Nationally known conservative groups are asking House investigators to look into their treatment at the hands of the IRS at the same time it was targeting tea-party groups, the Washington Times reported.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Family Research Council and the 30-year-old Leadership Institute are among the best-known names of the groups that have been in operation for decades but were subject to audits for the first time in 2012 – the height of President Obama’s re-election campaign.
But Leadership Institute President Morton Blackwell told the Times the IRS’s activities go much further than the big name associations.
“I know of many other conservative nonprofit organizations who were audited during this period, but who wish not to reveal their identities for fear of hurting their fundraising while donors lose confidence in the tax deductibility of their donations, or for fear of inviting further, extremely expensive, IRS scrutiny,” Blackwell, a Republican National Committee member, told the Times.
When news of the IRS practice of singling out tea party groups for heightened scrutiny first broke in May, Franklin Graham, son of evangelist Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, wrote Obama declaring that “profiling by the IRS was not limited to conservative political organizations; indeed, it extended to religious charities— Jewish and Christian — as well,” the Times reported.
In the letter, Graham said the IRS audit in 2012 came immediately after his group paid for a newspaper ad campaign backing pro-Israel political candidates as well as an amendment enshrining traditional marriage in North Carolina’s state constitution.
“I am bringing this to your attention because I believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us,” Graham wrote, according to the Times. “This is morally wrong and unethical — indeed some would call it ‘un-American.’”
Graham spokesman Todd Shearer said the White House never responded to the letter.
Citing confidentiality laws, the IRS declined to comment potential audits of conservative organizations. But House Republicans probing the IRS’s treatment of tea party groups said the new complaints bear consideration, according to the Times.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform investigating the IRS, said the agency’s record so far makes more questions necessary.
“When you see the systematic targeting that was done with groups applying for tax-exempt status, it is not too much of a stretch to think maybe we’d better look and see if the IRS was also targeting groups that already had tax-exempt status, via the audit process,” he told the Times.
“We are beginning to look into that — nothing official yet.”
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