Report: The IRS also targeted at least three liberal groups

May 15, 2013

We already know that the IRS developed “inappropriate criteria” in flagging for review more than 90 Tea Party groups that were applying for tax-exempt status as 501(c)(4)s. But did any liberal groups receive heavy scrutiny, or did they get a free pass?


Some new reporting from Bloomberg suggests that at least three Democratic-leaning groups faced similar inquiries from the IRS:

The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax Tea Party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.

One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.

Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the Tea Party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.

This doesn't get the IRS off the hook, however. Legal experts tend to agree that the IRS should carefully scrutinize all would-be 501(c)(4)s that tread the line between "social welfare" and politics. But, they add, it's important for the IRS to stay neutral and not appear like it's putting an unfair focus on certain political views. That's why the IRS Cincinnati office's push to flag all Tea Party groups for review was deemed "inappropriate."

“It’s part of [the IRS's] job to look for organizations that may be more likely to have too much campaign intervention,” Loyola law professor Ellen Aprill said yesterday. “But it is important to try to make these criteria as politically neutral as possible.”

Meanwhile, there's still the disparity that Nicholas Confessore reported here. At the same time the IRS was investigating smaller groups applying for 501(c)(4) status, it gave a pass to larger organizations like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS or Bill Burton's Priorities USA that were allowed to receive anonymous donations — groups that were overtly political and heavily involved in the 2012 campaign.

Further reading:

-- How is the IRS supposed to scrutinize 501(c)(4) groups, anyway?

-- ‘Crossroads GPS and Priorities USA were created for the purpose of hiding donors.’

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Sarah Kliff · May 15, 2013