Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, whom President Obama appointed to lead the agency after Miller’s resignation, said in a conference call with reporters last week that the screening methods were inappropriate.
But, Werfel added, his agency’s 30-day internal review had “not found evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone in the IRS or involvement in these matters by anyone outside the IRS.”
The BOLO could still be problematic for the IRS. The list’s “emerging issues” category included only conservative-associated terms at the outset, raising questions about why the IRS prioritized conservative groups but not those from the political left.
The term “progressive” appeared in a separate part of the BOLO, and questions remain about when and how that term was used, as well as whether those separate BOLO categories were even relevant to the audit. The IRS and George’s office have said they’re still looking into those matters.
The BOLO also directed agents to flag tea party cases for further review while allowing processors to approve other types of groups “on merit if applicable.”
George’s audit focused primarily on the “emerging issues” category as part of an effort to help identify groups involved in possible campaign intervention — something that can potentially disqualify an organization from tax-exempt status.
George has said the IRS did not use progressive criteria to identify groups involved in campaign intervention.
“We are reviewing whether these criteria led to expanded scrutiny for other reasons and why these criteria were implemented,” his office said in a statement last week.
Republicans have downplayed the recent revelations about “progressive” search criteria.
“Our Democratic colleagues should stop trying to derail the investigation by defending IRS officials with distorted claims equating the systematic scrutiny of Tea Party groups with the more routine screening progressive groups received,” Issa said.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said the IRS controversy goes beyond the issue of search terms to the inappropriate questions agents asked of conservative groups and alleged leaks of private taxpayer information.
“At this point, the evidence shows us that conservative groups were not only flagged, but targeted and abused by the IRS,” said Camp spokeswoman Sarah Swinehart. “As we gather the facts, we will follow them wherever they lead us.”