POLITICO Breaking News!!
Well Golly and Gee Wizz Gomer. Targeting Conservatives, who would have thunk it. Duh.
The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday to conservative political groups for giving their tax documents extra scrutiny — validating the worst fears of Republican activists who have long accused the Obama administration of politicizing the process.
Roughly 75 groups were singled out using words like “tea party” or “patriot” in tax documents, Lois Lerner, who is responsible for overseeing tax-exempt groups, said on a hastily arranged conference call Friday afternoon.
“Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale,” the IRS said in a separate statement.
The announcement is the latest black eye for an agency that has been criticized by members of Congress from both parties, reform groups and conservative activists for its handling of politically active tax-exempt nonprofits.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called for President Barack Obama to order a “transparent, government-wide review” to see if similar practices are happening elsewhere in the administration.
House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany told POLITICO he will launch an “aggressive” investigation. “We’re not going to let this rest,” the Louisiana Republican said. “We’re going to pursue this vigorously.”
Outside groups on both sides have increasingly chosen to organize as nonprofits — regulated and reviewed by the IRS instead of the Federal Election Commission. Their nonprofit status exempts those groups from paying federal taxes — and unlike super PACs, allows them to hide their donors.
Major outside groups like the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS, Koch brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity and the pro-Barack Obama group Priorities USA are organized as 501(c)(4) nonprofits.
The IRS statement said the agency “should have done a better job” dealing with the dramatic influx in applications for 501(c)(4) status. It also said that the decisions on how to handle the applications were made by “local, career employees in Cincinnati.”
“When we see an uptick in applications from a particular type of group…that we don’t ordinarily see, what we do is we centralize those applications into one group to work on them. We do this all the time,” Lerner told reporters. “The problem here was that in some cases they added actual case names to the list. They added ‘tea party’ and ‘patriot’ to the list of cases that should be centralized in this group.”
Lerner said that she only began looking into the issue when the press started writing about it last year before the election. but she declined to say why it took six months for the agency to publicly admit the practice or if any employees involved had been punished.
Lerner added that she was not aware if White House or Treasury Department employees knew about the review before Friday’s apology, and said she did not remember when she notified higher-ups at the IRS.
The White House has not responded to a request for comment.
McConnell said the IRS’s apology wasn’t nearly enough. “Make no mistake, an apology won’t put this issue to rest,” he said. “Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS.
“This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics,”
And now for the rest of the story.
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