“The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names — as the agency admitted Friday — to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to ‘make America a better place to live,’ ” The Wall Street Journal reports.
Citing “new details of a government probe,” the Journal adds that “the investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted.”
That was about a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman assured Congress that his agency was not singling out conservative groups.
There had been complaints from some of those groups during the 2012 presidential campaign that their applications for tax-exempt status were being unfairly questioned. As we reported, IRS official Louis Lerner on Friday apologized to groups that were singled out for additional IRS scrutiny during the campaign. She said that low-level IRS workers in Cincinnati had initiated the reviews.
Over the weekend, though, details from the yet-to-be-released investigation put a different light on the story. According to Reuters:
“Exactly who at the IRS made the decisions to start applying extra scrutiny was not clear from the findings, which were contained in portions of an investigative report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Expected to be made public this week, the report was obtained in part by Reuters over the weekend as a full-blown scandal involving the IRS scrutiny widened, embarrassing the agency and distracting the Obama administration.”
And Politico reported Saturday that it had been told by a congressional source that, “senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew employees were singling out conservative groups for extra scrutiny as early as 2011, according to a watchdog agency’s report.”
Now the Journal is weighing in with its reporting. The newspaper adds that “the new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.”
On Sunday, as we reported, some Republican lawmakers called for a full investigation of the IRS’s actions.
Related post from It’s All Politics: IRS’s Tea Party Scrutiny Adds To Conservatives’ Case Against Obama.
Update at 10:50 a.m. ET. Rubio Calls On Acting IRS Commissioner To Resign.
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida writes that “I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner’s resignation, effectively immediately. No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public.”
Rubio, a favorite of tea party advocates, says that “recent revelations about the Internal Revenue Service’s selective and deliberate targeting of conservative organizations are outrageous and seriously concerning. This years-long abuse of government power is an assault on the free speech rights of all Americans. This direct assault on our Constitution further justifies the American people’s distrust in government and its ability to properly implement our laws.”
Steven Miller is the IRS’s acting commissioner. He stepped in when Douglas Shulman’s stepped down last November. In his permanent role as deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, the IRS says, “Miller provides direction and oversight for all major decisions affecting the four taxpayer-focused IRS Divisions: Wage and Investment, Large Business and International, Small Business/Self-Employed, and Tax Exempt and Government Entities.”