House Republicans want an inspector general to open up a new front in an investigation of the Internal Revenue Service, focusing on the agency’s treatment of conservative groups that were already granted tax-exempt status.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan charged Monday the IRS targeted those groups for extra scrutiny.
“The totality of your ‘targeting’ investigation along with evidence obtained by the Committee points to the fact that the IRS may have selected certain conservative organizations for additional scrutiny after the IRS already approved their tax-exempt status,” the lawmakers wrote to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, The Wall Street Journal r
Republicans have criticized the IRS since it was learned its tax-exempt unit subjected conservative groups seeking nonprofit status to added scrutiny.
The committee’s latest concern involves two groups, including the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute and the Leadership Institute in Virginia, which the lawmakers said faced IRS audits costing tens of thousands of dollars during the period when conservative applications were being singled out.
Michelle Easton, the president of the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute, told the Journal her group was audited by the IRS in 2011, the first time in its nearly two decade existence. She said she was asked for donor lists and had to provide check registries and other paperwork. She said the group was ultimately cleared by the IRS, but had to refute accusations it was operating a list-rental business.
“You get an audit and you’re isolated,” she told the Journal. She feels there was a pattern to the IRS' behavior, and “that’s a reason to speak out because maybe other people will talk about it.”
Joseph Metzger, the vice president of finance at the Leadership Institute, told The Hill t
he group had previously been audited twice before, once under President Reagan and again under President Clinton.
Metzger said the audit under Clinton was “particularly savage” and spanned three years and five different agents. He said the one in the 1980s was more “routine in nature.”
The Leadership Institute states on its website that its mission is to “increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat and the top Democrat on the panel, said congressional investigators had turned up no evidence the IRS was selectively auditing conservative groups, but that “we welcome the Inspector General’s previously announced audit of how the IRS monitors all tax exempt organizations— conservative and progressive— to determine whether they are complying with rules against political activity.”
President Obama complained last week lawmakers were pursuing "phony scandals."
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