Republicans and Democrats Trade Claims over IRS Continuing to Target Tea Party Groups

By on August 13, 2013

A pair of House Republican lawmakers, House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and House Oversight Subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany Jr., M.D., R-La., have written to Internal Revenue Service principal deputy commissioner Daniel Werfel calling on him to immediately stop the IRS from continuing to target Tea Party applications based on name alone, but Democrats are disputing the charges.

As part of its investigation into the IRS’s targeting of individuals based on their personal beliefs, a committee interview with an IRS employee revealed that IRS screeners continue to flag certain applications for exempt status for secondary scrutiny on the basis of name alone, regardless of whether there is any evidence of political activity, according to Camp and Boustany.

They quoted excerpts from the interview:

Q: If you saw—I am asking this currently, if today if a Tea Party case, a group—a case from a Tea Party group came in to your desk, you reviewed the file and there was no evidence of political activity, would you potentially approve that case? Is that something you would do?

A: At this point I would send it to secondary screening, political advocacy.

Q: So you would treat a Tea Party group as a political advocacy case even if there was no evidence of political activity on the application. Is that right?

A: Based on my current manager’s direction, uh-huh.

The news comes after President Obama installed new IRS leadership and pledged that the IRS would “put in place new safeguards to make sure this kind of behavior cannot happen again.”

In their letter to Werfel, Camp and Boustany demanded Monday that the IRS immediately issue instructions to all employees making it clear that applications for exempt status shall not be subjected to higher scrutiny based on organization name or substantive beliefs.

The lawmakers called on the IRS to provide notice to its employees that any such targeting will be subject to discipline and referral to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for investigation.

However, a leading Democrat on their committee, Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., released additional excerpts Monday from the same interview with the IRS agent, including parts not disclosed by Camp and Boustany that seem to contradict the claim of Tea Party targeting.

Committee: Today, currently, how do you analyze advocacy cases? If, for example, Tea Party of Arkansas came in today, how would you handle it?

IRS agent: Well, the BOLO list doesn’t exist anymore.

Committee: Sure.

IRS agent: If a political advocacy case came in today, I would give it—or talk about it to my manager because right now we really don’t have any direction or we haven’t had any for the last month and a half.

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