IRS lists names of tea party groups that were tar­geted

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DINAN

More than three years af­ter it ad­mit­ted to tar­get­ing tea party groups for in­tru­sive scru­tiny, the IRS has fi­nally re­leased a near-com­plete list of the or­ga­ni­za­tions it snagged in a po­lit­i­cal drag­net.

The tax agency filed the list last month as part of a court case af­ter a se­ries of fed­eral judges, fed up with what they said was the agency’s stonewalling, or­dered it to get a move on. The case is a class-ac­tion law­suit, so the list of names is crit­i­cal to know­ing the scope of those who would have a claim against the IRS.

But even as it an­swers some ques­tions, the list raises oth­ers, in­clud­ing ex­actly when the tar­get­ing stopped and how broadly the tax agency drew its net when it went af­ter non­prof­its for un­usual scru­tiny.

The gov­ern­ment re­leased names of 426 or­ga­ni­za­tions. An­other 40 were not re­leased as part of the list be­cause they had al­ready opted out of be­ing part of the class-ac­tion law­suit.

That to­tal is much higher than the 298 groups the IRS’ in­spec­tor gen­eral iden­ti­fied back in May 2013, when in­ves­ti­ga­tors first re­vealed the agency had been sub­ject­ing ap­pli­ca­tions to long — po­ten­tially il­le­gal — de­lays, and forc­ing them to an­swer in­tru­sive ques­tions about their ac­tiv­i­ties. Tea party and con­ser­va­tive groups said they were the tar­get of un­usu­ally heavy in­ves­ti­ga­tions and longer de­lays,

Ed­ward D. Greim, the lawyer who is pur­su­ing the case on be­half of NorCal Tea Party Pa­tri­ots and other mem­bers of the class, said the list also could have bal­looned to­ward the end of the tar­get­ing as the IRS, once it knew it was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, snagged more lib­eral groups in its op­er­a­tions to try to soften per­cep­tions of po­lit­i­cal bias.

“As we have iden­ti­fied in our fil­ings in this case, im­por­tant ques­tions still ex­ist re­gard­ing changes to the IRS’ case list­ings that oc­curred af­ter the IRS learned that the [in­spec­tor gen­eral] and con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions had be­gun,” he said. “Based on these changes, which to date re­main un­ex­plained, a very real pos­si­bil­ity — if not prob­a­bil­ity — ex­ists that the IRS mod­i­fied its tar­get­ing in light of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions, pack­ing its own in­ter­nal lists of tar­geted groups to sup­port its pre­ferred nar­ra­tive, in­clud­ing by adding ide­o­log­i­cally di­verse groups.”

He said if that did hap­pen, it would have “tainted” the list the IRS has now re­leased.

The IRS de­clined to com­ment, say­ing its fil­ing spoke for it­self.

A se­ries of in­ves­ti­ga­tions found the IRS did ask in­tru­sive ques­tions and did de­lay ap­pli­ca­tions for years, in vi­o­la­tion of pol­icy. But so far no in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found any or­der from the White House to con­duct the tar­get­ing.

‘Tea’ and ‘pa­triot’ groups

Sixty of the groups on the list re­leased last month have the word “tea” in their name, 33 have “pa­triot,” eight re­fer to the Con­sti­tu­tion, and 13 have “912” in their name — which is the mon­icker of a move­ment started by con­ser­va­tives. An­other 26 group names re­fer to “lib­erty,” though that list does in­clude some groups that are not dis­cernibly con­ser­va­tive in ori­en­ta­tion.

Among the groups that ap­pear to trend lib­eral are three with the word “occupy” in their name.

And then there are some sur­pris­ing names, in­clud­ing three state or local chap­ters of the League of Women Vot­ers — a group with a long history of non­profit work.

Some of the most ac­tive and prom­i­nent tea party groups snared in the tar­get­ing aren’t on the class-ac­tion list. At least some of them opted not to be part of the joint le­gal ac­tion to pre­serve their own law­suits.

Con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans say IRS Com­mis­sioner John Kosk­i­nen, who was brought in by Pres­i­dent Obama to clean up the agency af­ter the tar­get­ing scan­dal, has failed — and even mis­led Congress dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Some Repub­li­cans are even pur­su­ing im­peach­ment against Mr. Kosk­i­nen, ac­cus­ing him of de­fy­ing a sub­poena for for­mer se­nior IRS ex­ec­u­tive Lois G. Lerner’s emails by al­low­ing com­puter backup tapes to be de­stroyed.

Even out­side of im­peach­ment, House Repub­li­cans have pro­posed a new round of bud­get cuts for the IRS, aimed at try­ing to de­liver a mes­sage that Mr. Kosk­i­nen’s ten­ure has been un­ac­cept­able.

And the tax agency is still de­fend­ing it­self in a se­ries of court cases. In ad­di­tion to the NorCal class ac­tion case, the fed­eral ap­peals court in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., is cur­rently con­sid­er­ing an ap­peal by tea party groups who ar­gue the tar­get­ing is still go­ing on.

“One thing re­mains clear: Con­tin­ued lit­i­ga­tion is the only way to force the IRS’ hand in or­der to ex­pose its tar­get­ing scheme that was co­or­di­nated with the help of the DOJ and other fed­eral agen­cies so that we can ob­tain jus­tice for those pa­tri­otic Amer­i­cans who were un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally tar­geted by their own gov­ern­ment,” said Jay Seku­low, chief coun­sel at the Amer­i­can Cen­ter for Law and Jus­tice, which is rep­re­sent­ing some of the plain­tiffs in the ap­peals case.

In yet an­other case, the con­ser­va­tive group Cause of Ac­tion has been pur­su­ing the IRS to turn over doc­u­ments the group be­lieved would show White House of­fi­cials re­quest­ing se­cret tax­payer in­for­ma­tion on con­ser­va­tives.

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