Sen. Ted Cruz is pressing the IRS for answers after the Breitbart News Network said it was targeted with an audit.
The Texas Republican sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen expressing "deep concern" that the "far-reaching, burdensome, and open-ended audit" of Breitbart was a political stunt.
Breitbart, which runs a stable of conservative websites, said Tuesday it had its 2012 financial information audited.
"This media audit, coupled with the recent proposal of 49 Senate Democrats to amend the Constitution to give Congress plenary power to regulate political speech, paints a disturbing picture of a coordinated assault on the First Amendment," Cruz wrote.
The IRS has been embroiled in scandal for more than a year after admitting that some conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status were "inappropriately" singled out for extra scrutiny.
Cruz asked that the IRS demonstrate that Breitbart's audit was not a political move, posing seven questions to Koskinen:
How many other news organizations have been audited since President Obama has been in office?
How many of them could be identified as conservative- or liberal-leaning?
Have any other news organizations been subjected to this sort of far-reaching and oppressive inquiry, including requesting the personal tax records of editors and reporters?
At what point does the IRS decide to take action to audit a news outlet?
Does the IRS worry that its extremely burdensome auditing process could effectively silence the press?
Previously, Senator Durbin wrote the IRS asking that it examine the tax-exempt status of Crossroads GPS, a Republican organization that spends money electing Republicans. Did the IRS ever receive any communications from any elected official asking it to examine Breitbart News Network, LLC?
Who, precisely, is responsible for making the decision to audit Breitbart News Network, LLC?
IRS spokesman Bruce Friedland told TheBlaze Wednesday morning that the IRS is "prohibited by law" from discussing the ongoing audit.
"Federal privacy laws prohibit the IRS from commenting on specific taxpayer situations," Friedland said, relaying the general IRS statement. "The IRS stresses that audits are based on the information related to tax returns and the underlying tax law – nothing else."
He could not confirm whether Cruz' questions would be directly answered.
For their part, Breitbart's leaders expressed confidence ahead of the audit, Fox News reported.
"The Obama administration's timing on this is exquisite, but try as they might through various methods to silence us, we will only get more emboldened,” Breitbart News Network Executive Chairman Stephen Bannon told Fox in a statement.
Larry Solov, Breitbart's president and CEO, said they stand "ready to cooperate with the Internal Revenue Service on its audit of our company, but this will not deter us in the least from continuing our aggressive coverage of this president or his administration."
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