This is a significant development in that it shows, to an even greater degree, that the motivation for the IRS targeting conservative or “tea party” groups was political. Because the tea party movement started in 2009, and 2010 was the first election cycle in which the movement had an impact:
But questions continued to swirl about the failure of IRS officials to disclose the problems until the inspector general’s report was about to become public.
The timeline contained in the draft report indicates that IRS scrutiny of tea-party and other conservative groups began as early as 2010 and came to the attention of Ms. Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt-organizations division, at least by the following year.
The report’s timeline indicates that the criteria were changed to be more neutral in July 2011 after Ms. Lerner “raised concerns.” The criteria for heightened scrutiny continued to evolve over the next year or so, even as complaints from tea-party groups—and questions from GOP lawmakers—mounted over IRS inquiries to various groups about their activities.
It’s beginning to look suspiciously like the IRS’ initial apology to the groups targeted wasn’t so much a sincere effort to atone for a past mistake but rather a stab at getting out in front of and spinning a damning inspection report.
Meanwhile, Senator Susan Collins is wondering why President Obama hasn’t spoken up on this controversy yet. “It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review and I think that it’s very disappointing that the president hasn’t personally condemned this and spoken out,” she told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “The president needs to make crystal clear that this is totally unacceptable in America.”
Something tells me that if it were MoveOn.org and Media Matters for America that had been targeted, Obama would have spoken out by now. But then, those groups would probably never have been targeted under the Obama administration, and we may yet find out that the order for the IRS to target conservatives came from the top.
Update: Politico reports that it wasn’t just tea party groups being targeted, but groups that criticized the government in general:
Groups hoping to make “America a better place to live” and focused on government spending and debt were also subject to extra review by the Internal Revenue Service, according to drafts of a watchdog agency’s report set to be released this week and obtained by POLITICO.
The IRS admitted on Friday that conservative groups that included the word “tea party” and “patriot” in their tax documents were singled out, but the agency also gave a skeptical eye to groups focusing on specific issues including “government spending,” “government debt,” “education of the public via advocacy/lobbying to ‘make America a better place to live,’” and all groups that “criticize[d] how the country is being run.”