IRS Stalled Conservatives While Giving Liberals a Pass on Tax Exemptions

Wednesday, 15 May 2013 10:50 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Evidence is mounting that the Internal Revenue Service gave far better treatment to left-wing groups than those on the right, with data showing the agency approved dozens of liberal and progressive organizations as tax-exempt while leaving conservative groups hanging.

No tea party applications were approved in a 27-month period beginning February 2010. But numerous applications from liberal and progressive groups were given tax-exempt status during the same period, USA Today reported.

Some of those approved:
  • Bus for Progress, New Jersey nonprofit organization whose mission is to support "progressive politicians with the courage to serve the people's interests and make tough choices." The group, which uses a red, white and blue bus to "drive the progressive change," was approved as a social-welfare group in April 2011.
  • Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, approved in September 2011. The group says it fights against corporate welfare and toward increasing the minimum wage.
  • Progress Florida, which lobbies the Sunshine State's legislature to expand Medicaid under the provisions of Obamacare, and was approved in January 2011.
The groups, like the tea party organizations, sought tax reductions as social-welfare groups.

The details come at the same time that it was revealed that the IRS expedited tax-exempt status for a charity run by President Barack Obama's half brother, despite numerous questions about how it is run. The application from the Barack H. Obama Foundation was even backdated, The Daily Caller reports.

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, said the IRS actions show how the Obama administration puts politics ahead of anything else. Last year, Flores filed a complaint after the IRS asked the Waco Tea Party for information that he said was "overreaching and impossible to comply with."

The IRS wanted transcripts of radio interviews, copies of social-media posts, and details on "close relationships" with political candidates as part of the process, claimed Flores, who says that when he asked questions, the agency failed to answer adequately.

"They did more than sidestep the issue," Flores said. "They flipped me the finger."

Lois Lerner, the IRS official responsible for granting tax-exemption status, has admitted the agency was mistaken to subject tea party groups to additional scrutiny and has apologized. But she denies rejecting groups based on ideology, and said some progressive groups also were selected for further scrutiny.

One such group is Action for a Progressive Future, which took 18 months to get approval, USA Today reported. Co-founder Jeff Cohen said he didn't mind answering intrusive questions, so long as they were fair.

"From my perspective, if the IRS can hold up legitimate tea-party applications today and get away with it, then who knows if progressive groups will be held up and specially scrutinized in a few years. It's utterly unacceptable, if that's what happened," he said.

IRS records, obtained by The Daily Caller, show Lerner signed papers granting tax-exempt status to the foundation run by Obama's half brother Abongo "Roy" Malik Obama.

She signed off on the organization's tax status in June 2011 -- right in the middle of the 27-month hiatus for tea-party groups -- and granted it retroactive status within a month of filing.

Action for a Progressive Future has faced legal issues over the past few years.

In the month before the foundation was granted tax-exempt status, the National Legal and Policy Center filed a complaint with the IRS, asking why the group was allowed to solicit tax-deductible contributions when it had not applied for a determination.

That's when Lerner gave it the retroactive exemption back to December 2008.

"The Obama Foundation raised money on its web page by falsely claiming to be tax
deductible. This bogus charity run by Malik had not even applied and yet subsequently got retroactive tax-deductible status," complained Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. He called the attempt to raise money "common law fraud and potentially even federal mail fraud."

The Obama Foundation was set up ostensibly to help poor children in Kenya, where Roy Obama lives.

However, the Caller says, it has not registered in Virginia, where it is said to be based.

Lerner, a registered Democrat, has been slammed for the IRS handling of conservative
groups, but her colleagues defend her, saying she acts "apolitically."

Larry Noble, FEC general counsel from 1987 to 2000, told The Daily Beast that Lerner "is really one of the more apolitical people I’ve met."

"That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have political views, but she really focuses on the job and what the rules are. She doesn’t have an agenda."


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