We know now, right from the horse’s mouth, how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has targeted Tea Party and conservative groups during the Obama administration. In the notes of a top IRS official, written down during a 2011 interoffice meeting, we discovered that Cincinnati office agents were targeting organizations requesting tax-exempt status based on “guilt by association” and “party affiliation.”
According to Holly Paz, former IRS director of the Office of Rulings and Agreements, “They think they know what the org is really doing, rather than looking at actual activities.” This revelation, among others, comes from 1,593 pages of new documents obtained by Judicial Watch in late October from the IRS.
Judicial Watch obtained these new documents through a 2013 Freedom of Information (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Internal Revenue Service (No. 1:13-cv-01559)) against the IRS. Included among these IRS documents are handwritten notes from an unidentified source taken during an interoffice meeting in the Washington headquarters, which apparently took place in or around August 2011. According to an IRS court filing provided to Judicial Watch by the agency, the notes reflected a conversation between “four Chief Counsel employees (Victoria Judson, Janine Cook, Susan Brown, and Don Spellmann), Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division employee Nalee Park, and former IRS employee Sarah Hall Ingram.” The notes reveal Holly Paz’s concerns about the Cincinnati office’s targeting of groups based upon ideology and party affiliation:
Holly – Cinci paralyzed by letting any issue go unaddressed. They think they know what the org is really doing, rather than looking at actual activities. Q’s were not activity based, but guilt by association questions – like q’s asking party affiliations …
They see approval of something that will turn out to be very bad org – terrified of that – that’s why they personally will need to have power to say yes. Agents felt if they could ask enough questions, they will find a problem. Agents were jumping to negative conclusions and assumptions – particularly where relationship with political groups or affiliations.
This is, once again, confirmation that the IRS knew about abuses years before they were exposed in May, 2013. Donald Trump needs to reopen the criminal investigation of the IRS as soon as he is sworn into office.
The Judicial Watch FOIA lawsuit came on the heels of an explosive May 14, 2013, Treasury Inspector General report revealing that the IRS had singled out groups with conservative-sounding terms such as “patriot” and “Tea Party” in their titles when applying for tax-exempt status. The IG probe determined that “Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to (e.g., lists of past and future donors).” According to the report, the illegal IRS reviews continued for more than 18 months and “delayed processing of targeted groups’ applications” preparing for the 2012 presidential election. (For the full history on this case, click here.)
To be clear, the IRS was used by Obama and his allies to suppress his political opposition in a way that helped guarantee his reelection. Recall this the next time you hear Obama dishonestly boast how his administration had no major scandals.