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IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Old 05-10-13, 12:51 PM
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IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

This is really horrible - but it does not surprise me.

I do not believe the IRS's claim that it was only its low level employees who caused this abuse, and that management knew nothing about it.


http://bigstory.ap.org/article/irs-a...rvative-groups

IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

May 10, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.

Organizations were singled out because they included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.

In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.


"That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review," Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

"The IRS would like to apologize for that," she added.

Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice.

Agency officials found out about the practice last year and moved to correct it, the IRS said in a statement. The statement did not specify when officials found out.

About 75 groups were inappropriately targeted. None had their tax-exempt status revoked, Lerner said.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky called on the White House to investigate.

"Today's acknowledgement by the Obama administration that the IRS did in fact target conservative groups in the heat of last year's national election is not enough," McConnell said. "I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views."

Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive questionnaires.

The forms, which the groups made available at the time, sought information about group members' political activities, including details of their postings on social networking websites and about family members.


Certain tax-exempt charitable groups can conduct political activities but it cannot be their primary activity.

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on their political views.

"There's absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people" who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a House Ways and Means subcommittee.

Shulman was appointed by President George W. Bush. His 6-year term ended in November. President Barack Obama has yet to nominate a successor. The agency is now being run by acting Commissioner Steven Miller.

"The Ways and Means Committee has persistently pushed the IRS to explain why it appeared to be unfairly targeting some political groups over others — a charge they repeatedly denied," said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the Ways and Means oversight subcommittee.

"The IRS's 'too little too late' response is unacceptable, and I will continue to work to ensure there are protections in place so no American, regardless of political affiliation, has their right to free speech threatened by the IRS," Boustany said.

Tea Party groups were livid on Friday.

"I don't think there's any question we were unfairly targeted," said Tom Zawistowski, who until recently was president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, an alliance of tea party groups in the state.

Zawistowski's group was among many conservative organizations that battled the IRS over what they saw as its discriminatory treatment of their effort to gain non-profit status. The group first applied for non-profit status in June 2009, and it was finally granted on Dec. 7, 2012, he said — one month after Election Day.

During the 2012 election, many tea party groups applied for tax-exempt status under section 501 (c) (4) of the federal tax code, which grants tax-exempt status to social welfare groups. Unlike other charitable groups, these organizations are allowed to participate in political activities but their primary activity must be social welfare.

That determination is up to the IRS.

Lerner said the number of groups filing for this tax-exempt status more than doubled from 2010 to 2012, to more than 3,400. To handle the influx, the IRS centralized its review of these applications in an office in Cincinnati.

Lerner said this was done to develop expertise among staffers and consistency in their reviews. As part of the review, staffers look for signs that groups are participating in political activity. If so, IRS agents take a closer look to make sure that politics isn't the group's primary activity, Lerner said.

As part of this process, agents in Cincinnati came up with a list of things to look for in an application. As part of the list, they included the words, "tea party" and "patriot," Lerner said.

"It's the line people that did it without talking to managers," Lerner. "They're IRS workers, they're revenue agents."

In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review, Lerner said. Of those, about a quarter were singled out because they had "tea party" or "patriot" somewhere in their applications.

The IRS statement said that once applications were chosen for review, they all "received the same, even-handed treatment."

Lerner said 150 of the cases have been closed and no group had its tax-exempt status revoked, though some withdrew their applications.

"Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale," the IRS said in a statement. "We fixed the situation last year and have made significant progress in moving the centralized cases through our system."

Marcus S. Owens, who spent a decade leading the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, said Friday that it made sense that the problem arose among workers in Cincinnati because the agency "really has delegated a lot of authority" to local offices to make decisions about handling their workload.

But Tea Party groups weren't buying the idea that the decision to target them was solely the responsibility of low-level IRS workers.

