How Bad Is the IRS Social Welfare Group Targeting?

As the details of the IRS targeting of conservative social welfare groups unfold, one thing has already been made clear. These abuses took place during both the 2010 midterm election and 2012 general election campaigns.

The technical details of the case involve tax-exempt social-welfare groups filing under 501(c)(4). Partially as a result of the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision, the IRS had an increased watchdog role over the coinciding influx of applications under this category. In an attempt to flag organizations that might have substantial “electioneering” arms as opposed to mostly “issue based” and “community outreach” groups, the IRS developed standards determining which applicants would merit additional screening.

These measures included words like “tea party” and “patriot” but were not limited to them. The targeting included groups generally critical of the government, as well as groups interested in “government spending, government debt or taxes.” Targeted groups were sometimes required to list their donors and provide other sensitive information. In all, about 75 groups were inappropriately targeted. None had their tax-exempt status revoked; however, some withdrew their applications.

Lois Lerner who was, and still is, the head of the IRS tax-exempt-organizations division said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati. The preliminary report put out by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration indicated, however, that she and other high ranking officials may have known about the abuses as early as 2011. The full report is expected to come out later this week.

President Obama spoke on the issue in a Monday morning press conference. He said, “If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that were reported on, and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, that’s outrageous.” He stressed intentions to hold anyone involved “fully accountable” for their actions.

Additional Resources:

The Wall Street Journal, Wider Problems Found at IRS:

ABC News, IRS IG Report:

The Washington Post, Obama on IRS:

The Wall Street Journal, Obama to Hold IRS Staff ‘Fully Accountable’:

The Washington Post, Senate Democrats Demand Stricter IRS Standards for Tax-Exempt Groups:

The Washington Post, Ruling Sets up IRS as Overseer of Groups’ Gifts to Campaigns:


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