After weeks of conservative outrage over the Internal Revenue Service’s improper targeting of Tea Party groups applying for 501 (c)(4) status, newly released documents obtained by the Associated Press showed that the agency was also targeting progressive groups.
Conservatives and Republican lawmakers charged that the IRS was operating under directions from the White House to target the president’s political enemies. But these internal documents show screeners were not only using the term “tea party” to scrutinize applications, but also the keywords “Israel,” “Occupy,” and “Progressive.”
The new acting chief of the IRS, Danny Werfel, told reporters that an internal investigation had uncovered a much broader use of the “Be On The Look Out” (BOLO) lists that flagged certain groups. While these lists contained “inappropriate criteria,” a preliminary examination has not found any suggestion of improper screening outside of the office that examines groups seeking tax-exempt status and affirmed that there was no “evidence of intentional wrongdoing by anyone in the IRS or involvement in these matters by anyone outside the IRS.”
In order to prevent more inappropriate targeting of both conservative and liberal groups, the IRS is implementing a new fast-track process for applications that have not gotten a response from the IRS within 120 days.
No conservative groups’ applications were ultimately denied, but Republicans have still likened the IRS to Al-Qaeda and called for its abolishment. Many lawmakers have seized on the scandal to argue that the IRS be stripped of its power to implement the Affordable Care Act lest the agency deny health care access for conservatives.