IRS under fire for tea party scrutiny
CYRIL JOSH BARKER Amsterdam News Staff | 5/31/2013, 1:25 p.m.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains in damage control mode after it was revealed that the federal agency targeted conservative groups, most notably the tea party, for intensive scrutiny. An investigation is under way to get a closer look at how it happened.
Reports indicate that starting in March 2010, the IRS targeted certain groups for scrutiny that had certain words in their names. The groups under suspicion were those that were applying for the 501(c)(4) tax exemption status that is given to groups that promote "social welfare."
Focus has turned to the Cincinnati office of the IRS, which created a "Be on the Lookout" list of groups with names that were suspected to be related to the tea party movement. Names included "Tea Party," "Patriots" and "9/12 Project." Red flags were also raised for groups that wanted to "make America a better place to live" or challenged Obamacare.
As a result, the IRS reportedly did not approve tea party organizations for a period of 27 months while liberal groups were approved.
Earlier this month, the revelations were made by Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, who released a report about the IRS's practices. Reactions came quick from those who disapproved of what the IRS did.
"The IRS admitted to targeting conservatives, even if the White House continues to be stuck on the word 'if.' My question isn't about who is going to resign," said U.S. House Speaker John Boehner. "My question is, who's going to jail over this scandal?"
President Barack Obama called the IRS's actions "inexcusable" and said he plans to find out who is responsible, put in place new safeguards and work with Congress as it performs its oversight role.
"I will not tolerate this kind of behavior in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives," Obama said. "And as I said earlier, it should not matter what political stripe you're from--the fact of the matter is, is that the IRS has to operate with absolute integrity. The government generally has to conduct itself in a way that is true to the public trust. That's especially true for the IRS."
This week, tea party members wasted no time in letting their voices be heard. On Tuesday, activists rallied with signs and flags in front of federal buildings. One rally took place in front Cincinnati's IRS office building. Rallies also took place in Atlanta, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
"It has been quite obvious the Internal Revenue Service is not only out-of-control, but has been deprived of a moral compass by the vacuum of leadership at the top," said Steve Eichler, CEO of TeaParty.org. "The tea party is larger, stronger and better funded than ever before, and now we have years of experience under our belts."