(ABC News) Conservative groups have rejected an Internal Revenue Service apology for unjustifiably scrutinizing tax-exempt conservative groups during the 2012 election cycle. The IRS apology has seemingly validated conservatives’ fears of politically motivated regulation.
Lois Lerner, the director the IRS unit that oversees tax-exempt organizations, said that organizations had been given additional scrutiny if their applications included the words “Tea Party” or “patriot.” The practice originated with “low-level” employees in Cincinnati, according to an Associated Press report.
In a press conference on Friday, Lerner called the actions of these employees “absolutely inappropriate.”
“They didn’t do it because of any political bias,” Lerner said, adding that singling out groups with specific names was an ill-thought-out organizational “shortcut.”
“It was an error in judgment and it wasn’t appropriate but that’s what they did,” she said.
“We’ve now corrected these issues, and we don’t expect that any of these will be repeated going forward.”
Despite the apology, conservative groups are now seizing on the news, which they say proves their long-standing complaints of mistreatment by the IRS.
“President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again,” said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots.
In a statement, the IRS admitted that “mistakes were made,” but it said that the errors were not due to “any political or partisan rationale.”
“We fixed the situation last year and have made significant progress in moving the centralized cases through our system,” the IRS said. “It is important to recognize that all centralized applications received the same, even-handed treatment, and the majority of cases centralized were not based on a specific name.”
The IRS said that about 75 applications for tax-exempt status that contained the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” were added to a pool of 225 other applications that were singled out for additional scrutiny. So far, none of those applications have been rejected, although some have been withdrawn.
The news came after an election cycle punctuated by claims by liberal and watchdog groups that conservative tax-exempt organizations were unduly influencing political elections, and in some cases, violating their tax-exempt status.
Groups with a 501(c)4 tax status are prohibited from using more than half of their resources for electioneering activities.
“The revelations revealed today that the IRS was targeting conservative groups during the 2012 elections is shocking,” said David Bossie, president of Citizen’s United, the 501(c)4 organization that touched off much of the recent controversy over these groups’ role in political elections.
“The politicization of the IRS cannot be tolerated by the American people. To single out groups because they offer a point of view that is different from the Obama administration harkens back to the dark days of the Nixon administration.”
Some liberal and watchdog groups believed that the IRS wasn’t doing enough to review groups that they believed might be flouting their 501(c)4 tax-exempt status in the 2012 election.
“That’s the most interesting thing about this: They were actually doing it,” said Kenneth Gross, a campaign finance law expert and former counsel of the Federal Election Commission. “Now that they have done it, to some degree, it looks like they stepped on a pile off dog doo.”
The effect of this revelation could be chilling for future regulation of politically active, tax-exempt groups.
“There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)4 status,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign in a statement. “It’s unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias.”….
Read Full Story – ABC News
Phoenix is the Co-Founder of DontComply.com, ComeAndTakeItAmerica.com, and host of the Don't Comply Radio Show.
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