"It is suspicious that the activity of these 'low-level workers' was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred," said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, which describes itself as the nation's largest tea party organization. "President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again."
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Old 05-10-13, 01:37 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

But who else are they going to audit? Democrats are all on welfare, right?
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Old 05-10-13, 01:44 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

*SIGH* Is everything a vast conspiracy? They messed up, they apologized, it's done. It would be easier to believe that it happened the way they said it did than make a claim that it's somehow a mandate throughout the organization (staffed by plenty on all sides of the political spectrum, I'd think). But that wouldn't be as fun to post on a message board, I guess.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:12 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Yeah, it would have been no problem if they had done this to groups with LGBT or Civil Rights in their name instead
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Old 05-10-13, 02:16 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

It's not right, but if you're associated with a an anti-tax group you should be surprised if you get flagged for a "random" audit.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:19 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

That would be fine if the audit was actually random. Although IRS audits still seem somewhat un-American as you must prove your innocence based on being randomly (allegedly) getting your name pulled from a hat or because your return has some sort of trigger in it.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:35 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

The US Government always dumps information on a Friday which they do not want receiving much attention. Unfortunately in this highly-charged partisan environment, partisanship has crept into supposedly neutral government agencies at all levels. This is not an isolated case but will likely get swept under the rug like so much else these days.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:36 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by BearFan View Post
Yeah, it would have been no problem if they had done this to groups with LGBT or Civil Rights in their name instead
Did I say that? I'd have the exact same reaction.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:41 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by Draven View Post
*SIGH* Is everything a vast conspiracy?
No, and I don't see where the article is claiming that.
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Old 05-10-13, 02:43 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

I did not say you said it .... I do think there would be at least some people who are blowing this off as no big deal make a very big deal out of it if it happened to groups they liked or approved of. That seems natural.

Beyond that, I do think it is more than just a mistake ... this is flat out profiling, which again some people have a serious problem with in some cases, but maybe not this.

In any case, it would be worth looking at these tax laws in general, there are tons of groups like this (left, right, religious, secular, etc) that have a political purpose and advocate for policy change either subtly or overtly ... they should just allow it or crack down very hard on everyone
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Old 05-10-13, 02:44 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Just got an AP alert that the White House is going to launch an investigation.

Presumably against the IRS and not the targeted groups...
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Old 05-10-13, 02:50 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

I heard that the funds to afford these extra IRS audits were taken out of the Benghazi security budget. Thanks Obama.
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Old 05-10-13, 03:29 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Carney on IRS scandal: "It's Bush's fault"

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/EI3AZ3XHxx8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
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Old 05-10-13, 03:32 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

You have to give them credit. They've used that line for four and a half years and are sticking to it.
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Old 05-10-13, 05:00 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by Rockmjd23 View Post
No, and I don't see where the article is claiming that.
Did you read this part?

"It is suspicious that the activity of these 'low-level workers' was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred," said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, which describes itself as the nation's largest tea party organization. "President Obama must also apologize for his administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make concrete and transparent steps today to ensure this never happens again."
They are saying this goes all the way to the IRS leadership and Obama. Come the fuck on.
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Old 05-10-13, 05:16 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by RoyalTea View Post
Carney on IRS scandal: "It's Bush's fault"

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/EI3AZ3XHxx8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
He didn't say it's Bush's fault; he said that there are only two political appointees in the IRS, and the one who heads investigations was a Bush appointee (i.e. it's probably not a political issue).
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Old 05-10-13, 05:54 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by Draven View Post
*SIGH* Is everything a vast conspiracy? They messed up, they apologized, it's done. It would be easier to believe that it happened the way they said it did than make a claim that it's somehow a mandate throughout the organization (staffed by plenty on all sides of the political spectrum, I'd think). But that wouldn't be as fun to post on a message board, I guess.

Why should an apology be sufficient for it to be "done"?

Why shouldn't the people who did this be fired - or even criminally charged?


.


