Members of Congress probing the IRS targeting of conservative organizations now want the federal bureaucracy to explain why some conservative groups that already had their status approved were in the bull’s-eye for successive demands for information.
According to a letter addressed this week to J. Russell George, the inspector general for tax administration, “existing organizations already recognized as tax-exempt by the IRS … appear to have faced questionable treatment by the IRS.”
The letter was signed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and others.
The IRS has been facing questions for weeks about why it singled out conservative groups – particularly those with “patriot” or “tea party” in their name – for invasive questioning when they applied for tax-exempt status.
It’s been documented that some 500 conservative organizations faced delays in their approval letters, some for years, which hurt ability to raise funds during the 2012 election.
There have been reports of IRS demands for information about family members of group participants, the content of their prayers, and what they might or might not say or do in the future. One organization was told it would not be allowed to protest in front of an abortion business.
The congressional committee letter now demands information about why the IRS was applying pressure on groups that already had been through the IRS approval process.
“An example of the IRS’s potential inappropriate treatment of these groups concerns the Arlington, Virginia-based Leadership Institute, which has existed since 1979,” the letter to the IRS says. “The Leadership Institute was audited in 2011 and 2012 for its activities in 2008. Information provided to the committee suggests that the Leadership Institute was asked invasive questions, including requests for information about its interns and where they worked after their internships.”
Issa’s letter noted the questioning cost the Leadership Institute $50,000.
“During this same time frame, other conservative organizations, including the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, were audited by the IRS. Michelle Easton, the founder and president of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, called the treatment it received by the IRS ‘harassment.’ The organization was subjected to seven requests for materials and information, including a request for a ‘list of contributors and amounts.’”
The committee told the IRS: “The … ongoing investigation of the IRS’s inappropriate treatment of certain applicants for tax-exempt status has corroborated our concerns about these IRS audits. The totality of your ‘targeting’ investigation along with evidence obtained by the committee points to the fact that the IRS may have selected certain conservative organizations for additional scrutiny after the IRS already approved their tax-exempt status.”
The committee letter continued: “While it could be appropriate for the IRS to take a second look at an organization after the agency grants the organization tax-exempt status in some circumstances, we are troubled by evidence that the IRS may have conducted unnecessary audits and systematic post hoc reviews of entire groups of applications as well as certain groups that have long-possessed tax-exempt status.
“We therefore request that you conduct an investigation to determine whether groups that possess tax-exempt status were targeted for audits or examinations based on their political beliefs or ideology.”