IRS scandal is Republicans’ zombie

Using a letter from the Treasury Inspector General, the GOP revives the scandal for another day -- but barely

Topics: IRS scandal, IRS, Taxes, Tea Party, Campaign Finance, Darrell Issa, Treasury Department,

IRS scandal is Republicans' zombieCongressman Darrell Issa (Credit: © Jose Luis Magaua / Reuters)

Like a “zeke” in “World War Z” that just won’t die, the IRS scandal lives another day. We declared it dead on Monday — based on the information we had at the time — after we learned that the IRS had targeted progressive and Occupy groups in addition to Tea Party ones.

But today, Treasury Department Inspector General Russell George explained in a letter to lawmakers that while some liberal groups got extra scrutiny, they weren’t systematically targeted like conservative ones were. “We found no indication in any of these other materials that ‘Progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention,” the IG wrote. While 100 percent of applications for groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12″ in their name were processed as “potential political cases,” just 30 percent of progressive ones were.

So were Republicans right all along? Conservatives blogs certainly think so, writing that the report “obliterat[es] the Left’s shiny, new, and perfidious talking point.” A spokeswoman for the Republican-controlled House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS, said: “The evidence shows us that conservative groups were not only flagged, but targeted and abused by the IRS.”

You Might Also Like

Maybe, but this ignores the reality that progressive groups still were targeted along with conservative ones (the only group actually denied tax-exempt status was a progressive one), that some Tea Party groups deserved the extra scrutiny, and that the focus on conservative groups makes some sense in a historical context.

Indeed, new data from today’s letter gets at a point that liberals have been making from the very beginning of this controversy. The IRS’s job is to ensure that people don’t exploit tax-exempt status to do political work, but it’s never had a formal process of how to do that, so bureaucrats came up with the kludgey (and improper) workaround of targeting groups by their names.

During the time in question, May 2010 through May 2012, the IRS was flooded with applications for new conservative groups, thanks to the explosion of the Tea Party movement and the Citizens United decision. So it made some sense for the IRS screeners looking for political groups to start with them. If Willie Sutton robbed banks because that’s where the money was, then IRS screeners went after Tea Party groups because that’s where the new applications were.

And thank to the IG’s letter today, we now have hard numbers to show just how big that flood was. Six groups with “progressive” in their name were added to a list of applications to be given extra scrutiny, while another 14 “progressive” tax-exempt applications filed during the time period in question were not added to the list. That makes for a grand total of 20 “progressive” groups. Meanwhile, there were 96 groups with “Tea Party,” “9/12″ or “Patriots” in their name.

And the IG’s letter says that “progressive” was placed on a “historical” list of terms to “be on the lookout” for — perhaps from a time when progressives were the ones flooding IRS offices with new applications.

Calling the targeting abusive is also fallacious, since, as Joan Walsh wrote, many of these groups were pretty blatantly politicalAnd we still don’t have information on “Occupy” groups, which were also on the list and are perhaps a more accurate analog to “Tea Party” than “progressive.”

All that said, Republicans still managed to achieve their prime goal today: revive the scandal for another day, even if its life force appears to be waning.

Alex Seitz-Wald

Alex Seitz-Wald is Salon's political reporter. Email him at aseitz-wald@salon.com, and follow him on Twitter @aseitzwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...