Revealed: Republicans knew about IRS investigations of tea party groups last July

By Stephen C. Webster
Monday, May 20, 2013 10:43 EDT
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Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA). Photo: Official portrait.
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Republicans in Congress have known that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asked additional questions of some tea party groups seeking tax exempt status since last July, only recently raising the issue as a matter of controversy according to documents released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

The questionnaires were revealed after the IRS inspector general explained last week that agents in the Cincinnati office asked for more information of groups applying for tax exempt status if they had the words “tea party” and “patriot” in their title, apparently singling them out over liberal groups seeking similar classification.

“We would be happy to provide a status update to the Subcommittee staff and provide a copy of our interim and final reports on the matter when they are issued,” IRS inspector general J. Russell George wrote (PDF) to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) last July, according to ABC News.

An article in Roll Call found that a series of progressive groups were not subjected to similarly detailed IRS questionnaires after their applications for tax exempt status. Roll Call wrote that “much of the big money flooding the 2012 elections is being spent not by super PACs but by nonprofit organizations that describe themselves as social welfare advocacy groups.”

In response, Issa sent a letter (PDF) to the IRS’ Inspector General office, calling the scrutiny of conservative groups a “campaign of intimidation” and “overreach.” It was to this accusation that George responded in July.

Republicans claimed Friday that George’s admission of embarking on his investigation in July was proof that the Obama administration knew in advance that conservative groups were being targeted in a scandal some conservative pundits say is indicative of a stolen election. Progressive groups have since come forward to reveal they too were targeted with extra-long questionnaires, suggesting the real “scandal” here is more about the flood of dark money groups after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United than an administration run afoul of tax law.

While President Obama has accepted the resignation of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, the enhanced scrutiny of tea party groups occurred under the tenure of Bush-appointee Doug Shulman, who resigned in November. Obama named Daniel Werfel, a Bush appointee from the Office of Management and Budget, to replace Miller as acting IRS commissioner.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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