Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of 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.
IRS employees in Cincinnati also 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 on 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 an attorney 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.
“For the IRS to say it was some low-level group in Cincinnati is simply false,” said Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP who sought to communicate with IRS headquarters about the delay in granting tax-exempt status to True the Vote.
Moreover, details of the IRS’s efforts to target conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency in May 2012, far earlier than has been disclosed, according to Republican congressional aides briefed by the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) on the details of their reviews.
It's one thing to investigate 501(c)(4)s to make sure they stay within the legal boundaries of their status. It's another to laser target 501(c)(4)s based on their political affiliation:
Lois Lerner, head of the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt groups, noted that the number of 501(c)(4) group applications doubled between 2010 and 2012. As a result of this influx, she explained, low-level workers at the agency’s Cincinnati office had flagged about 300 applications for additional review based on a keyword search. None had their status revoked or denied and the IRS apologized for the mistake.It remains seen whether this all was deliberate or unintentional, not that it matters much to conservative Tea Party-types. This only validates their claims of victimization by the Obama administration and chances are they'll milk it for all it's worth. That includes getting yet another round of "Impeach the Socialist Negro"...ahem..."Take Back the White House."
While it unclear whether the IRS workers intentionally targeted conservative groups — an agency spokesman did not immediately respond to a ThinkProgress request for the complete list of keywords used — the office revealed that two of the terms on the list were “Tea Party” and “patriot.” As such, about 75 Tea Party groups were singled out for additional scrutiny.
The spike in 501(c)(4) groups comes after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. FEC decision that outside groups may make unlimited political expenditures. Since then, some 501(c)(4) organizations have begun abusing the system. Though groups engaged in some political activity may qualify as “social welfare groups” and receive tax-exempt status under this section of the tax code, electioneering cannot be their predominant activity.
Where were these guys when the IRS decided to take a peek at the NAACP's books during the Bush administration?