The government watchdog group Judicial Watch obtained new Internal Revenue Service documents that show how expansive the targeting of conservative organizations was under the agency.
Judicial Watch released nearly 695 pages of IRS documents that were previously withheld from Congress by the Obama administration, and included agency officials admitting they used “inappropriate political labels” to screen conservative organizations for their tax-exempt applications.
BREAKING NEWS → Judicial Watch Obtains 695 Pages of Obama IRS Scandal Documents. [First Batch of 7,000-Page Cache] https://t.co/Tsncn9ECfo
— Judicial Watch ? (@JudicialWatch) April 4, 2017
The documents, obtained as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in 2015 about IRS abuse, were part of an additional 6,924 documents located by the IRS. Of the 695 pages the IRS released, 422 (61%) were withheld in their entirety.
“No wonder the Obama IRS has been hiding these records,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “The new smoking-gun documents contain admissions by the Obama IRS that it inappropriately targeted conservative groups. But the records also show that the abuse continued — as the Obama IRS tried to force conservative applicants to give up their First Amendment rights in order to finally get their applications granted.”
The documents revealed the agency planned to require 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations to restrict their alleged political activities in order to get “expedited consideration” of their tax-exempt applications.
In a memo dated August 9, 2013, then-acting IRS director of Exempt Organizations Karen Schiller, admitted the IRS used political labels in targeting the groups and noted suspending the use of the Be on the Lookout (BOLO) and Touch and Go (TAG) lists:
As Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel has said, the IRS has taken decisive action to eliminate the use of inappropriate political labels in the screening of 501(c)(4) applications. IRS policy is now clear that screening is based on activity, not words in a name. The new steps and current policies were outlined in the June 24 report, which noted: “In the absence of BOLO lists, the Determinations Unit will continue to screen for information affecting the determination of applications for tax exempt status, including activity tied to political campaign intervention, but it [will] be done without regard to specific labels of any kind.” The 30-day report also reflects the June 20, 2013 memorandum, which was issued to officially suspend the use of the BOLO list in the screening process.
The released documents also included a “Dear applicant” letter that essentially bribed the groups by offering tax exempt status in exchange for limited political activity:
This optional expedited process is currently available only to applicants for 501(c)(4) status with applications pending for more than 120 days as of May 28, 2013, that indicate the organization may be involved in political campaign intervention.
In this optional process, an organization will represent that it satisfies, and will continue to satisfy, set percentages with respect to the level of its social welfare activities and political campaign intervention activities (as defined in the specific instructions on pages 5-7). These percentage representations are not an interpretation of law but are a safe harbor for those organizations that choose to participate in the optional process.
No charges were ever brought against the IRS or its former chief, Lois Lerner, for targeting conservative groups. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has led the agency since 2013.
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