Feds Aware Of IRS Tea Party Targeting In 2011 [Report]

New information has emerged about the IRS Tea Party targeting practice.

Higher-ups in the IRS knew that Tea Party and politically conservative groups were being targeted by agency staff as early as 2011, according to a leaked report from the US Department of the Treasury.

This information, if valid, runs directly contrary to the IRS claim that only “low level” agents were subjecting Tea Party applications for tax-exempt status to special scrutiny, including intrusive questions about their operations and membership.

A soon-to-be-released Inspector General report will reportedly declare that this apparently unconstitutional practice was known to top agency bosses in 2011. “A federal watchdog’s upcoming report says senior Internal Revenue Service officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups in 2011.The disclosure contradicts public statements by former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, who repeatedly assured Congress that conservative groups were not targeted … That report says the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups learned that groups were being targeted in June 2011.

This revelation will only increase the pressure for a Congressional investigation, if not the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS in terms of any freedom of speech violations or other wrongdoing that may have occurred.

Yesterday, Lois Lerner, the IRS official who oversees the handling of applications for tax-exempt status, admitted that so-called low level workers at a Cincinnati IRS field office on their own flagged any organization that contained “tea party” or “patriot” in their paperwork. At least 75 applications were affected in this way, perhaps more.

Lerner — who also told reporters yesterday that she wasn’t good in math — made the following mea culpa about targeting right-of-center groups at an American Bar Association tax conference: “That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review. The IRS would like to apologize for that.”

In the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, there was a spike in the number of groups seeking 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status from across the political spectrum, but apparently only conservative groups were singled out. Various Tea Party groups eventually obtained the charitable designation, but a number of them had to hire legal counsel to overcome IRS roadblocks. Other applications are still pending.

Do you think the timing of Lerner’s admission had anything to do with the fact that the Inspector General’s report was evidently nearing its release date?

[Image via Andrew F. Kazmierski / Shutterstock.com]