IRS Admits to Investigating Tea Party Groups

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 10 2013 12:14 PM

Tea Party Leaders Understandably Annoyed that the IRS Investigated Them

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Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Douglas Shulman in 2012.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Lois Lerner, who oversees IRS investigations of tax-exempt groups, apologizes for having "inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status." It's like Kurt Cobain sang: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.

"On our bus tours the local Tea Party groups were all screaming about it," says Sal Russo of Tea Party Express. (They're a PAC, so they weren't one of the groups under the gun.) "It was so pronounced around the country that it was obvious that the Tea Party groups were being targeted. Not unlike any bureaucracy, the first reaction is to deny everything even when they don’t know the facts. Glad they finally acknowledged what was obvious to everyone else. Law breaking is bad enough, but especially insidious when done by the government. This isn’t a stupid mistake like falling asleep on the job or inappropriately putting up offensive items on a bulletin board, this was a malicious effort to silence a political view they disagreed with. There isn’t a bigger threat to democracy that when government tries to suppress dissent and free speech. Everyone who cherishes freedom and liberty should be appalled."

Judson Phillips, whose Tea Party Nation held the sole "National Tea Party convention" in 2010, says he was only stunned the IRS apologized."

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"It isn't just 2012," says Phillips. "This goes back to 2009 with the formation of the Tea Party movement.  I've heard stories of the IRS taking years to deliver needed documents and demanding massive amounts of information to 'process' the paperwork for non-profit status. I think Congress should hold hearings into this. If anyone believes this was just a couple of low-level employees doing this, I have some ocean-front property in Tennessee for sale. This is why the IRS should be a totally nonpartisan agency, removed from the control of the administration. In the '90s, the Clinton IRS routinely audited Clinton's enemies. While it has not been nearly as bad under Obama, this kind of 'targeting' is way out of line."

UPDATE: And from Amy Kremer of Tea Party Express:

Just like with Benghazi, the truth comes out after the election. This was nothing more than an effort to silence the opposition. Unfortunately, the administration never accepts responsibility, but always blames it on low level employees. For an administration that is looking out for the little guy, you wouldn't know by their actions.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.