House Republicans reveal new IRS targeting ‘allegations’

Two top Republicans from the House oversight committee have asked for an investigation into whether the embattled Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, this time after the organizations were already approved for tax-exempt status.

Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) requested the probe Monday in a letter to Treasury Department Inspector General Russell George.

(James Lawler Duggan/Reuters) - Acting IRS Commissioner Dan Werfel, who was appointed to lead the agency shortly after the targeting controversy became known publicly.
Acting IRS Commissioner Dan Werfel, who was appointed to lead the embattled agency shortly after the targeting controversy became publicly known. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

“We are troubled by evidence that the IRS may have conducted unnecessary audits and systematic post hoc reviews of entire groups of applicants as well as certain groups that have long possessed tax-exempt status,” the congressmen said.

George released a report in May that said the IRS had flagged groups for extra scrutiny based on political ideology, but those findings focused entirely on tax-exemption applicants rather than groups that were green-lighted.

The previous audit triggered a political firestorm involving statements of outrage from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, agency apologies, congressional hearings, a Justice Department probe and a personnel shakeup at the IRS.

Issa and Jordan have asked George to examine the activities of the IRS’s Review of Operations Unit, which is a division of the same group involved in the original targeting controversy. A statement from the GOP side of the committee said the issue involved “allegations of political targeting.”

Monday’s letter asks George to determine whether the IRS singled out tax-exempt groups for extra review based on their political ideologies and whether the agency automatically flagged tax-exempt tea party groups.

The letter cites congressional interviews with IRS employees to show that the IRS examined right-leaning groups that had already been approved for tax-exempt status. It does not provide conclusive evidence that the agency only applied scrutiny to conservative organizations.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the oversight panel’s ranking member, accused Issa in a letter on Monday of using selective quotes from the congressional interviews to make “unsubstantiated allegations.”

“The committee has identified no evidence that the IRS discriminated against conservative groups that had been approved for tax exempt status,” Cummings said.

The ranking member produced quotes of his own to show that IRS agents sometimes referred groups to the Review of Operations Unit in order to give them a chance while still keeping an eye on those organizations.

“We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, but we will try to take a look later without burdening them to just make sure that that was the right decision,” an IRS employee said, according to the partial transcript.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · July 29, 2013