Documents reveal IRS put Occupy groups on ‘watch list’ too
Documents to be released by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) on Friday reveal that the IRS targeted progressive groups — including groups associated with Occupy Wall Street — on its so-called “watch list” alongside conservative tea party groups, according to USA Today and the Washington Post.
Cummings said that this new information raises “serious questions” about a controversial inspectors general report published in May that alleged the IRS unfairly investigated conservative groups by using key words like “tea party” and “patriot.”
The new information released, however, does reveal that conservative groups, including those affiliated with the 9/12 protests in 2010, were kept on a separate list from other groups. According to USA Today:
The notes of a July 28, 2010 workshop in Cincinnati, for example, instructed front-line screeners to “err on the side of caution” and “re-emphasize” that all potential political groups were to be marked for more investigation. The notes also also said that “‘Progressive’ applications are not considered ‘Tea Parties.’”
Tea Parties, patriot groups and groups affiliated with the conservative “9/12 project” were kept on a separate list that caused their applications to be held up for 27 months even as progressive groups had their tax exemptions approved. Another key word revealed in the documents for the first time is “pink-slip program,” an apparent reference to a conservative movement to “send Congress a pink slip” by voting members out of office.
The newspaper also noted that it’s unclear if groups affiliated with Occupy movements ever applied for tax-exempt status, and certainly as of May of this year, none had received it.
Cummings released an email that shows the IRS inspector general examined more than 5,500 emails from the Cincinnati office that allegedly improperly targeted tea party groups and found no evidence of politically motivated targeting that was later described in the report, according to USA Today.
The Post also noted that earlier this month, House Democrats revealed that the IRS put progressive groups using the words “progressive,” “health care legislation” and “medical marijuana” on a “be on the lookout” list.
A spokesperson for Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA), chairman of the House Oversight Committee that has spearheaded hearings on the IRS targeting, told USA Today: “These documents, once again, refute misleading attempts to equate routine scrutiny of other groups involved in advocacy to the systematic scrutiny of Tea Party groups by IRS officials. As has been documented, while 100% of Tea Party applications were systematically stopped and scrutinized for a 27 month period, at the same time dozens of progressive applications were approved by the IRS.”
Issa came under fire last month for failing to release transcripts from a series of IRS workers who were interviewed about tea party targeting.