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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Washington IRS Office Involved In Conservative Targeting; IRS Illegally Discloses Confidential Docs

By Susan Duclos

After the IRS publicly apologized for specifically and "inappropriately" targeting conservative groups, a firestorm of information starting coming out, showing that when Lois Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, told reporters Friday that the “absolutely inappropriate” actions were undertaken by “front-line people” working in Cincinnati to target groups with “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.... she neglected to mention that those conservative group investigations reached all the way from Cincinnati to Washington DC and continued into 2012, at least.


Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved with investigating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.

IRS employees in Cincinnati told conservatives seeking the status of “social welfare” groups that a task force in Washington was overseeing their applications, according to interviews with the activists.
Lois G. Lerner, who oversees tax-exempt groups for the IRS, told reporters Friday that the “absolutely inappropriate” actions were undertaken by “front-line people” working in Cincinnati to target groups with “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names.

In one instance, however, Ron Bell, an IRS employee, informed a lawyer representing a conservative group focused on voter fraud that the application was under review in Washington. On several other occasions, IRS officials in Washington and California sent conservative groups detailed questionnaires about their voter outreach and other activities, according to the documents.

The exact quote in the letter sent to  Mr. Bell, on page one, says "The Cincinnati office is waiting for a response from the Washington, DC office."

The letter linked above, to Bell, was dated November 2011.

The Office of Inspector General's timeline shows that  senior IRS officials in Washington were made aware of the targeting by August 4, 2011. On that date, the chief counsel of the IRS met with the agency's Rulings and Agreements unit 'so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue.'

(IG time line shown in a previous WuA piece here)

So, months after Washington became aware of the targeting of conservatives, True the Vote was still being targeted.

In January 2012, more than two years after applying, the Richmond Tea Party was still being targeted. (IRS 11-page letter to the Richmond Tea Party, Dated January 9, 2012, found here, PDF)

If anyone thought that the IRS scandal could not get any worse or bigger, they were wrong and Pro-Publica reports the IRS illegally disclosed confidential documents from conservative groups.

In response to a request for the applications for 67 different nonprofits last November, the Cincinnati office of the IRS sent ProPublica applications or documentation for 31 groups. Nine of those applications had not yet been approved—meaning they were not supposed to be made public. (We made six of those public, after redacting their financial information, deeming that they were newsworthy.)

As James Taranto pointed out yesterday, in an op-ed for WSJ in 2009, Glenn Reynolds, made note of a joke Barack Obama told:

At his Arizona State University commencement speech last Wednesday, Mr. Obama noted that ASU had refused to grant him an honorary degree, citing his lack of experience, and the controversy this had caused. He then demonstrated ASU's point by remarking, "I really thought this was much ado about nothing, but I do think we all learned an important lesson. I learned never again to pick another team over the Sun Devils in my NCAA brackets. . . . President [Michael] Crowe and the Board of Regents will soon learn all about being audited by the IRS."

Just a joke about the power of the presidency. Made by Jay Leno it might have been funny. But as told by Mr. Obama, the actual president of the United States, it's hard to see the humor. Surely he's aware that other presidents, most notably Richard Nixon, have abused the power of the Internal Revenue Service to harass their political opponents. But that abuse generated a powerful backlash and with good reason. Should the IRS come to be seen as just a bunch of enforcers for whoever is in political power, the result would be an enormous loss of legitimacy for the tax system.

Taranto headlines with "Nobody's Laughing Now."

No, we are not.


Is Obama The Least Informed, A Liar, Or Just A Figurehead President?

IRS Targeting Timeline Goes Back To March-April 2010

IRS Knew Tea Party Was Targeted In 2011- What About Romney Donors, Pro-Israel Groups?

More WH Spin: IRS Also Targeted Pro-Israel Group To Determine If They Contradict Admin Policies

July 2012- IRS Really Is Obama's Gestapo Now - IRS Targets Romney Donor After Obama Publicly Targets Him