We need a name for the scandal of the IRS leaning on right-side political organizations. “501(c)(4) – gate” doesn’t do it. Tea-Gate? Tea-Party Dome? Something must be done! I invite you to do in the comments.
The blog world is going nuts on this today, so here is an extra roundup so I can maybe talk some about other things tomorrow.
The TIGTA report is out! Full text here. From the Summary (my emphasis)
The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party and other organizations applying for tax‑exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. Ineffective management: 1) allowed inappropriate criteria to be developed and stay in place for more than 18 months, 2) resulted in substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) allowed unnecessary information requests to be issued.
Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months. This was due to delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations function Headquarters office.
That means a big part of the problem was in Washington, not just in Cincinnati, as the spinners would like us to believe.
There is no smoking gun — no email from the President telling reviewers to give them Tea Partiers hell. But there is enough to make it pretty clear that Doug Shulman and Steven Miller were lying when they said Tea Partiers weren’t targeted. From the report, my emphasis:
Determinations Unit employees stated that they considered the Tea Party criterion as a shorthand term for all potential political cases. Whether the inappropriate criterion was shorthand for all potential political cases or not, developing and using criteria that focuses on organization names and policy positions instead of the activities permitted under the Treasury Regulations does not promote public confidence that tax-exempt laws are being adhered to impartially. In addition, the applications for those organizations that were identified for processing by the team of specialists experienced significant delays and requests for unnecessary information that is detailed later in this report.
After being briefed on the expanded criteria in June 2011, the Director, EO, immediately directed that the criteria be changed. In July 2011, the criteria were changed to focus on the potential “political, lobbying, or [general] advocacy” activities of the organization. These criteria were an improvement over using organization names and policy positions. However, the team of specialists subsequently changed the criteria in January 2012 without executive approval because they believed the July 2011 criteria were too broad. The January 2012 criteria again focused on the policy positions of organizations instead of tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations. After three months, the Director, Rulings and Agreements, learned the criteria had been changed by the team of specialists and subsequently revised the criteria again in May 2012. (See Appendix VI for a complete timeline of criteria used to identify potential political cases). The May 2012 criteria more clearly focus on activities permitted under the Treasury Regulations. As a result of changes made to the criteria without management knowledge, the Director, Rulings and Agreements, issued a memorandum requiring all original entries and changes to criteria included on the BOLO listing be approved at the executive level prior to implementation.
So a person immediately below the Commissioner on the organization chart new what was going on, but the WCE, and his successor, both continued to deny ideological targeting.
The report does not address involvement of people in other offices in political targeting, which has been revealed in other stories. TIGTA still has work to do.
Mike Riggs, The Treasury’s Inspector General Just Released a Damning Report About the IRS Targeting Tea Party Groups. “A new report released this afternoon by the Office of Inspector General of the Treasury–which you can read in full below–confirms that Tea Party groups were in fact being targeted for their politics.”
TaxProf, Inspector General: Ineffective IRS Management Allowed Agents to Target Conservative Groups
Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller
The Worst Acting Commissioner Ever may have a history. Surprise! IRS Boss Who Targeted Tea Party and Jewish Groups Investigated Anti-Clinton Groups in the 1990s (Gary P. Jackson).
Peter Suderman, How the IRS Scandal Threatens Obamacare (Reason.com)
According to The Washington Post, “although some of the groups were explicitly labeled ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot,’ others that came under intense scrutiny were focused on challenging the Affordable Care Act — known by many as Obamacare — or the integrity of federal elections.”
In other words, the agency has singled out Obamacare opponents for unusual treatment. That does not speak well of the agency’s ability to fairly carry out its duties under the law.
Megan McArdle, The Real Scandals of the IRS. “Apparently, investigating conservatives for being conservative isn’t real enough.” Also, Why Did the IRS Target Conservative Groups?
Now, maybe 501(c) organizations are a big scam and don’t promote social welfare and we should get rid of them, as I’ve seen some columnists complain. But this doesn’t actually seem like the right time to have that conversation. Rather, it seems like a distraction from the fact that IRS employees decided that groups that advocated for smaller government were somehow specially untrustworthy, and acted on this opinion by singling them out for extra bureaucratic hassles.
Having that “conversation” is just a way to change the subject.
It’s not just some drones in Cincinnati. IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups (Washington Post)
Kay Bell, What did IRS officials know and when did they know it?
David French, Dear Albuquerque Tea Party, From the IRS in Washington (The Corner)
Via James Taranto’s Twitter feed, A January 2012 letter to the “Hawaii Tea Party“ My favorite question is this one that assumes clairvoyance:
“You will sell merchandise. Provide a list of all merchandise you will sell, your cost and your sale price.”
Under penalties of perjury, of course.
TaxGrrrl, Attorney General Holder Orders FBI Inquiry Into IRS Scrutiny Of Tax Exempt Applications
Going Concern (Caleb): IRS Can Expect More Than Standard Level of Unwanted Attention for the Immediate Future. He’s referring to the Justice Department “investigation,” which is likely to function as a comment stopper. “No comment. Continuing investigation, you know.”
Going Concern (Adrienne): Footnotes: There Are More Opinions on This IRS Drama Than Low-Level Staffers in Cincinnati
Peter Reilly, Let The IRS Stick To Collecting Taxes
George Will, In IRS scandal, echoes of Watergate
James Taranto, The IRS’s Nonprofit Helper
Gene Steurle, IRS and the Targeting of the Tea Party and Other Groups (TaxVox)
Linda Beale,Remember When the IRS Targeted Liberals? All righty, then, it’s OK.