It wasn’t just the names.
Their thoughts were a problem, too.
The IRS crackdown on conservative non-profit groups seeking tax-exempt status in the years leading up to Barack Obama’s re-election may have been prompted in part by conservative-associated words in their titles, such as “tea party,” “constitution” or “Sept. 12.”
But it was spurred by specifically by “anti-Obama” rhetoric or “negative Obama content” in the groups’ literature or on websites, according to emails obtained by USA Today. IRS vetters used words like “propaganda” to describe content opposed to the Obama administration.
And that could be damning, legal experts say.
“The political motivations of this are so patently obvious, but then to have a document that spells it out like this is very damaging to the IRS,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ, told USA Today. “I hope the FBI has seen these documents.”
Since the scandal broke in May, Democrat lawmakers and liberal pundits have tried to defend the agency by saying liberal groups were also vetted for inappropriate political activity by a tax-exempt organization.
However, the liberal groups made up less than 20 percent of those flagged, according to USA Today, and at least two of the three named in the article eventually received their tax exempt status. None have complained of harassment by the IRS.
For conservatives, it’s a different story.
The IRS found the Charleston Tea Party in South Carolina has “negative Obama commentary” on its website, according to USA Today. The newspaper cited a November 2011 piece on the group’s website that said: “Obama’s and the Democrats’ track record of disaster is based upon a combination of their ignorance and their fundamental desire to convert America into a ruling class of wealthy all-powerful elitists and a single class of serfs.”
Joanne Jones, the group’s vice chairwoman, said the site acts as a blog where members can post their own commentary.
“I’m not going to tell you we weren’t political. We were to an extent, but we were within the limits of the law,” she told USA Today.
“To focus in on somebody saying something anti-Obama,” she said, “it’s almost like the speech police there. It’s disturbing. It’s the kind of overreach that leads into Obamacare.”
The group received its tax exemption in September 2012, according to USA Today. That was only two months before Obama was re-elected.