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May 16, 2014

Nothing to See Here The IRS Scandal Stonewall

Joe Charlebois

In the old movie styling of an Irish cop, I can hear the Democrats say: “Nothin’ to see here, people, move along…move along.” This is what the American people have been treated to since former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman testified before Congress in March of 2012.


He stated that “There is no political targeting” of politically motivated organizations by the IRS. We now know that isn’t true.


It, of course, has since come to light that the IRS was indeed targeting conservative groups that were applying for 501(c)(4) status. In fact, shortly after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of Citizens United prohibiting the restriction of political donations by corporations and labor unions, certain Democrat senators pressured the IRS to investigate the surge of conservative organizations that were requesting 501(c)(4) status.


From August of 2010 until Mr. Shulman’s testimony two years later, it has been learned that not only were these applicants unfairly scrutinized, their applications were “slow-walked” through the ensuing election cycle, which in essence denied organizations with conservative political views the same access to free speech as more liberal or progressive groups.


In August 2010, per the House Ways and Means Committee’s investigation, the IRS started flagging applications with a “Be on the Look Out” (BOLO) for words like “Patriot,” “Tea Party,” “9/12” and others.


The following June – The Ways and Means Committee chairman made inquiries regarding audits of 501(c) organizations. Later in the month, Lois Lerner is made aware of the discriminatory practices by the report from The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).


In July then Director Lerner orders a change in criteria used to flag applications that would require additional examination. It now read “organizations involved with political, lobbying, or advocacy for exemption under 501 (c)(3) or 501 (c)(4).”


Just six months later, in January of 2012, according to the TIGTA report, the IRS once again changed the criteria for flagging organizations that were of conservative by nature. Once flagged by the IRS the organizations were then required to submit names of all donors, amounts of their donations, position on issues as well as all e-mails sent to its members among other requests.


“Move along, nothin’ to see here!”


Now the obfuscation starts. In February 2012 Director Lerner states that the criteria for further investigation has not changed. Within the week the IRS issues a 60-day extension to all groups that were asked to provide the January 2012 required information. In March then IRS Commissioner Shulman gives the Ways and Means Oversight Committee assurances that the IRS is “absolutely not targeting.” The stonewalling continued throughout the spring as Director Lerner insisted that there were no inconsistencies in how applications were reviewed.


Then, in May of 2012, a review by internal IRS personnel reveals that there were significant issues and substantial bias against conservative groups seeking 501(c)(4) status. In July the Ways and Means committee hears testimony from then Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller that some 200 (c)(4) applications were steered into this category for further scrutiny without stating that the practice was discriminatory.


On November 9, 2012, Commissioner Shulman steps down after four plus years as head of the IRS.


On November 15, 2012, in a meeting with Ways and Means Oversight staff, Director Lerner fails to mention any knowledge of the IRS targeting conservative groups. Despite learning about the practice in June 2011, Director Lerner was not forthcoming with the practice of targeting conservative groups.


Then, on Friday May 10, 2013, just days prior to the release of TIGTA’s report “Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review,” Director Lerner made a public apology before an audience of American Bar Association members for the mistakes made by “low-level” employees from the IRS office in Cincinnati. In her address she pointed out that 300 groups were singled out for investigation, nearly half of the cases were closed and no group lost its tax exempt status. She also mentioned that some of the groups withdrew their applications, but she did not address how long the open cases have been under review.


On May 15, one day after the TIGTA released its scathing report, Acting Commissioner, Steven Miller submitted his resignation. On May 22, his resignation was accepted. That same day Director Lerner asserted her 5th Amendment rights before a House committee in regards to any questions that would reveal her knowledge of the previous two years events.


We have since learned that the Cincinnati employees were not the originators of the targeting directive, rather they were the “front men” for directives which came from more senior Washington-based IRS employees.


Then there was the Department of Justice investigation in January of this year that led to the filing of no criminal charges.


The president, who previously made statements of how serious these allegations of wrong-doing were, stated in a Super Bowl interview with FOX News Host Bill O’Reilly that indeed it was the Cincinnati employees who made “bone-headed decisions.” When pressed further, he told Mr. O’Reilly that there was not even “a smidgen of corruption.”


Now we have the watchdog organization Judicial Watch revealing even more information through the release of documents garnered through its Freedom of Information Act requests and subsequent lawsuits due to administration stonewalling.


In the early releases of information, it is clear that not only IRS officials were involved, but Democrat legislators were very involved in tying the hands of conservative groups. For example, Senator Carl Levin (D., MI), who happens to be the chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, exchanged several letters with top IRS officials stating that he wanted confidential IRS information available to use against four conservative groups. In another letter he shares his displeasure with the IRS’s handling of these conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.


This all should matter a great deal to the citizens of the United States. When the federal government uses the force to the IRS to intimidate or delay the ability of an organization to express its freedom of speech through constitutionally approved channels, it is in gross violation of the law.


You’ll still hear that any further investigation or Select Committee to investigate the IRS scandal is just election year grandstanding, but now that Judicial Watch has received several documents through the FOIA lawsuit, there is “plenty to see here.”


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