There is a new wrinkle in the IRS scandal. Documents obtained by USA Today shows that the tax agency targeted Tea Party and conservative groups specifically because of what they deemed to be “anti-Obama rhetoric” (emphasis added):
Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ”anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.
The internal 2011 documents, obtained by USA TODAY, list 162 groups by name, with comments by Internal Revenue Service lawyers in Washington raising issues about their political, lobbying and advocacy activities. In 21 cases, those activities were characterized as “propaganda.”
Tax law experts say those comments appear to show IRS employees trying to apply the murky rules governing political activities by social welfare groups.
But the American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit legal institute that represents 23 of the groups appearing on the IRS list, said it appears to be “the most powerful evidence yet of a coordinated effort” by the IRS to target Tea Party groups.
The IRS scandal was already incredibly concerning, given that one of the most powerful agencies in the federal government was targeting groups with a specific political slant. Not only that, the agency asked very peculiar questions of the scrutinized organizations — what books they promoted, lists of officers’ family members; even asking organizations about their associations with specific people.
Congressional Democrats and leftist pundits have claimed that the IRS was indiscriminate in their targeting, scrutinizing both conservative and progressive groups, and have used the scandal to try to limit political speech.
But of the 162 groups flagged for “propaganda” in the USA Today report, only 11 were considered to be progressive or leftist groups. Moreover, an audit of the cases released a few months by the Treasury Department’s Inspector General found that leftist groups largely got a pass.
This latest wrinkle in a story that already had chilling ramifications for free speech just amplifies that point. And though there have been some resignations and officials placed on leave, there is still no one in the IRS who has been held accountable.