The Latest Lie: “IRS Targeting Was Broader Than Thought”

Dave Johnson

Yep, we were “O’Keefed” again. It turns out that the IRS really was just doing its job — scrutinizing all kinds of groups applying for special tax status, not “targeting conservatives” as has been widely reported. Of course anti-government scandal-mongers are trying to make this sound bad, saying this means the “targeting” was “broader” than first thought. That’s like saying people are “targeted” to pay their taxes on April 15. Anyway the “scandal’s” purpose was achieved: the IRS is going to give corporate-funded political groups a pass now and let them “self-certify” that they aren’t breaking the rules.

Scandal Frenzy

Back in May the media was in a scandal frenzy, echoing a right-wing lie that the IRS was “targeting conservative groups” that applied for special tax status. The NY Times even claimed that “audits” were going on, as part of the “Internal Revenue Service’s effort to target conservative non-profit groups for scrutiny.”

But anyone who actually spent the time to read the official report on this “scandal” would have learned that was just not what happened. The IRS is supposed to scrutinize all groups applying for special tax status to make sure they are not violating tax rules by engaging in political activity. Because of Citizens United and typical underfunding the IRS couldn’t check every group so they tried to find shortcuts to pick potential political groups. ne of those shortcuts involved looking for political sounding names of organizations. That is the entire “scandal” – they let some groups out of the usual scrutiny, but still looked for groups that might be engaged in politics.

The Original Report Said No Scandal, Too

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report titled Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review made it clear that there was no “targeting.” In the report was a chart showing that ony 1/3 of the scrutinized groups were conservative, saying

“According to the Director, Rulings and Agreements, the fact that the team of specialists worked applications that did not involve the Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 groups demonstrated that the IRS was not politically biased in its identification of applications for processing by the team of specialists.”

It was right there in the report.

In my May post on this, The Latest Lie: IRS Targeted Conservatives, I pointed out,

The inspector general’s report does not disclose if or which other “political sounding names” were also used as criteria.

Conservatives NOT Targeted

It took two months, but now we know for a fact that “liberal” names were also used.

NY Times, Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet,

The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny.

New Lie: “Scandal” Was “Wider” and “Broader”

So … no “targeting” and no scandal. And no “broadening” of the scandal, as the corporate media is now trying to claim.

From an AP report on the disclosure that conservative groups were not targeted:

The Internal Revenue Service’s screening of groups seeking tax-exempt status was broader and lasted longer than has been previously disclosed, the new head of the agency acknowledged Monday.

Interestingly, the AP report insists this was part of “the IRS targeting of conservative groups”:

The lists were dated between August 2010 and April 2013 — the month before the IRS targeting of conservative groups was revealed.

They just can’t let go of “IRS targeted conservatives,” it’s like their brains are wired to say that.

Corporate Conservatives Get Their Way Anyway

But the truth doesn’t matter. The fact that there was no “targeting of conservative groups” doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t get their way. Even though the whole “ACORN scandal” turned out to just be a lie, Congress defunded ACORN anyway. Van Jones and Shirley Sherrod were both fired after right-wing media launched smear and lie campaigns. And this time the administration immediately caved to the right and fired the head of the IRS. This of course amplified the right’s “targeted conservatives” accusations and whipped the media into a full-blown scandal frenzy.

And the clincher: the IRS has issued new rules, offering corporate-funded political groups a “fast track” to getting their special tax status.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy explains, in IRS Offers Fast-Track for Advocacy Groups Awaiting Tax Exemptions. All they have to do is self-certify that they won’t break the rules, and Bob’s your uncle.

Organizations that have applied to the IRS for status as social-welfare groups but have faced inordinate delays because of the political scrutiny that engulfed the tax agency in controversy now have recourse: They can win tax-exempt status within two weeks if they pledge not to devote more than 40 percent of their time and money to partisan activities.

The IRS announced the streamlined process on Monday as part of its 83-page report, shown below, on how the agency is overhauling its process for reviewing applications for tax-exempt status. By setting the 40-percent marker, the organization for the first time was explicit about how much advocacy is acceptable for a group that has 501(c)(4) status.

So they win.

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