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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups

IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups

By Kim Barker and Justin Elliott, ProPublica

The same IRS office that deliberately targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the run-up to the 2012 election released nine pending confidential applications of conservative groups to ProPublica late last year.

The IRS did not respond to requests Monday following up about that release, and whether it had determined how the applications were sent to ProPublica.

In response to a request for the applications for 67 different non-profits 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.)

On Friday, Lois Lerner, the head of the division on tax-exempt organizations, apologized to Tea Party and other conservative groups because the IRS’ Cincinnati office had unfairly targeted them. Tea Party groups had complained in early 2012 that they were being sent overly intrusive questionnaires in response to their applications.

That scrutiny appears to have gone beyond Tea Party groups to applicants saying they wanted to educate the public to “make America a better place to live” or that criticized how the country was being run, according to a draft audit cited by many outlets. The full audit, by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration, will reportedly be released this week. (ProPublica was not contacted by the inspector general’s office.)

Before the 2012 election, ProPublica devoted months to showing how dozens of social-welfare non-profits had misled the IRS about their political activity on their applications and tax returns. Social-welfare non-profits are allowed to spend money to influence elections, as long as their primary purpose is improving social welfare. Unlike Super PACs and regular political action committees, they do not have to identify their donors.

In 2012, non-profits that didn’t have to report their donors poured an unprecedented $322 million into the election. Much of that money — 84 percent — came from conservative groups.

As part of its reporting, ProPublica regularly requested applications from the IRS’s Cincinnati office, which is responsible for reviewing applications from non-profits.

Social welfare non-profits are not required to apply to the IRS to operate. Many politically active new conservative groups apply anyway. Getting IRS approval can help with donations and help insulate groups from further scrutiny. Many politically active new liberal non-profits have not applied.

Applications become public only after the IRS approves a group’s tax-exempt status.

On Nov. 15, 2012, ProPublica requested the applications of 67 nonprofits, all of which had spent money on the 2012 elections. (Because no social welfare groups with “Tea Party” in their names spent money on the election, ProPublica did not at that point request their applications. We had requested the Tea Party applications earlier, after the groups first complained about being singled out by the IRS. In response, the IRS said it could find no record of the tax-exempt status of those groups — typically how it responds to requests for unapproved applications.)

Just 13 days after ProPublica sent in its request, the IRS responded with the documents on 31 social welfare groups.

  • charleo1

    With decisions like Citizens United, coming out of the SCOTUS. And the
    Congress as dysfunctional today, as we’ve ever seen it. We are not likely
    to see any campaign reforms coming out of that body in the near future.
    For one thing, the Republicans have an advantage in their ability to raise
    money. And, before someone brings up George Soros, and trade unions.
    They should know, it’s not even close. Unions that at one time, represented
    some 37% of workers, in the private sector. Now, claim only 7%. And, we
    were witness to Republicans going after unions tooth, and claw, with their
    huge 2010 election. The scenes out of Wisconsin, where thousands of
    union supporters stood for days in those wintery months of Jan,/Feb. 2011.
    As an overwhelming Republican Legislature, along with the, Koch Brothers,
    lapdog of a Governor, Scott Walker, voted to deny Police, Firefighters,
    teachers, and other public servants, their Right to collectively bargain.
    Across the Country, in State after Republican run State, unions fought
    for their very lives, aganist a Right Wing, onslaught created primarily by
    the enormous disparity of money Republicans used to their advantage,
    over the Democrats. Of course, the corporations, hedge fund managers,
    the big box stores, the Kochs, Norquist, Roves, and the rest, have their
    deep pockets at the ready, in hopes of another landslide come 2014.

    • John Pigg

      Some of what you are saying is flat out not true. Scott Walker did not vote to deny police and firefighters collective bargaining rights. Why would he, these Unions typically vote Republican.

      • Allan Richardson

        Divide and conquer.

      • charleo1

        You are correct, technically, Walker exempted police, and
        firefighters, from the budget bill, that stripped all other public
        employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. Saying,
        he didn’t want to jeopardize public safety. However, the bill did

        negatively impact the way in which all unions, including the
        union representing police, and fire, collects dues by automatic
        deductions from member’s paychecks. And, it is well known
        Walker’s, and the T-Party’s number one financial supporters,
        the Koch Brothers, make no such exemption in regards to
        police, and fire, in their agenda. Which Walker is carrying out
        to the letter. So, the position of police, and fire unions, towards
        Walker’s divide, and conquer, strategy. Was to assume they
        were next in line. And they stood in solidarity with the other
        pubic servants.

        • John Pigg

          I disagree, Walker will never touch these groups because historically this demographic tends to vote Republican. This proves at the end of the day that the “end to collective bargaining” was in all actuality a partisan measure designed to hurt the Unions that vote against Republican interests.

          • charleo1

            We agree on the motivation to hurt the unions, that
            support the Democrats. But, if you were a policeman,
            or firefighter, wouldn’t you think you might ought to
            change your Party affiliation?

          • John Pigg

            The question isn’t who I would support in elections. The question is who Law Enforcement and Fire Dept would support.

            Most law enforcement officials I have been exposed to have been decidedly conservative. As long as the state continued to support Law Enforcement and Prisons this voting demographic is a lock in.

            I have no exposure to Fire but I would venture to guess that typically they are the same sort of voter.

            But this conversation is mostly based off of personal interactions, I have no data to back up my opinion.

