Conservatives, not liberals, were targeted by IRS, audit confirms
Groups with words 'tea party' or 'patriot, were especially scrutinized
Conservative groups were uniquely singled out for special scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service, rebutting Democrats' contention that liberal groups also were targeted. That's the finding of an audit made of the agency, who has been accused of grilling conservative groups for tax-exempt status.
The Treasury Department's Inspector General, J. Russell George says that while 30 percent of groups had the word "progressive" in their name were given extra scrutiny, 100 percent of groups with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names were pulled out for strict scrutiny.
"TIGTA concluded that inappropriate criteria were used to identify potential political cases for extra scrutiny - specifically, the criteria listed in our audit report. From our audit work, we did not find evidence that the criteria you identified, labeled 'Progressives,' were used by the IRS to select potential political cases during the 2010 to 2012 timeframe we audited," George said.
George added that while 30 percent of groups had the word "progressive" in their name were given extra scrutiny, 100 percent of groups with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in their names were pulled out for strict scrutiny. The groups have claimed invasive and inappropriate questions on the part of agents.
Democrats have argued that the IRS' scrutiny of applications for tax-exempt status hit both ideological sides equally, which would cut at the GOP's argument that it was politically motivated. Democrats in the meantime insist that the scrutiny is the natural result of a jump in applications after campaign finance rules changed following the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case.
George's letter suggests that this isn't the case. "While we have multiple sources of information corroborating the use of tea party and other related criteria we described in our report, including employee interviews, e-mails, and other documents, we found no indication in any of these other materials that 'progressives' was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention," George wrote.
Rep. Sander M. Levin of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said George's latest statement contradicts the auditor's earlier findings.
"Congress deserved to know that 'progressives' were on the IRS screening list during the time of the audit and progressive organizations were in the review group," Levin said. "These omissions changed the nature of the investigation, and the IG's testimony is not consistent with his written response."
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