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Wed May 15, 2013, 11:11 PM

The IRS Tea Party Scandal, Explained--Mother Jones [View all]

If like me you haven't had time to keep up with the details of IRS scandal, Mother Jones provides an overview.

On Friday, May 10, a top official with the Internal Revenue Service dropped a bombshell. IRS staffers had singled out conservative organizations with "tea party" or "patriots" in their name that were seeking tax-exempt nonprofit status, subjecting them to extra scrutiny to see if they were abusing the tax law as it relates to political activity. They grilled these conservative groups about their members, their donors, their public statements, and who they employed. And there is no evidence yet that the IRS systemically treated non-conservative groups with the same level of attention.

Speaking to a group of tax lawyers, the IRS official, Lois Lerner, who oversees the agency's exempt organizations division, publicly apologized for the IRS's actions. Ever since, Democratic and Republican politicians have been falling over themselves to condemn the IRS. President Obama said that, if the allegations are true, "there's no place" for such behavior. Members of Congress have pledged to investigate any potential wrongdoing and grill the agency's leaders. "Heads need to roll" if the IRS unfairly targeted tea partiers and other conservatives, said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).

Here's a primer on what you need to know about the IRS scandal.

How did this get started? It began back in March 2010, when the tea party movement was all the rage. According to a leaked timeline (PDF) from a draft report by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration, IRS staffers began flagging applications from groups with politically themed names like "We the People" and "Take Back the Country." Staffers also targeted groups whose names included the words "tea party" and "patriots." Those flagged applications were then sent to specialists for a more rigorous review than is typical.

The IRS gave extra scrutiny to 298 groups applying for tax-exempt status, the Washington Post reported. Seventy-two of those groups had "tea party" in their title, 13 had "patriots," and 11 had "9/12," shorthand for the 9/12 movement started by conservative TV host Glenn Beck.

But IRS officials not only singled out tea party and liberty groups. They also looked for "political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement," according to the leaked timeline. This included groups that planned to focus on government debt and spending, taxes, or those trying to "make America a better place to live." In June 2011, Lerner reportedly became aware of what was going on and directed staffers to change to how they vetted nonprofit applications.

More at: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/irs-tea-party-scandal-congress-nonprofit-obama

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