Three Months Into the IRS Scandal: What Have We Learned?

John Boehner

Three months after the IRS admitted it had been abusing its power and targeting Americans for their political beliefs, here is some of what the ongoing Congressional investigations have uncovered:

IRS officials went to great lengths to harass conservative groups – and might still be doing so.

Conservative groups “were asked more questions” by the IRS — “on average, three times more” – than “progressive” liberal organizations, reports NPR. Less than half of the conservative groups (48 out of 104) had their applications for tax exempt status approved – “[o]thers are still waiting for an answer or gave up.” All of the groups with “progressive” in their name were approved.

The IRS went so far as to demand “copies of Facebook postings, the content of prayers, political beliefs of members, résumés of board members and dealings with the media” from the conservative groups it targeted – and even “leaked their donor lists to political opponents,” reported USA Today.

And House Ways Means Committee investigators discovered that the IRS may still be “targeting Tea Party applications based on name alone… regardless of whether there is any political activity.”

Senior Washington officials ordered the targeting – not “rogue agents” in a field office.

“There were no ‘rogue’ agents,” explain Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Ways Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI). “Only employees who followed the implicit or explicit directions of more senior IRS officials in Washington.”

The Wall Street Journal says testimony from IRS employees shows “Washington IRS officials had a direct hand in slow rolling the tax-exempt applications of conservative groups in an election season.”

The IRS may have “colluded” with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to target conservatives.

“The Federal Election Commission (FEC) and IRS may have colluded to target conservative organizations,” reports the Washington Free Beacon.

The Ways Means Committee identified emails between the two agencies that call “into question whether the IRS unlawfully shared confidential tax information with the FEC.”

According to CNN, FEC Vice Chairman Don McGahn “said an investigator from his agency contacted” IRS official Lois Lerner to discuss the status of a conservative advocacy group, the American Future Fund. Shortly after she was contacted, the agency “sent a questionnaire to the American Future Fund…”

Ways and Means has asked the IRS for “all communications between the IRS and the FEC between 2008 and 2012, as well as all communication from or to Lois Lerner regarding the American Future Fund, American Issues Project, Citizens for the Republic or Avenger, Inc.” And the House Administration Committee and Oversight Government Reform Committee have asked the FEC for these emails.

The Obama administration knew about the IRS targeting before the 2012 election – but kept it secret.

“Inspector General Russell George said he informed a deputy at the Treasury Department in June of 2012 about the probe into the IRS,” reports CBS News. “It’s the first evidence that someone within the Obama administration knew about the practice during the presidential campaign.”

And “the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election,” says the Weekly Standard. An NBC News report noted Members of Congress had asked about the targeting more than a year ago, but the IRS denied it was happening.

There are more questions than answers, but the Obama administration is stonewalling investigators.

Chairman Camp says the IRS has provided only three percent of the documents requested by Congressional investigators. And some of the documents it has provided are duplicates. “[T]he slow production and compliance in this investigation begins to look a lot like obstruction,” says Camp.

On August 2, Chairman Issa issued a subpoena for documents from the IRS, arguing that the agency has “engaged in a systematic effort to delay, frustrate, impede, and obstruct” the ongoing investigation.

The House Oversight Committee also discovered that the former head of the IRS division responsible for these abuses, Lois Lerner, “sent official documents from her government e-mail address to a personal account,” says National Review. Committee leaders have given Lerner until August 27 to turn over all emails sent to a personal email account from her official email account.

And President Obama thinks it’s “phony” for the American people to be concerned about all of this.

The Obama White House – who originally called the IRS’ abuse of power “outrageous” and said the people involved should be “held accountable” – now says this is all just a “phony” scandal.

But Americans aren’t buying it. “There’s nothing ‘phony’ about these scandals, Mr. President,” said Speaker Boehner. “Not when the agency enforcing your health care law has been harassing Americans because of their political beliefs. The American people deserve answers, and we will continue to fight to get the truth – no matter how badly the Administration wants to sweep these issues under the carpet.”

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