BOLO — Be On the Lookout — is usually something one associates with police agencies issuing a bulletin to watch out for a person who just committed a major crime. But at the IRS it means Be On the Lookout for Tea Party groups.
Not just Tea Party groups, but “Patriots,” “9/12 Project,” groups concerned about “government spending, government debt or taxes,” “advocacy/lobbying to make America a better place to live” and “criticize how the country is being run.”
A report by the Inspector General for Tax Administration obtained by media outlets last week said the IRS “used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names.” Then one unit sent it up the IRS food chain and that outfit expanded the inappropriate criteria further and even more inappropriately.
“The Determinations Unit developed and began using criteria to identify potential political cases for review that inappropriately identified specific groups applying for tax-exempt status based on their names or policy positions instead of developing criteria based on tax-exempt laws and Treasury Regulations,” the IG’s report stated.
This began in 2010 and continued through 2012.
In addition to tying the applications for tax exempt status up in bureaucratic knots, the questions the IRS asked “it should not have requested” and were “unnecessary,” such as names of contributors and whether any contributor or director has run for political office, “the type of conversations and discussions members and participants had during the activity.”
What in the heck would the IRS want with this information? The National Organization for Marriage said someone leaked its confidential tax info to a gay rights group. In March 2012, the Huffington Post published the names of donors to the pro-marriage group listed in its IRS filing from 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power,” said Darwin Throne of the Tea Party Patriots of El Dorado Hills Sunday. “This deliberate targeting and harassment of tea party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach. President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again. We reject a simple apology that does nothing to alleviate the danger of this happening again. Only immediate and public actions on the part of the IRS and the president will suffice.”
The IRS takes its cues from the top. A group of more than half a dozen Democratic senators wrote the IRS and demanded it crack down on the Tea Party or it would have officials dragooned before a Senate committee. Is it any wonder that two different IRS commissioners knew about the targeting and yet told Congress that it wasn’t happening and ignored letters of complaint from Republican senators, the minority party?
President Obama expressed outrage over the targeting once an official revealed it by apologizing at a legal conference. If he is really outraged he should fire the IRS commissioner, which he did last Wednesday. We congratulate the president for taking a big step toward cleaning up one mess. Let’s just hope the IRS Commissioner, on the job since November 2012, hasn’t already spent $25,000 to $40,000 on an official portrait. It shouldn’t take much for Attorney General Eric Holder to find the current and immediate past IRS commissioners in contempt of Congress.
We find the actions of the IRS un-American and anti-democratic.