The Internal Revenue Service gave confidential documents from conservative groups to the investigative website ProPublica, the website reports
ProPublica says after the 2012 election it requested documents from 67 organizations, and the IRS sent them information on 31 groups. Nine of groups had not yet been approved for nonprofit status. Releasing information on unapproved applicants is against IRS rules.
"Deeming that they were newsworthy," Propublica made six of those applications public after redacting financial information, a story on Propublica's website said Monday.
Latest: Is Obama in Cover-Up on Benghazi? Vote Here
All the groups the IRS sent information on were for conservative groups, ProPublica said. None were for liberal groups, even though ProPublica requested information on liberal and centrist groups.
"We requested applications from the IRS for all groups that didn't report their donors for political spending to the [Federal Election Commission]," ProPublica reporter Kim Barker said in an email to Newsmax.
"That list of 67 included any group we didn’t already have the application for from our earlier reporting -- as we've frequently mentioned, we've been requesting these applications for more than a year. And yes, that list of 67 included liberal and centrist groups," Barker said.
After ProPublica received the documents on unapproved groups, it asked the IRS why the information had been forwarded.
“It has come to our attention that you are in receipt of application materials of organizations that have not been recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt,” IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge wrote back. Eldridge told ProPublica that publishing unauthorized returns or return information was a felony and carried a fine of up to $5,000 and/or a prison term of up to five years.
Richard Tofel, who was then ProPublica's general manager and is now president, responded, "ProPublica believes that the information we are publishing is not barred by the statute cited by the IRS, and it is clear to us that there is a strong First Amendment interest in its publication.”
At that point, ProPublica published the information with redactions.
The groups in question requested tax-exempt status as nonprofits promoting "social welfare." Such groups are allowed to engage in a limited amount of political activity, but the majority of their work must be nonpolitical.
The IRS admitted on Friday that workers in its Cincinnati office had improperly targeted groups with "conservative" and "tea party" in their names for additional scrutiny. Since then, it has been learned that they also targeted groups that are critical of how the country is being run or those that seek to "make America a better place to live." Press reports also have learned that people higher up in the agency also knew of the actions.
Groups that are given nonprofit status don't have to report their donors. Part of the additional scrutiny of the groups included requests for a list of their donors. Such groups poured $322 million into the 2012 election, with 84 percent coming from conservative groups, ProPublica has reported.
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.