          • RobertCHastings

            John, look at who has recently thrown their support, especially in Wisconsin, to Democrats. Virtually all unions in this country support a leftist agenda, that supports the labor movement and all workers, something Republicans are basically not smart enough to understand. ALL workers, whether Republican or Democrat, benefit from what has been provided them by the Labor movement,they just don’t all understand that. Something else most workers (especially those who insist on voting for Republicans) apparently refuse to understand is that Social Security and Medicare is THEIR golden parachute, also.

    • cats33

      The IRS helped Obama steal the election. They better all go to jail, damn communists!!

      • We get it cats33. You are ignorant as to how elections are stolen, and you wouldn’t know a communist if one was petting your cats.

        • cats33

          You get nothing. Your leader is corrupt and is now being found out

  • If IRS officials targeted Tea Party institutions or individuals, and did not do the same to non-profit organizations or individuals that support the Democrats, they should be disciplined or fired. The sooner we address and take action on this issue the better. Just because the GOP got away with murder on Iran-Contra, Iraq, Valerie Plame, the Dixie chicks and all the other abuses of power does not mean we should do the same.

    • Tom_D44

      I would hope that you mean “put in jail”. If you really want a safeguard from things like this happening then people need to go to jail. No more free passes on either side of the aisle. These politicians are corrupt and they breed corruption under them.

    • cats33

      The IRS helped Obama steal the election. How can we be paid back for that?? I just knew there are more Patriots in America than communists!!!

      • RobertCHastings

        The IRS does not have five favorable judges on the Supreme Court, so they could not help anyone win the presidency.

  • Allan Richardson

    A bit of sanity, please. When the IRS began getting HUGE numbers of applications to start 501(c)4 groups, there was just NO WAY to clear the backlog without taking some shortcuts. One GOP lawmaker said they should have hired more workers, hired temp workers, outsourced, etc. Out of what budget? As I see it, given that the workers wanted to do their job fairly, they took a reasonable shortcut. If a new group claiming to be a charity files an application just before or during an election year, and is one of hundreds with similar stated missions and similar names, there is a good chance (at LEAST as good a chance as, say, that a scruffily dressed man walking into a Tiffany store might be a shoplifter) that most, maybe all, of them are scams. The IRS has a duty to find the scams, and the tipoff that such a group is a scam is a politically oriented name. Existing charities such as the Red Cross might INCIDENTALLY have an opinion on some political matters from time to time, but we know they do other things that are not political, such as blood drives and hurricane relief. These new organizations had NO RECORD of any such impartial activities, and the factual reports in the news media about some of them would make any reasonable person suspicious that they were set up ONLY to air political ads with anonymous funds. Naturally they had to be audited, but out of so many, which ones to audit first (not to say that the would not get to the others eventually, unless they withdrew their applications)? The ones with names similar to the ones which had already bragged to their supporters that political cash was their real mission. It’s like police keeping track of people with Italian names when they were working on taking down the Mafia: sure, the majority of people with Italian names were honest, but a Gambino was more LIKELY to be a Mafia “made man” than a Smith or Gulderson.

    If the IRS made a mistake, it was in not including a few known liberal groups in these audits. But there were not nearly as many new liberal groups being started, and the old ones had either been vetted by history (ACLU defends both communists and Nazis; NAACP, CORE, and the others have a history of helping as well as fighting) or already destroyed by GOP witch hunts (ACORN, as a recent example). In other words, if the bank was robbed by someone in a clown suit, round up everyone in a clown suit, even if there happen to be fifty people dressed in clown suits within a few blocks of the bank, and question them all (in an episode of CSI: New York, it turned out that the real criminal had bought all the clown suits and paid random strangers to wear them at a certain time and place, before committing the crime in his own).

    If we want to talk about conspiracy theories, is it possible that conservative leaders of the GOP and Tea Party helped all those groups to fill out separate applications, KNOWING that they would be audited, so that they could play martyr and generate another scandal?

    • mandinka

      285 is a HUGE number??? You must be a govt worker. Its all done online 8 questions

  • stcroixcarp

    I think we need to abolish ALL the 501c4 non-profits. They are all nothing but political money laundering machines. If people want to contribute to political parties fine, if they want to contribute to PACs fine, but their contributions should not be tax deductible charitable gifts. These gifts constitute legal bribery. As for the tea party, they are an anti-tax, anti-government, secessionist, treasonous organization. Why should their various PACs get tax exempt status?

    • mandinka

      Because they pay taxes something the Dem groups like act up, naacp, baraks outreach, 99% have never done

      • RobertCHastings

        If you DARED to look, I am sure you could find REPUBLICAN groups in that same group of non-taxpayers.

  • Chuckl8

    Considering that the groups under IRS scrutiny publically supported tax-evasion, I would be upset if they WEREN’T targetted.

    • plc97477

      I agree. If a group’s whole reason to be is for eliminating taxes, It seems a good idea to keep an eye on them.

    • mandinka

      The entire dem base is the 47% who don’t pay taxes

      • RobertCHastings

        The 47% is, in fact, pretty evenly divided. Just as many Republicans as Democrats have a genuine need for some form of government funds to make ends meet, especially retirees and those workers who over the past several years have come to depend on Unemployment and COBRA to keep their families together. If you don’t personally know someone who has recently benefited from a government check, then you are most likely a member of the top 2%. Think, for a minute, man. Who is it that is suffering during this current economic downturn, and what sources of money are keeping their families together?

  • mandinka

    Can’t wait for the PERP walk

    • RobertCHastings

      And Bush will be sharing a cell with him.