IRS also was on the lookout for progressive tax-exempt groups
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service's chief acknowledged on Monday, June 24, that agency employees reviewing groups' applications for tax-exempt status had "be on the lookout," or BOLO, lists for more than just conservative groups.
But during a conference call with reporters, IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel declined to elaborate on just what was highlighted in the other BOLOs.
The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means, however, had no such qualms.
And Sander M. Levin (D-Mich.) also wants to know why The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) chose to name only BOLO lists of conservative groups it its report on the tax agency's inappropriate screening of applications for 501(c)(4) status.
Groups that receive this tax-exempt status must be mostly involved in social welfare instead of political, campaign-related activities.
BOLO for progressives: Following Werfel's press conference and release of the agency's report of its internal investigation, Charting a Path Forward at the IRS: Initial Assessment and Plan of Action, Levin late Monday afternoon had some IRS news of his own.
He announced that the IRS had provided Congressional investigators with new information that shows that the term "progressives" also was included on IRS tax-exempt application BOLO lists.
In a memo to "interested parties," Levin says:
"Based on our [Democratic staff] investigation, it has become clear that the Inspector General failed to inform the Congress that the following category also appears on the same BOLOs that contain the 'Tea Party' criteria and even appears on the BOLOs after the 'Tea Party' criteria had been removed:
in the BOLO
Issue Description in the BOLO
Political activities. Common thread is the word "progressive." Activities appear to lean toward a
new political party. Activities are partisan and appear anti-Republican. You see references to
"blue" as being "progressive."
Second, certain individuals on our tax staff have reviewed the list of 298 organizations reviewed by TIGTA during its audit and confirmed that there are liberal organizations on the list."
That explains a lot.
In its audit of the tax-exempt review process, TIGTA cited lists that told employees in the Cincinnati office to give added scrutiny to groups with Tea Party, 9/12 and patriot in their names.
That revelation garnered much attention and conservative ire, both on Capitol Hill and outside the Beltway. The Republican-led House Ways and Means even held a special hearing where some of the Tea Party groups testified, some quite emotionally, about being picked on by the IRS.
Some, not most: But those right-wing groups weren't alone in getting special unwanted IRS attention.
TIGTA found that while approximately one-third (32.2 percent) of the applications were on the conservative side of the political spectrum, the other two-thirds were not.
Levin says that "notably, TIGTA did not attempt to break down in its report" how many in the other category were liberal organizations even though it stated that it reviewed all 298 applications.
Other BOLO lists, dated between August 2010 and April 2013, included such terms as "Medical Marijuana," "Occupied Territory Advocacy," "Healthcare legislation," "Newspaper Entities," "Paying National Debt" and "Green Energy Organizations."
Now maybe we'll have a Ways and Means hearing where these more liberal application targets can tell their stories. Quit laughing. Levin is asking for such a session. It could happen.
Stop it! I can still hear you snickering.
New questions for TIGTA: In the meantime, Levin wants to know why TIGTA only spelled out Tea Party et al BOLO lists in its May audit report that set off cries of scandal and prompted further IRS investigations.
In a letter to Inspector General J. Russell George, Levin asks:
"In outlining the overall objective of the audit, TIGTA wrote that it sought to 'determine whether allegations were founded that the IRS targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status.' Please describe in detail why your report dated May 14, 2013 omitted the fact that 'Progressives' was used. Did you investigate whether the criteria 'Progressives' in the BOLO lists was developed in the same manner as you did for 'Tea Party'? If not, why?"
Levin wants answers from TIGTA by July 8.
The ranking Ways and Means Democrat also has asked the committee chairman, Dave Camp (R-Mich.) to schedule another hearing so that George can "answer questions on the glaring omissions" in the watchdog's original report on BOLO tax exempt lists.
Stay tuned, folks. Looking into the IRS could get even more exciting.
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