IRS Targeting Criteria Included 'Statements…critical of how the country is being run.'

One of the criteria used to determine which tax exemption applications would receive additional scrutiny was general criticism of how the “country is being run.”

Emails released this morning by the House Oversight Committee reveal that there were four criteria used to determine which groups would received additional IRS scrutiny. The list of criteria was produced in response to an email request made by Holly Paz on June 1, 2011. Paz, a manager in the Exempt Organizations Guidance division asked “What criteria are being used to label a case a ‘Tea Party case’? We want to think about whether those criteria are resulting in over-inclusion.”

Shortly after midnight the recipient of that email, Cindy Thomas, sent a request to Group Manager John Shafer to provide a list of the relevant criteria. Her email had the subject “Tea Party Cases – NEED CRITERIA” and was marked “Importance: High”

Shafer responded the next morning with a list of four criteria. The criteria are all inappropriate but the final one seems especially disturbing “Statements in the case file that are critical of how the country is being run.” It’s the kind of criteria one would expect to see in the former USSR (or perhaps modern Russia) not in the United States.

It apparently took a year before anyone thought to question these criteria. It took another year before the IRS finally put an end to the practice of scrutinizing Tea Party groups. It was another year after that before word of what had happened finally got out. Was there no one at the IRS who could look at this list of criteria and see it was problematic and, by its very nature, political and deeply inappropriate?