We already know that the IRS targeted progressive groups in addition to Tea Party ones, but new information released today adds further details, showing that the tax agency also targeted “ACORN successors” and left-leaning “Emerge” groups. Emerge Nevada, Emerge Maine and Emerge Massachusetts were the only groups to have their applications actually denied 501(c)4 tax-exempt status. Conservative groups had their applications delayed, in some cases for over a year, but not rejected outright.
Democrats say the new information should put to rest any lingering embers of the IRS scandal. “This new information should put a nail in the coffin of the Republican claims that the IRS’s actions were politically motivated or were targeted at only one side of the political spectrum,” said Elijah Cummings, the Maryland Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee.
The term “Emerge” had been redacted from an earlier version of a document released by the IRS, but was present on a newer version made available today. The new documents also showed that successors to ACORN, the liberal grass-roots organizing group that became a bugaboo of conservatives and that Congress defunded (again and again). The instructions on “ACORN successors” came on a BOLO (be on the lookout) list that included healthcare organizations, medical marijuana groups, newspapers, open source technology groups and other non-political organizations.
Meanwhile, a training document from July 2010 shows that agents were told to look out for groups engaged in politics (the title slide in the PowerPoint presentation included a picture of a donkey and elephant, à la the Republican and Democratic Parties), including groups that had in their names: “Tea Party,” “Patriots,” “9/12 Project,” “Emerge,” “Progressive” and “We the People.” The PowerPoint presentation indicates that most of these groups will file as 501(c)4s, and states that the “concern” is that they “[m]ay be more than 50% political,” and should thus instead be classified as a “PAC (Political Action Committee).” PACs are registered under a different section of the tax code, but area also tax-exempt.
Democrats say this new evidence shows that the Treasury Department inspector general’s report, which kicked off the whole scandal, “left out critical information that skewed the audit’s findings and set the stage for Republicans to make completely baseless accusations in an effort to tarnish the White House,” according to Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee.
Maybe it’s why Darrell Issa, the man leading the charge on the scandal front as the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has been switching his attention to Benghazi lately.