There’s a better chance of Democrats and Republicans agreeing to the winner in “America’s Got Talent,” than there is of ever reaching a consensus on the IRS’ handling of the applications for tax-exempt status made by right-leaning political groups.
In a new report, a Democratic-controlled Senate subcommittee investigating the shenanigans behind the “Tea Party scandal” that erupted last year harshly criticized the IRS for using inappropriate criteria in targeting political groups, but declared that there was no evidence of political bias. In fact, the majority concluded that liberal groups were subjected to the same basic treatment.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, chaired by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), was particularly critical of the audit conducted by Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA). The subcommittee is one of four poking into wrongdoings by the IRS’ Tax-Exempt Organization division. Its 222-page report, entitled “IRS and TIGTA Management Failures Related to 501(c)(4) Applicants Engaged in Campaign Activity,” was accompanied by more than 1,700 pages of IRS and TIGTA documents, including emails, handwritten notes and internal memorandums.
Levin stressed that the lack of political bias doesn't excuse the IRS’ actions. “TIGTA’s audit findings, which found that the IRS used inappropriate selection criteria for conservative groups and subjected them to intrusive questions and improper delays, told only half the story, because it left out that the IRS mistreated liberal groups in the same way, and its key finding that the IRS’ actions were not politically motivated,” he said in a prepared statement.
TIGTA head Russell George promptly leaped to his office’s defense after the subcommittee’s report was released. “I firmly stand behind the audit report that we issued last year showing the inappropriate treatment of applicants for 501 (c)(4) status, for which the IRS apologized,” USA Today quoted George as saying.
Republicans lined up behind George and continue to maintain that the IRS singled out conservative political groups. The dissenting report issued by subcommittee member and former presidential candidate John McCain (R-AZ) noted that 83% of the targeted groups are conservative. McCain also pointed out that Lois Lerner, former director of the Tax-Exempt division, has refused to testify in Congressional hearings and an undisclosed number of her e-mails appear to be missing in action.
“While some liberal groups were examined by the IRS from May 2010 to May 2012, there were far fewer such groups, they were systematically separate from the review of conservative groups, their questioning was far less intrusive, and, in some cases, the liberal groups were affiliates of specific organizations like ACORN that had behaved illegally in the past and could reasonably expect additional scrutiny. The inclusion of a scant few liberal groups by the IRS does not bear comparison to the targeting of conservative groups,” said McCain in the minority report.
It appears that political divide will continue to permeate these investigations. To read the entire report, visit http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/download/report_-irs-and-tigta-mgmt-failures-related-to-501c4-sept-5-2014.