The editorial board understated the seriousness of the Internal Revenue Ser vice scandal by claiming that it consisted merely of “the thoughtless way IRS employees went about determining which groups to examine,” a failing it attributed to “carelessness” and “incompetence ” [“ Unfairly targeting the IRS ,” editorial, June 20]. Even if the IRS block ed or delay ed applications from right-leaning groups far more often than left-leaning ones, why get upset if the error was merely the result of a faulty selection formula?
But the problems go well beyond the IRS’s target selection .
As the Associated Press reported in 2012, the IRS demanded of local conservative civic groups “voluminous details about the groups’ postings on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, information on donors and key members’ relatives and copies of all literature they have distributed to their members” — demands going far beyond what had ordinarily been asked of 501(c)(4) groups.
Groups that might have a dozen or fewer active members were asked for transcripts of leaders’ speeches and radio appearances, printouts of all Facebook output, disclosure of every donor name matched to what their donations had been used for, and on and on. Even when groups tried to comply, they would find their applications stalled without a denial or explanation, making it difficult to challenge the agency in court.
Selecting certain political groups as targets for review was bad enough. The extraordinarily burdensome and intrusive demands placed on those groups are hard to explain within the editorial board’s preferred theory of mere inadvertence and bad luck.
Walter Olson, Washington
The writer is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.