WaPo: IRS targeting of Tea Party, conservative groups also in Washington office

posted at 8:01 am on May 14, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The story told by Lois Lerner in Friday’s IRS apology continues to fall apart faster than Al Capone’s audit defense.  Last night, the Washington Post revealed that the effort to target opponents of the Obama administration was not limited to just one office in Cincinnati, but encompassed three other offices as well — one of which was IRS headquarters in Washington DC.

How convenient:

Internal Revenue Service officials in Washington and at least two other offices were involved in the targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, making clear that the effort reached well beyond the branch in Cincinnati that was initially blamed, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

IRS officials at the agency’s Washington headquarters sent queries to conservative groups asking about their donors and other aspects of their operations, while officials in the El Monte and Laguna Niguel offices in California sent similar questionnaires to tea-party-affiliated groups, the documents show.

The search terms turned out to be even more broad than first thought.  Guess what another one was? “Voter fraud,” apparently:

In one instance, however, Ron Bell, an IRS employee, informed a lawyer representing a conservative group focused on voter fraud that the application was under review in Washington. On several other occasions, IRS officials in Washington and California sent conservative groups detailed questionnaires about their voter outreach and other activities, according to the documents.

“For the IRS to say it was some low-level group in Cincinnati is simply false,” said Cleta Mitchell, a partner in the law firm Foley & Lardner LLP who sought to communicate with IRS headquarters about the delay in granting tax-exempt status to True the Vote.

By the way, does anyone remember what the Obama administration thinks about the effort to fight voter fraud?  And now we have evidence that the IRS targeted groups that want to pursue more stringent processes to prevent voter fraud. What a coincidence this must be.  How … convenient.

The Post also catches up with the who-knew-what-and-when of the story:

Moreover, details of the IRS’s efforts to target conservative groups reached the highest levels of the agency in May 2012, far earlier than has been disclosed, according to Republican congressional aides briefed by the IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ­(TIGTA) on the details of their reviews.

Then-Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee who stepped down in November, received a briefing from the TIGTA about what was happening in the Cincinnati office in May 2012, the aides said. His deputy and the agency’s current acting commissioner, Steven T. Miller, also learned about the matter that month, the aides said.

Let’s raise a red flag on the Shulman claim.  It’s very convenient for Shulman to claim now that he was briefed in May 2012, because he testified twice in March 2012 that nothing of this sort was happening at the IRS.  However, the IRS chief counsel — the top attorney in the organization — was informed in August 2011 of this targeting.  Just how likely would it have been that Shulman’s chief lawyer would have failed to mention this for nine months, and waited to brief him on it until Shulman was almost out the door?  I’d call that extremely unlikely, and even putting that aside, it still leaves the question of why Shulman never bothered to let anyone know about it, even as a private citizen.

Clearly, this strategy was no isolated incident. Four separate offices spread far across the country worked to put this targeting in place against the political opponents of the White House.  That alone smacks of higher-level coordination, at either the IRS Commissioner level or above.  The fact that it took place in the IRS’ Washington headquarters also shows that it was no rogue effort that ran wild due to lack of supervision.  This was purposeful.

Cui bono?  To whose benefit was this done? The buck stops at the White House — because that’s where the benefits of political harassment would start.


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