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Thu May 16, 2013, 07:44 PM

My challenge to DU: Cite me an official source that says the Tea Party was "singled out" by the IRS [View all]

We have been hearing over and over for the past week that the IRS "singled out" the Tea Party for special scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status for their "social welfare" organizations. It is an allegation that has been screamed loudly by the right-wing and the media and it has even been repeated by many on the left end of the political spectrum.

I have read a great deal about this "scandal" and I have heard the allegation that the Tea Party was "singled out" many times, but I have yet to find a single official source that confirms they actually were singled out. There have been many stories in the media that have made this claim, but I have yet to find one of these stories that was actually able to back that allegation up with a source.

Many of you may be saying, "The IRS apologized for singling the Tea Party out and the Inspector General's report confirmed they did just that." If you actually read either the apology or the Inspector General's report however neither of them actually state that the Tea Party was singled out.

Let us start out with IRS official Lois Lerner's apology; here are the words that sparked the firestorm:

So our line people in Cincinnati who handled the applications did what we call centralization of these cases. They centralized work on these in one particular group. They do that for efficiency and consistency — something we do whenever we see an uptick in a new kind of application or something we haven’t seen before. Folks might remember from back a few years ago we had credit counseling organizations and we centralized those cases. We had mortgage foreclosure cases and we centralized those cases. We do it for consistency So they went ahead and did that. How they do centralization is they have a list in their office that they give out to folks who are screening cases that says if it is one of these kind of cases and it can’t be screened it needs to go to group X. So centralization was perfectly fine.

However, in these cases, the way they did the centralization was not so fine. Instead of referring to the cases as advocacy cases, they actually used case names on this list. They used names like Tea Party or Patriots and they selected cases simply because the applications had those names in the title. That was wrong, that was absolutely incorrect, insensitive, and inappropriate — that’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review. We don’t select for review because they have a particular name.

Now that you have seen what those words say, let's think about what they do not say. Lerner says that they searched out terms like "Tea Party" and "Patriots", but she never says those are the only terms they searched for. They may have also been searching on terms like "Democratic" and "Progressive", we don't know because the IRS has yet to provide us a complete list of all the search terms that may have been used. Lerner never mentions anything at all about how left-leaning groups may have been handled by the IRS, but she was asked about it by a reporter. Here is what she said...

"I don't have any information on that."

WHAT??! This is a high level official that oversees groups seeking tax exempt status and she can tell us how Tea Party groups are flagged, but she can not provide us with even one shred of information on how left-leaning groups were flagged. As a person who is in charge of overseeing tax exempt groups it seems that she should be able to explain to us how groups are flagged, yet she only claims to have knowledge of the process they used to flag one small subset of applicants. Does anyone really find this believable? How could someone in her position have absolutely no information on the flagging process of on any left leaning groups? How are we supposed to determine that the Tea Party was singled out when we are not even given anything to compare their experience with?

The Inspector General's Report acknowledges that the Tea Party groups were not the only groups flagged for scrutiny, in fact the Tea Party only made up about 30% of the flagged groups. If you read the report however the focus is nearly entirely on the way Tea Party groups were flagged and says almost nothing about how other groups were flagged. It cites questions that were asked to Tea Party groups but were not asked to "other groups", yet it never specifies what other groups it is talking about. It is common knowledge the IRS does scrutinize some groups more than others because it has limited resources, we already knew that some groups don't get the same level of scrutiny but that is not the issue here. The issue is whether or not the Tea Party was singled out based on their political views, but the Inspector General's report does not say that left leaning groups who were flagged were not asked the same questions.

according to the IRS, a Determinations Unit specialist was asked to search for applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in the organization’s name as well as other “political-sounding” names. EO function officials stated that, in May 2010, the Determinations Unit began developing a spreadsheet that would become known as the “Be On the Look Out” listing (hereafter referred to as the BOLO listing), 15 which included the emerging issue of Tea Party applications. In June 2010, the Determinations Unit began training its specialists on issues to be aware of, including Tea Party cases. By July 2010, Determinations Unit management stated that it had requested its specialists to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications.

In August 2010, the Determinations Unit distributed the first formal BOLO listing. The criteria in the BOLO listing were Tea Party organizations applying for I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) or I.R.C. § 501(c)(4) status. Based on our review of other BOLO listing criteria, the use of organization names on the BOLO listing is not unique to potential political cases. 16

Interesting, the report says that they have a "Be on the Look Out" group that not only includes applications for "Tea Party", "Patriots", or "9/12", but they also flag "other political sounding names". What those "other political sounding names" are they do not tell us. They do tell us that there are groups on the BOLA listing that are not based on political cases, right after that statement we see the number 16 which indicates a footnote, let us take a look at what that footnote says.

16 We did not review the use of other named organizations on the BOLO listing to determine if their use was appropriate.

WHAT??!! There were other groups on the list that were not affiliated with the Tea Party, but the Inspector General's report did not review ANY of them? What the hell kind of report is this? How the hell are we supposed to know that the Tea Party was singled out when they don't even review the treatment of other groups that were on the exact same BOLO list that they were?

If this scandal swirls around whether or not the Tea Party was treated differently than other groups then knowing how other groups were treated is absolutely crucial information in determining whether or not there was political bias, yet the Inspector General's Report did not even review it.

Who the hell would initiate a review like this without including such crucial information as to the scrutiny placed on other non Tea-Party groups, well the report gives us the answer to that question...

TIGTA initiated this audit based on concerns expressed by members of Congress.

So members of Congress called for this report, presumably Republicans. Did these members of Congress order the Inspector General to only evaluate the treatment of the Tea Party and not look at any other groups? If so is this not an example of abusing a government investigation for partisan political purposes?

I issue my challenge again, I challenge anyone to find me a piece of evidence from an official source that shows the Tea Party was singled out. I have heard the allegation many times this week, but I have yet to find a single piece of evidence that proves the Tea Party was treated differently, all I can find is reports on how Tea Party applications were handled with silence on how the applications of non-Tea Party groups who were also flagged were handled.

Can anyone cite me a source, or can we conclude that this "scandal" is not about the Tea Party being singled out?

On edit: I want to thank Chathamization who is a relatively new DUer that pointed me to the footnote used in the Inspector General's report. The contributions Chathamization provided were invaluable.

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