The U.S. Senate Committee on Finance has released an extensive bipartisan report on the IRS targeting scandal that makes it clear, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, “that the agency mistreated conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.”
In fact, “political biases and poor management went hand in hand to let politically motivated behavior continue unchecked.”
The bipartisan executive summary concludes that that from “2010 to 2013, IRS management was delinquent in its responsibility to provide effective control, guidance, and direction over the processing of applications for tax-exempt status filed by Tea Party and other political advocacy organizations.”
Lerner initiated the use of a “Be On the Lookout (BOLO) list, which improperly identified the Tea Party and other organizations by name and policy position.
“The IRS used the BOLO list to subject applications received from Tea Party groups to heightened scrutiny, even when that scrutiny was unwarranted because the applications gave no indication that the organizations would engage in political campaign intervention.”
As the chairman of the committee, Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, added his “additional” views in the report that “the IRS systematically selected Tea Party and other conservative organizations for heightened scrutiny, in a manner wholly different from how the IRS processed applications submitted by left-leaning and nonpartisan organizations.”
It was Lois Lerner and other senior managers at the IRS who “made decisions that directly resulted in increased scrutiny, long delays, and requests for inappropriate information.”
In fact, Hatch found evidence that “Lerner’s personal political views directly resulted in disparate treatment for applicants affiliated with Tea Party and other conservative causes.”
This even extended to Lerner asking whether the IRS could open an audit of Candie’s Foundation, a charity concerned about teenage pregnancy, because it had hired Bristol Palin as its spokesperson.
Hatch’s review of IRS emails and other documents showed that “Lerner was a Democrat who consistently supported Democratic politicians, particularly President Obama, during her tenure at the IRS. Her communications also suggest that she felt animus toward the views of the Republican Party.”
Her bias was “particularly evident when comparing her inaction on Tea Party applications to her quick responses to inquiries from Democratic politicians.”
This bias led to “audits of some conservative organizations, which imposed even greater burdens and further stifled their political speech.”
Lerner, according to Hatch, “favored campaign finance reform efforts and had deep disdain for the Supreme Court’s loosening of these restrictions in the Citizens United decision.”
In fact, she referred to that decision as “by far the worst thing that has ever happened to this country” and feared it would lead to “the end of America.”
Thus, she and other IRS officials responded almost immediately to Obama’s criticism of Citizens United by making the “pivotal decision to set aside all incoming Tea Party applications for special processing.”
This was at the same time that Lerner met with staff at the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department to urge them to open criminal investigations of these conservative organizations.
Hatch concludes that top IRS management, including Lerner, made “numerous misrepresentations to Congress” and showed “a pattern of continually misleading Congress about its handling of applications submitted by Tea Party organizations.”
The IRS not only failed to preserve its internal records on what it was doing, but concealed the destruction of those records “from the Committee for months.”
The personal bias of Lerner and other IRS officials and their politicization of their IRS responsibilities were combined with poor management and dysfunctional supervision, all of which allowed Lerner and her cohorts to operate without check.
The IRS management “lacked an appreciation for the sensitivity and volatility of the political advocacy applications and allowed employees to use inappropriate screening criteria.” The committee as a whole also found something that all taxpayers know to be true from their own personal experience: the IRS “lacked any sense of customer service for organizations that applied for tax-exempt service.”
The evidence examined by the entire committee showed that the IRS “improperly disclosed taxpayer information of numerous conservative organizations.”
Yet it failed to disclose relevant information pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by a freelance reporter in 2010 that would have revealed its mishandling of Tea Party applicants.
The IRS “identified responsive documents, but elected not to produce them, thereby precluding early public scrutiny of its treatment” of the Tea Party and conservative organizations.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the committee, added his views to the report. While he acknowledged the “bureaucratic mismanagement” in how the IRS handled applications for tax-exempt status, he claims that “groups on both sides of the political spectrum” were treated equally badly by the IRS “in their efforts to secure tax-exempt status.”
Wyden, however, agrees with a series of legal and management recommendations made in the bipartisan report “to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
These include, for example, amending the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by federal employees, to impose stricter rules on all IRS and Treasury Department employees who handle tax-exempt organization matters.
The bottom line here is that, despite the denials of Obama, what we have suspected all along is absolutely true: Lois Lerner and other liberal activists who were masquerading as nonpartisan government civil service employees of the IRS were targeting conservative organizations in order to delay or prevent them from being able to get their tax-exempt status.
The obvious intent was to discourage their advocacy, reduce their ability to raise money and deter and chill any speech that was critical of the president, his policies and his unilateral actions prior to the 2012 re-election efforts.
Lerner even tried to get criminal prosecutions initiated, similar to the actions of abusive prosecutors and the state ethics board in Wisconsin that went after conservative advocacy groups because of their vocal support and advocacy for Governor Scott Walker’s policies. (The head of the state ethics board in Wisconsin was a friend of Lerner, with whom she exchanged emails.)
When Congress and some reporters started making inquiries because they realized that something odd was going on, the IRS misled everyone, including by not responding to Freedom of Information Act requests, in order to ensure that this conspiracy stayed under wraps.
Worst of all is the fact that everyone involved has gotten away with it.
Lois Lerner retired on a full pension, and there has been no disciplining of anyone at the IRS who helped her.
The Justice Department has refused to prosecute anyone criminally for this abuse and has even refused to enforce the contempt citation of the House of Representatives against Lerner for refusing to answer any questions about what she did.
This report confirms all of the worst fears that Americans have about the IRS—that it is an abusive agency that is contemptuous of Congress, the public and the statutory limits on its authority, and that it should be feared by all Americans—except those whose liberal, progressive views meet with the approval of IRS employees.