The Obama administration and congressional Democrats have been misleading the public when claiming the Internal Revenue Service targeted liberal groups with the same aggressiveness as conservative organizations, according to a report by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the the agency's targeting of tea party groups, where she invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself. (AP/Lauren Victoria Burke)
The Republican staff report, released Monday, comes ahead of Thursday's scheduled committee vote on whether to hold former IRS exempt organizations unit chief Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress for her repeated refusal to testify under oath, pleading the Fifth Amendment.
The report asserted there is "no evidence that any liberal or progressive group received enhanced scrutiny because its application reflected the organization's political views.”
Lerner was the first IRS official to admit that Tea Party and conservative groups were subjected to extra scrutiny in applications for tax-exempt status in preempting the release of a finding from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration of the targeting.
“An internal IRS analysis conducted for Lois Lerner in July 2012 found that 75 percent of the 501(c)(4) applications in the backlog were conservative, 'while fewer than 10 [applications] appear to be liberal/progressive leaning groups based solely on the name,” the House oversight report said.
“The same analysis found that 'slightly over half [of the 501(c)(3) applications] appear to be conservative leaning groups based solely on the name,'” the report continued. “A Ways and Means examination conducted in 2013 similar found that the backlog was overwhelmingly conservative: 83 percent conservative and only 10 percent liberal.”
The report cited a September 2013 USA Today analysis of 160 applications that found 80 percent of the applications scrutinized by the agency were for conservative organizations.
The Democratic claim was based largely on the Be on the Lookout list, abbreviated "BOLO," that included progressive groups. However, the report said, simply being present on the list did not mean a group was being targeted.
“The presence of an organization or a group of organizations on the IRS BOLO list did not necessarily mean that the IRS targeted those groups,” the oversight report stated. “As the Ways and Means Committee phrased it, 'being on a BOLO is different from being targeted and abused by the IRS.' A careful examination of the evidence demonstrates that only conservative groups on the IRS BOLO lists experienced systematic scrutiny and delay.”
The inspector general report that exposed the IRS targeting found that 298 groups were scrutinized.
“Only seven applications in the IRS backlog contained the word 'progressive,' all of which were then approved by the IRS, while Tea Party groups received unprecedented review and experienced years-long delays,” the oversight report stated. “While some liberal-oriented groups were singled out for scrutiny, evidence shows it was due to non-political reasons.”