The targeting of conservatives by the IRS started earlier and was more extensive than the IRS acknowledged last week, according to a draft IRS inspector general report obtained by ABC News.
As we reported on “Good Morning America” this morning, the IRS began targeting “Tea Party or similar organizations” in March 2010. That was when the Cincinnati-based IRS unit responsible for overseeing the applications for tax exempt status starting using the phrases “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12? to search for applications warranting greater scrutiny.
During this first phase, 10 Tea Party cases were identified. By April of 2010, 18 Tea Party organizations were targeted, including three that had already been approved for tax-exempt status.
By June 2011, the unit had flagged over 100 Tea Party-related applications and the criteria used to scrutinize organizations had grown considerably, flagging not just “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in group names, but also groups that were working on issues like “government debt,” “taxes” and even organizations making statements that “criticize how the country is being run.”
ABC shared an appendix to the IRS IG report (not the whole report), which details the timeline of events [PDF]. The contents of the timeline are telling:
The word “Director” appears 35 times in the timeline.
The word “Manager” appears 56 times in the timeline.
The word “Headquarters” appears 5 times in the timeline.
The word “Counsel” appears 4 times in the timeline.
Two additional items are worth noting. First, this was no “rogue” operation. IRS employees were trained in how to target conservative groups, and official “be on the lookout for” guidelines were worked through many layers of bureaucracy:
June 7, 2010 – Determinations Unit began training its specialists on emerging issues to watch for, including an emerging issue referred to as Tea Party Cases.
May 8, 2012 – The Determinations Unit Program Manager was informed that EO function Headquarters office employees planned to visit Cincinnati, Ohio, to provide training on cases and perform a review of the cases to recommend what additional actions, if any, were needed to make a determination.
May 14–15, 2012 – Training was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, on how to process identified potential political cases. The Senior Technical Advisor to the Director, EO, took over coordination of the team of specialists from the Determinations Unit.
Second, one of the most objectionable items requested from Tea Party-type groups was donor lists. The IG timeline shows that earlier this year the agency changed course on that requirement (while keeping the targeting program on track) by essentially telling groups that complained, “nevermind:”
May 21, 2012 The EO function determined that the requested donor information could be destroyed or returned to the applicant if not used to make the final determination of tax-exempt status. It does not need to be kept in the administrative file. A letter would be issued to the organizations informing them that the donor information was destroyed.
May 24, 2012 A telephone call script was developed to inform some organizations that had not responded to the additional information requests that it was not necessary to send the requested information and that their applications had been approved. Also, an additional paragraph was developed for the determination letter.
President Obama today expressed that the charge was “outrageous” and that those responsible had to “have to be held fully accountable.”
For what it’s worth, he said the same thing about Benghazi…