It was after a GOP bundler called in to Rush Limbaugh’s talk radio show in the middle of 2013 that he warned about the then-exploding Obama administration scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service.
He said, “This is to scare, to literally frighten people into not donating to Republican or conservative causes.”
Now a year later, reports are confirming that’s the case, that the IRS collected donor lists from targeted tea party organizations, and a full 10 percent of those names have been audited.
That’s roughly ten times the rate for audits for all Americans.
Talk about intimidation.
It was Limbaugh, who on May 20, 2013, chatted about the issue with Mattie, who called in to his show and identified herself as a GOP bundler, one who would contact business owners she knew and they would write checks for candidates, for the party.
She pointed out the initial word about the IRS targeting, which involved the agency creating special hurdles for hundreds of conservative groups opposing President Obama’s policies as they tried to acquire tax-exempt status leading up to the 2012 election, came from the IRS itself.
It was former IRS executive Lois Lerner, who now has been found in contempt of Congress over the issue, who directed the department that ran the program to stall applications by demanding to know the content of groups’ prayers, or requiring that they promise not to protest the abortion business Planned Parenthood.
Lerner had staged a question for herself and then was able to respond that the targeting of conservatives had been found and the IRS was working to eliminate it. The question and answer came just days before a report from an inspector general was going to reveal the misbehavior anyway.
Lerner had blamed the targeting on low-level employees, but in fact, an email recently uncovered from a Justice Department employee to Lerner raised the prospect of high-level involvement.
The email said the DOJ worker, Richard Pilger, director of the election Crimes Branch, had been told by someone to raise the issue of possible criminal investigations of conservative groups with Lerner. The big question remains, who would be high in the Obama administration who would have told Pilger to discuss the options with Lerner.
That the target really was conservative donors was evident from new reports this week.
While the IRS said it had destroyed donor lists collected from conservative groups it targeted, House Republicans confirmed that the agency didn’t destroy them all, and of those names on three of the lists, one in 10 had been audited – a far higher audit rate than for average Americans.
“The committee uncovered new information indicating that after groups provided the information to the IRS, nearly one in 10 donors were subject to audit,” said Rep. Charles W. Boustany Jr., a Republican from Louisiana.
He’s also the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee’s oversight panel and he demanded of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, at a hearing Wednesday. “The abuse of discretion and audit selection must be identified and stopped.”
Obama administration officials repeatedly have denied that the IRS targeting program was motivated by politics. They claim it was the confusion and high number of applications from conservative groups.
“The objective of this scandal from the regime standpoint is to target Republican donors and frighten them into not donating,” he said then. “That’s all this is.”
He noted audits were not the only punishment for being a conservative donor.
“Some donors had their businesses audited by the Environmental Protection Agency. Some donors had to put up with inspections by OSHA. Some had to put up with inspections [by] Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms,” he said.
“The purpose of this is to hurt Republican fundraising. The purpose of the IRS scandal being divulged is to target Republican donors. So you’re a potential donor or you’re being hit up to contribute, and in the midst of that, you’re seeing that the IRS is just a couple of rogue people causing trouble for 500 tea party groups, put ‘em through hoops for three years, just on tax-exempt status? And we’re learning that some were audited? … The net result, for most people, ‘I don’t want the hassle, OK, I’m not gonna donate. I’m not gonna make myself a target.’”
Limbaugh returned to the subject only several weeks ago.
He said, “By the way, folks, this is why the IRS terrorizing and targeting the tea party is important. That’s why this matters. What this is ultimately all about is the left being allowed, being able to find out who is donating to what so that they can be harassed and intimidated and then hopefully ultimately silenced. They want to find out who all of the donors are to the tea party.
“It’s not just they don’t want these organizations, these 501(c)(3)s to spring up. Once they do, once they have been granted tax-exempt status, then they want to find out who all the donors are so that every donor can get the Brendan Eich treatment, if they ‘deserve’ it. And they will deserve it because they’re donating to the tea party, or tea party-related candidates. That’s really what the IRS targeting of the Tea Party is ultimately all about.”
Lerner was found in contempt for twice refusing to answer questions from Congress about the program to target conservatives.