Top brass at taxation agency allowed agents to harass patriot groups
May 12, 2013
A report by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General reveals that senior IRS officials were aware agents singled out nonprofit groups with the words “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their paperwork.
The finding contradicts public statements by the IRS commissioner, Douglas Shulman.
Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Patry Patriots. “The IRS is not a political weapon.”
On Friday, the IRS issued an apology for “inappropriate” targeting of patriot and constitutional political groups during the 2012 election. The agency said only low-level employees were involved in the harassment.
“It’s the line people that did it without talking to managers. They’re IRS workers, they’re revenue agents,” said Lois G. Lerner, who supervises the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt organizations.
On June 29, 2011, Lerner learned during a meeting that groups were being targeted. She allegedly instructed agents to change the criteria for flagging groups “immediately,” according to the report.
The Associated Press reported on Saturday that it obtained part of the draft report sent to congressional aides.
The draft reveals that on August 4, 2011, the IRS’ Rulings and Agreements office “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.”
Several months later, the agency changed the criteria for targeting groups to “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement.”
The IRS harassed patriot groups by sending them long and intrusive questionnaires demanding information about the political activity of group members, details on their postings to social networks and about family members, according to the Associated Press.
After Tea Party groups complained about the harassment, Shulman told the House Ways and Means Committee that there was “absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status.
The draft does not implicate Shulman or the Obama administration.
Shulman’s claim of ignorance, however, is unusual because it is standard procedure for agency heads to consult with staff prior to responding to congressional inquiries.
The report “raises serious questions as to who at IRS, Treasury and in the administration knew about this, why this practice was allowed to continue for as long as it did, and how widespread it was,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s oversight subcommittee.
“This timeline reveals at least two extremely unethical actions by the IRS,” Boustany said. “One, as early as 2010, they targeted groups for political purposes. Two, they willfully and knowingly lied to Congress for years despite being aware that Congress was investigating this practice.”
“This is an outrageous abuse of power. Going after organizations for referencing the Bill of Rights or expressing the intent to make this country a better place is repugnant. There is no excuse for this behavior.”
“The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing,” said Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican who chairs the Ways and Means Committee. “We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”
Tea Party groups are not satisfied with the IRS apology issued on Friday.
“It appears the IRS committed crimes and violated our ability to exercise our First Amendment right to free speech. A simple apology is not sufficient reparation for violating the constitutional rights of United States citizens,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for the group Tea Party Patriots. “Therefore, Tea Party Patriots rejects the apology from the Internal Revenue Service. We are, however, encouraged to hear that Congress plans to investigate. Those responsible must be held accountable and resign or be terminated for their actions.”
“We must know how many more lies they have been telling and how high up the chain the cover-up goes,” she added.