House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp slapped down Democratic claims that progressive groups were also improperly targeted by the IRS between 2010 and 2012, stifling a growing media narrative that the IRS targeting was not partisan.
The term “progressive” appeared on a heavily redacted November 2010 ”Be On the Lookout” (BOLO) list released this week by Ways and Means Democrats. The term was used to help the IRS identify political activity that “may not be appropriate” among 501(c)(3) charities eligible for tax-deductible contributions.
However, the targeting of conservative groups largely focused on applicants for 501(c)(4) “social welfare organization” status, which shields groups from having to disclose their donors. The scrutinized “progressive” applications were not required to be sent to a special IRS unit for additional review — but tea party and conservative applications were subjected to extra scrutiny by 12 different working groups within the IRS. Tea Party groups were also marked for extra scrutiny in the same document.
Nevertheless, the New York Times reported, “taken together, the documents seem to change the terms of a scandal that exploded over accusations that the I.R.S. had tried to stifle a nascent conservative political movement. Instead, the dispute now revolves around questionable sorting tactics used by I.R.S. application screeners.”
While Camp’s Ways and Means staff noted that progressive groups were also featured on an IRS’ BOLO list, alongside tea party groups, it pointed out that only tea party groups had their donors threatened, had confidential information leaked, were sent “inappropriate and intrusive” questions, and had their applications delayed for more than two years, according to currently available evidence.
Camp’s staff also noted that only tea party groups were mentioned as having been targeted in a Treasury Inspector General’s report on the IRS scandal. Nearly 100 conservative or tea party applications were given extra scrutiny, according to the IG report.
Ways and Means Democrats did not call any progressive victims of IRS targeting at the committee’s hearing on IRS victims.
“I do want to note that the minority was given the opportunity to call a witness, but did not present a witness that had been affected by taxpayer activity — by IRS activity. So, that’s why there is no minority witness at the table today,” Camp said at the June 4 Ways and Means hearing, in response to Democratic Rep. Ron Kind’s complaint that no progressive victims were present at the hearing. Camp later said at the hearing that he welcomed potential progressive victims to come forward, but that no progressive groups had done so by June 4.
“It is one thing to flag a group, it is quite another to repeatedly target and abuse conservative groups. Tea Party groups were not just on a BOLO they (1) were sent intrusive and inappropriate questions, (2) had their donors threatened with gift taxes and (3) had their confidential information leaked,” said Ways and Means Committee spokesperson Sarah Swinehart.