A key point, though: He doesn’t say whether it was limited to conservative groups.
In a conference call with reporters, Danny Werfel said that after becoming acting IRS chief last month, he discovered wide-ranging and improper terms on lists screeners were still using to choose groups for careful examinations. He did not specify what terms were on the lists, but said he suspended the use of all such lists immediately.
“There was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum” on the lists, Werfel said. He added that his aides found those lists contained “inappropriate criteria that was in use.”…
His comments also indicate that the use of inappropriate terms on such lists lasted longer than has been revealed previously. A report last month by a Treasury Department inspector general said agency officials abolished targeting of conservative groups with those lists in May 2012.
The ACLJ, which has been helping tea-party groups fight the IRS on this, claimed weeks ago that its clients were getting overly intrusive questions from the tax-exempt division long after May 2012. I can’t tell what Werfel means by “broad spectrum” and “wide-ranging,” though. Is he hinting that maybe liberal groups were flagged too? Hard to believe we wouldn’t have heard about that ages ago per one of those “helpful leaks” that the White House has become famous for, as a way to kill off the idea that the agency sought to please a Democratic administration only by targeting its political enemies. But maybe O figured that antagonizing the left by revealing that some of their groups were flagged too would only double his political problem, especially if it turned out — as I’d bet it would — that there was far more scrutiny of tea-party groups than their progressive counterparts. Then he’s got the worst of both worlds, with his base annoyed at him and perceptions still lingering that this was aimed mainly at the out-party.
Werfel claims that they’ve found no evidence of intentional wrongdoing. But:
But because of the management problems, Werfel said, the IRS has installed new officials across the board at positions overseeing tax-exempt applications – including at the spots once held by Lois Lerner and Holly Paz, two staffers at the center of the investigation so far.
“Based on the evidence that we have to date,” said Werfel. “We believe that these individuals should no longer hold a position of trust in IRS.”
They’re not wrongdoers, they’re just … problematic as figureheads for the tax-exempt division going forward. Actually, the real news to come out of today’s conference call may be Werfel revealing that the IRS will now allow 501(c)(4) groups to “self-certify” if they haven’t gotten a determination from the agency within 120 days. That’s an odd result to come from a clusterfark that started, allegedly, because the IRS feared 501(c)(4) orgs were violating the rules against intervening in political campaigns and wanted to take a harder look at them. But maybe it makes sense, the same way it makes sense to let taxpayers file a 1040-EZ if their tax liability was extremely low. The way this will work in practice, I take it, is that big-money 501(c)(4) groups will get immediate scrutiny from the agency and penny-ante grassroots activist groups will receive lower priority, essentially being placed on the honor system not to cross the line politically if they don’t get a review within four months. In other words, in all likelihood, the new watch lists won’t focus on keywords like “patriot” or “tea party” but on the amount of money received each year. That would be a rare move towards common sense.
Update: Congressional sources who’ve seen the new IRS report tell CNN yes, progressives were targeted too:
The IRS targeted liberal groups as well as conservatives for extra scrutiny in tax exempt applications, using the term “progressive” among other liberal sounding terms to screen for groups engaged in political activity, multiple congressional sources tell CNN.
The revelation that “progressives” were targeted like “tea party” groups came after the IRS delivered more than 20 “Be on the lookout memos” known as BOLOS to congressional committees in conjunction with the IRS internal review of the controversial practice released Monday.
“Screening” is one thing, delaying approval and asking intrusive questions is another. What percentage of progressive groups were obstructed compared to the percentage of tea-party groups that were? Like I said up top, finding out that a few progressive groups were flagged vis-a-vis many conservative groups doesn’t solve Obama’s political problem here.