An Inspector General report indicates that IRS officials knew as early as 2011 that conservative groups were being targeted for additional scrutiny in determing tax-exempt status, contradicting previous statements by the agency.
On Friday, the IRS admitted to and apologized for targeting groups that had the words “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their name. The IRS claimed the misconduct was the actions of “low-level” employees at its Cincinnati office.
According to the draft of the report the Associated Press reviewed on Saturday, Lois G. Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, was told in 2011 that organizations with “Tea Party,” ”Patriot,” or “9/12 Project” in their names “were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny.”
IRS staffers reportedly “held a meeting with chief counsel so that everyone would have the latest information on the issue” in August of 2011. In January of 2012, the criteria for targeting groups was changed to “political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding Government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, [and] social economic reform/movement.” Lerner reportedly asked the criteria be changed “immediately.”
At a March 22, 2012 Congressional hearing, however, former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman denied the IRS had been or was targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.
“There’s absolutely no targeting,” he claimed.
While the Associated Press noted the “portion of the draft report reviewed” by the outlet “does not say whether Shulman or anyone else in the Obama administration outside the IRS was informed of the targeting,” the news organization conceded that it was “standard procedure for agency heads to consult with staff before responding to congressional inquiries.”