This is our first in a blog series focusing on dissection of the May 14, 2013 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration audit report, referred to as the IG report or TIGTA.
Impact on Taxpayers
The Treasury Inspector General (“IG”) opens his report Highlights with “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention. Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future.”
It is absolutely outrageous that the IG is silent on the impacts to voters during the 2010 and 2012 elections. This targeting was politically motivated and involved not-for-profit organizations that held political views in direct contrast to the current administration. Voters were and continue to be entitled to an unobstructed election process. Distracting Tea Party and other conservative groups, demanding overbearing and intrusive information, running up legal and accounting expenses unnecessarily by trying to comply and also derailing these organizations from their mission to communicate the truth about candidates is reprehensible yet completely ignored by this IG. Could it be the IG is an Obama supporter and his inherent bias is evident in his procedures (audit rather than investigation) and outcome report (focused on recommendations rather than in-depth findings)?
Why TIGTA Did the Audit
The IG reports states that the audit was commenced based on concerns expressed by Congress. We know this to be partly but not fully true. Landmark Legal Foundation’s (“Landmark”) March 23, 2012 letter to the IG requested an investigation into IRS Agency misconduct after they were contacted by targeted conservative groups. (Check our IRS Scandal blog series soon for a blog tribute to Landmark for exposing the IRS scandal.) We also know that the American Center for Law and Justice (“ACLJ”) represented targeted groups. Why would the IG want to hide this important point? Was this information contained in the original draft report, and like the Benghazi talking points, edited to the point of removal?
Stunningly absent from the IG’s report are the letters from Democrat members of Congress intimating the IRS should heavily scrutinize Tea Party and conservative group applications. Specifically, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with fellow Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Al Franken (D-MN), contacted the IRS in February 2012 and requested the agency cap the amount of political spending by groups presenting themselves as ‘social welfare organizations.’ The joint letter specifically states: “We urge the IRS to take these steps immediately to prevent abuse of the tax code by political groups focused on federal election activities. But if the IRS is unable to issue administrative guidance in this area then we plan to introduce legislation to accomplish these important changes.”
Audit (Investigation) Objectives and Findings
The IG set forth 3 audit objectives on whether allegations were founded that the IRS: (1) targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status, (2) delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups.
The IG did in fact find the IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify Tea Party and other applying organizations based on their names or policy positions but blamed “ineffective management” for allowing inappropriate criteria to be developed and remain in place for more than 18 months which resulted in tax-exempt status application processing delays and allowed unnecessary information to be requested. The IG went on to blame delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations office and volume of applications. That has already been debunked by Hot Air.
The IG did find “many organizations received requests for additional information from the IRS that included unnecessary, burdensome questions.” Finally, IRS officials informed the IG that donor information received was later destroyed. What the report omits is who used the information while in the possession of the IRS and for what purposes. The report also fails to state that electronic and paper copies were not made and disseminated. Call me skeptical but ProPublica previously disclosed that nine pending confidential conservative group applications were provided to them, including the September 2010 application for Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS which they then published.
Changing Criteria Timeline
Included as Appendix VI to its report, IG outlines a general timeline of changes to the written criteria provided to Determinations Unit Unit employees for identifying applications for the team of specialists resulting in political targeting of Tea Party and other conservative organizations. Interestingly, the first entry in the timeline, February 2010 is redacted. What is the government hiding behind the redaction they don’t want the taxpayers to see?
Why did the IG use statistical sampling instead of targeted sampling? Did the IG bias the investigation by classifying this as an audit and using routine audit methodologies instead of investigative procedures? Why is the IG report focused on recommendations rather than investigative findings? Why was a copy of the IG report not provided to Landmark Legal Foundation given they submitted a written request for investigation and its President Mark Levin was personally interviewed by armed agents? These and many other questions need to be answered. Demand the truth. Demand accountability. We are a Red Nation Rising.