couldn’t tell potential contributors that their contributions would be tax-deductible.”

    Those assholes are doing the 21st century equivalent of selling indulgences; they would tell the sheeple ANYTHING to separate them from their lucre.

  17. Gvlgeologist, FCD says

    @Eric Ressner – that’s not the impression that I had, but I stand corrected. Thanks.

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