Members who sought original IRS targeting audit ask IG to probe scrutiny of existing tax-exempt organizations
WASHINGTON- House Oversight and Government Reform Committee leaders are seeking a new investigation of allegations of political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service: this time of existing groups that had already received tax-exempt status.
“The totality of your ‘targeting’ investigation along with evidence obtained by the Committee points to the fact that the IRS may have selected certain conservative organizations for additional scrutiny after the IRS already approved their tax-exempt status,” Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, write in a letter to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George.
Some examples of the apparently inappropriate treatment of conservative groups shared with Committee investigators include:
- Leadership Institute, an organization that has been in existence since 1970. In audits in 2011 and 2012, the Leadership Institute was required to turn over 23,430 pages of documents to the IRS at a cost of roughly $50,000. The letter notes that Leadership Institute was asked “invasive questions, including requests for information about its interns and where they worked after their internships.”
- Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute. Noting that the treatment it received by IRS amounted to “harassment,” the President of the Institute told Committee investigators that its audit “took the greater part of 2011 and cost tens of thousands of dollars.” The Clare Booth Luce Policy Institute, like many Tea Party applicants targeted by the IRS during the same time frame, was asked for a “List of contributors and Amounts.”
According to the IRS, a division of the Exempt Organizations Examination Unit known as the Review of Operations Unit (ROO) conducts reviews of organizations, “when the IRS has concerns about the past, present, or future activities of the organization but does not have sufficient cause to deny [tax] exemption.”
The Committee is also asking the IG to look into the possibility that Tea Party groups who had previously been approved for tax-exempt status might have been automatically flagged for higher levels of scrutiny by the ROO unit. The letter notes that “[a]ccording to evidence obtained by the Committee, the IRS considered referring Tea Party applications to the ROO unit as part of processing pending exemption applications filed by Tea Party groups.” An IRS e-mail, recounting a summer 2011 meeting with Lois Lerner, Director of Exempt Organizations, specifically raised the use of ROO to follow-up on approved applications. According to an e-mail, “[o]ne of the recommended actions is going to be to send ROO referrals for those cases that cause us concern resulting from organizations making changes after being questioned during our case development.”
You can read the entire letter to IRS IG George here.