GOP finds 10% of tea party donors au­dited Tells IRS chief to come clean

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

De­spite as­sur­ances to the con­trary, the IRS didn’t de­stroy all of the donor lists scooped up in its tea party tar­get­ing — and a check of those lists re­veals that the tax agency au­dited 10 per­cent of those donors, much higher than the au­dit rate for av­er­age Amer­i­cans, House Repub­li­cans re­vealed Wed­nes­day.

Repub­li­cans ar­gue that the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice still hasn’t come clean about the full ex­tent of its tar­get­ing, which swept up dozens of con­ser­va­tive groups.

“The com­mit­tee un­cov­ered new in­for­ma­tion in­di­cat­ing that af­ter groups pro­vided the in­for­ma­tion to the IRS, nearly one in 10 donors were sub­ject to au­dit,” Rep. Charles W. Bous­tany Jr., Louisiana Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Ways and Means Com­mit­tee’s over­sight panel, told IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen at a hear­ing Wed­nes­day.

“The abuse of dis­cre­tion and au­dit se­lec­tion must be iden­ti­fied and stopped,” he said.

Mr. Kosk­i­nen didn’t specif­i­cally ad­dress the ac­cu­sa­tions dur­ing the hear­ing, and the IRS didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment late Wed­nes­day evening.

The rev­e­la­tion was made on the same day that the House voted on a non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion ask­ing the Jus­tice Depart­ment to ap­point a spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor to in­ves­ti­gate the IRS tar­get­ing.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors last year re­ported that the IRS sin­gled out tea party and other con­ser­va­tive groups ap­ply­ing for tax-ex­empt sta­tus and gave them spe­cial scru­tiny, in­clud­ing ask­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate ques­tions about their ac­tiv­i­ties and mem­ber­ship. The re­quest for donor lists was among the in­ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tiv­i­ties.

The IRS ini­tially de­nied to Congress that it was sin­gling out tea party groups, de­spite vo­cal com­plaints from groups that had their ap­pli­ca­tions de­layed for years. But faced with the in­ter­nal au­dit, the agency ad­mit­ted it had been sub­ject­ing these groups to spe­cial scru­tiny.

Still, Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials deny that the tar­get­ing was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, blam­ing con­fu­sion and a flood of ap­pli­ca­tions from con­ser­va­tive groups af­ter a 2010 Supreme Court rul­ing opened the door to broader po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity from out­side in­ter­est groups.

Repub­li­cans said 24 con­ser­va­tive groups were asked for their donor lists. The IRS ini­tially told Congress that those lists were de­stroyed, but when they went through their files they dis­cov­ered three lists that weren’t de­stroyed.

Rep. Dave Camp, Michi­gan Repub­li­can and chair­man of the House Ways and Means Com­mit­tee, asked the IRS to re­view the names on those lists to see whether any had been au­dited. The IRS re­ported back that 10 per­cent were au­dited — sub­stan­tially higher than the av­er­age rate of 1 per­cent of av­er­age Amer­i­cans who are au­dited each year.

Mr. Bous­tany said he has asked the Govern­ment Ac­count­abil­ity Of­fice, Congress’ chief watch­dog, to look at how the IRS Ex­empt Or­ga­ni­za­tions Divi­sion de­cided whom to au­dit. He said the GAO re­view is un­der­way and de­manded that Mr. Kosk­i­nen of­fer in­ves­ti­ga­tors full co­op­er­a­tion.

“IRS has long in­sisted that Amer­i­cans should not worry about po­lit­i­cal tar­get­ing at your agency be­cause the IRS has lay­ers of in­ter­nal pro­tec­tions to guard against it. But in the course of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever, we found that Lois Lerner acted in de­fi­ance of these in­ter­nal pro­tec­tions,” Mr. Bous­tany said.

Ms. Lerner ran the divi­sion over­see­ing non­profit groups. She has since re­tired from the IRS but

“IRS has long in­sisted that Amer­i­cans should not worry about po­lit­i­cal tar­get­ing at your agency be­cause the IRS has lay­ers of in­ter­nal pro­tec­tions to guard against it. But in the course of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever, we found that Lois Lerner acted in de­fi­ance of these in­ter­nal pro­tec­tions.” — Rep. Charles W. Bous­tany Jr., Louisiana Repub­li­can

has re­fused to tes­tify to Congress about her role in the tar­get­ing, cit­ing her Fifth Amend­ment right against self-in­crim­i­na­tion.

The House voted Wed­nes­day to hold her in con­tempt of Congress for re­fus­ing to talk.

Mr. Kosk­i­nen ac­knowl­edged that the agency needs to take steps to as­sure tax­pay­ers that au­dits are fair and said they look for­ward to the GAO re­view. He said the IRS has “sig­nif­i­cant con­trols” in place to try to make sure au­dits are fair.

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