By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
Thursday, June 27, 2013
The IRS‘ auditor told Congress this week that it stands by its determination that conservative groups were uniquely singled out for special scrutiny by the tax agency, rebutting Democrats’ contention that liberal groups also were targeted.
The Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration (TIGTA) sent a letter Wednesday to congressional Democrats telling them that while several liberal groups may have gotten extra scrutiny, the IRS didn’t necessarily target those — but it did do so for conservative groups.
“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,” Inspector General J. Russell George said.
He said that while 30 percent of groups that 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, which involved what the IRS since has said were invasive and inappropriate questions.
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. Instead, Democrats have said 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.
But Mr. George’s letter suggests that’s not 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,” Mr. George wrote.