WASHINGTON, D.C., August 9, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – According to investigative findings by the House Ways and Means Committee, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has not stopped targeting conservative nonprofit groups for audits and harassment, even after a massive public scandal that saw the head of the IRS resign and the official in charge of nonprofit applications retire.
“In plain English, the IRS is still targeting Tea Party cases,” said a Ways and Means Committee staffer.
The list of politically charged keywords that should target IRS scrutiny “doesn't exist anymore,” the agent said, but the problem of putting right-of-center groups through extra scrutiny persists.
A partial transcript released Thursday of an interview between a Ways & Means investigator and an unnamed IRS employee revealed that applicants for nonprofit status who express conservative viewpoints are still being flagged for extra scrutiny, whether the groups plan to engage in political activity or not.
“If today…a case from a Tea Party group came in to your desk, you reviewed the file and there was no evidence of political activity, would you potentially approve that case?” asked the investigator.
The agent replied, “At this point I would send it to secondary screening, political advocacy.”
“So, you would treat a Tea Party group as a political advocacy case even if there was no evidence of political activity on the application. Is that right?” the investigator pressed.
“Based on my current manager's direction, uh-huh,” the anonymous official admitted.
Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-MI, told the Washington Examiner, “It is outrageous that IRS management continues to target Tea Party cases without any justification. The harassment, abuse and delays these Americans have faced over the last few years has been unwarranted, unprovoked and, at times, possibly illegal. The fact that the IRS still continues to treat the Tea Party differently and subject them to additional targeting is outrageous and it must stop immediately.”
The IRS issued a statement denying the accusations, stating that its “screening is based on activity, not words in a name.”
“Political campaign intervention will be reviewed without regard to specific labels,” the statement said. “The IRS will not tolerate any deviation from this.”
The Ways and Means Committee’s revelations come on the heels of fresh accusations against the IRS from six pro-life groups that say they are being unfairly targeted by the IRS for their views. The groups’ attorneys released 250 pages of evidence to Congressman Aaron Schock, R-IL, showing that the IRS has continued to stonewall conservative applications for nonprofit status, even as it has publicly stated that it has addressed the problem.
The revelations also follow accusations by Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-CA, that the IRS inappropriately shared confidential taxpayer information with Federal Election Commission officials. Issa’s committee has launched an investigation into the matter.
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The IRS has been under fire since May, when Lois Lerner, Director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations, admitted IRS agents selected cases for additional review “simply because the applications had [conservative] names in the title.”
The agency issued a “be on the lookout,” or BOLO list, providing words and phrases to look for when targeting groups for audits. Search terms that triggered investigations included “Tea Party,” “government spending,” “government debt,” “taxes,” “how the country is being run,” and making “America a better place to live.”
Such groups were subjected to intrusive questions such as:
“Have you attempted or will you attempt to influence the outcome of specific legislation? If so, provide the following … all communications, pamphlets, advertisements, and other materials.”
“Have you conducted or will you conduct candidate forums? If so, provide the following details… The issues that were discussed. Copies of all handouts provided.”
“[Provide t]he names of persons from your organization and the amount of time they will spend on the event. Indicate the name and amount of compensation that will be paid to each person.”
“[Provide a]ll copies of your corporate minutes from inception.”
“Please identify your volunteers.”
“[Provide t]he names of donors, contributors, and grantors.”
“Do you encourage eligible voters to educate themselves, register to vote, and vote? Explain in detail how you do this.”
The improper questions stretched far beyond Tea Party groups, as pro-life, Christian, and other conservative 501(c)3 applicants were subjected to hostile treatment on the basis of their viewspoint.
After the scandal broke in May, the acting head of the IRS stepped down, replaced by current acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. Six weeks ago, Werfel ordered IRS agents to stop using the BOLO list.
But the employee who was interviewed by Ways and Means Committee investigators said that in the absence of any direction from higher-ups on how to handle conservative applicants, IRS agents are continuing to flag them for review.