Originally Posted by BearFan View Post
That would be fine if the audit was actually random. Although IRS audits still seem somewhat un-American as you must prove your innocence based on being randomly (allegedly) getting your name pulled from a hat or because your return has some sort of trigger in it.

Also, if you call the IRS phone line for help, and they give you wrong information, and you unknowingly use that wrong information, it is you, and not the IRS person who gave you the wrong information, that is held responsible for this wrong information. And they give the wrong information quite often, according to surveys that have been done on this.

In addition, I once read about a study where they invented a fictional family of four, and gave their information to 50 different accountants, and asked them to figure out the family's taxes. The 50 accountants all gave unique answers - no two answers were identical. This shows how absurd the tax code is. If this had been a math problem and had been given to 50 different math professors, all 50 would have given the same answer.
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Old 05-10-13, 06:15 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by Groucho View Post
Just got an AP alert that the White House is going to launch an investigation.

Presumably against the IRS and not the targeted groups...
Results Show to be hosted by Susan Rice.
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Old 05-10-13, 06:16 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by RoyalTea View Post
Carney on IRS scandal: "It's Bush's fault"

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/EI3AZ3XHxx8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Who cares what Al Franken's little bro thinks?
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Old 05-10-13, 06:25 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by grundle View Post
Also, if you call the IRS phone line for help, and they give you wrong information, and you unknowingly use that wrong information, it is you, and not the IRS person who gave you the wrong information, that is held responsible for this wrong information. And they give the wrong information quite often, according to surveys that have been done on this.
You are responsible for paying the owed taxes, not any penalty that may have resulted, if it can be shown that the IRS person gave you the wrong info.
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Old 05-10-13, 06:27 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by Draven View Post
They are saying this goes all the way to the IRS leadership and Obama. Come the fuck on.
I wouldn't be surprised if it did involve IRS leadership at some level and the Obama administration apology thing is standard practice. It doesn't mean that they were involved but it happened under their watch. Still don't see a vast conspiracy claim.
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Old 05-10-13, 06:38 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

I would think that "tea party" would be a red flag when it comes to tax exempt status, no? If a group is claiming a tax exempt status, then they are forbidden from certain types of lobbying or endorsing candidates.
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Old 05-10-13, 08:12 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by X View Post
You are responsible for paying the owed taxes, not any penalty that may have resulted, if it can be shown that the IRS person gave you the wrong info.
Oh. I wasn't aware of that. Thanks for pointing it out.

.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/abrambro...ed-your-taxes/

May 10, 2013

For what it’s worth, the American Civil Liberties Union, also chimed in with a disapproving stance. “Even the appearance of playing partisan politics with the tax code is about as constitutionally troubling as it gets,” said Michael Macleod-Ball , chief of staff at the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “With the recent push to grant federal agencies broad new powers to mandate donor disclosure for advocacy groups on both the left and the right, there must be clear checks in place to prevent this from ever happening again.”
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Old 05-10-13, 08:26 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by Josh-da-man View Post
I would think that "tea party" would be a red flag when it comes to tax exempt status, no? If a group is claiming a tax exempt status, then they are forbidden from certain types of lobbying or endorsing candidates.
But would that not apply to Civil Rights or Gay/Lesbian Groups .. or really most groups that appeal to people with similar ideological/racial/gender oriented groups? .. they generally advocate for policy change as well.
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Old 05-10-13, 10:05 PM
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Re: IRS apologizes for targeting conservative groups

Originally Posted by BearFan View Post
But would that not apply to Civil Rights or Gay/Lesbian Groups .. or really most groups that appeal to people with similar ideological/racial/gender oriented groups? .. they generally advocate for policy change as well.
It does. In 2004 the IRS investigated the NAACP because a speaker at their convention was critical of then-President Bush.

Groups like the ACLU, NRA, NARAL, and NOW are not tax exempt groups, though some have separate foundations that are.

As far as I know, though, the CATO Institute is a tax-deductible organization.
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