On Friday, an Internal Revenue Service official admitted that the IRS targeted organizations with the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their names for extra scrutiny when reviewing their applications for tax exempt status. The admission, from Lois Lerner, came not before a Congressional hearing but at the tax conference put on by the American Bar Association. Lerner apologized but claimed that the extra scrutiny was the result of bureaucratic errors, was limited to one IRS unit in Cincinnati, and was not the result of political malice. Kevin Williamson isn’t buying that:
[T]hose tea-party organizations were sent letters of inquiry demanding information that would seldom if ever be demanded of any other applicant in the process. The IRS demanded lists of donors, names of spouses and family members, detailed information about political views and associations—all of that “under penalties of perjury.” Many applicants dropped out of the process. The questions were remarkably invasive: For example, the IRS demanded to know not only whether political candidates participated in public forums conducted by the groups, but which issues were discussed, along with copies of any literature distributed at the forum and material published on websites. (The IRS has been less forthcoming with its own materials related to this investigation.) If the organizations collected dues, the IRS demanded to know how much they were. It demanded everything down to the résumés of employees. The inquiry was not limited to members of the organization, its executives, or its directors, but included even their family members: The IRS demanded to know—again, under penalty of perjury—whether any of their family members might be thinking about running for office. Its demand for the names of all donors—and all recipients of grants—is in violation of IRS policy. […]
Other groups were included in this additional review, but while the office handles applications from all sorts of organizations, a full 25 percent of those targeted for additional review were “Tea Party” or “Patriot” groups.
“Obviously, you don’t get dozens of inquiries asking unconstitutional questions, with zero corresponding inquiries into liberal groups, unless there is something going on,” says David French, senior counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing 27 groups from 18 states in the IRS matter. “It’s not just the numbers, it’s the questions themselves. They were designed to dissect the operations of the organizations.” Mr. French believes that the IRS’s actions were intended as political intimidation.
He also is skeptical that the problem is limited to the Cincinnati office: “We dealt with offices from California to D.C. on this,” he says. With regard to the congressional testimony denying such targeting, he concludes: “Either they lied or they didn’t do the most basic due diligence.” [National Review, May 10]