A House Oversight Committee investigation finds that Internal Revenue Service staffers involved in the Tea Party political discrimination scandal took their cues on which nonprofit conservative groups to single out for bureaucratic harassment from President Barack Obama and other progressive political leaders.
While the investigation’s most recent report, which began circulating Tuesday, doesn’t explicitly accuse the President or any other elected leader of instructing the IRS to deny Tea Party groups’ applications for nonprofit status, it does allege that IRS staffers had a clear understanding that slowing down conservatives was something the President wanted them to do.
Ongoing portrayals of the Tea Party, in mainstream media, as a menacing assortment of ignorant wingnuts further bolstered IRS staff in their belief that the various conservative groups were ripe for targeting — since no one, evidently, would notice or care if the government decided to illegally violate the free speech of members of a movement the left-leaning media all but described as a hate group.
“In one of the key findings, investigators said negative press coverage of the tea party was one reason why the IRS gave the groups special scrutiny,” reports The Washington Times:
IRS employees were “acutely” aware in 2010 that President Obama wanted to crack down on conservative organizations and were egged into targeting tea party groups by press reports mocking the emerging movement, according to an interim report being circulated Tuesday by House investigators.
…The Republican oversight report traces the growing pressure on the IRS to act, beginning with Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision in his 2010 State of the Union address to calls from top members of Congress for the IRS to give special scrutiny to tea party applications.
…Emails among IRS officials, and committee interviews with them, show agency employees were aware of the pressure, sending one another news reports and commenting — in sometimes derisive language — about the tea party applications.
By contrast, the report finds that liberal groups that applied for nonprofit status were typically approved quickly — even as Tea Party applications were stymied for up to three years.
The Oversight Committee’s finding is bolstered by a report Wednesday in USA Today that revealed the IRS was targeting groups “based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ‘anti-Obama rhetoric,’ inflammatory language and ‘emotional’ statements made by nonprofits seeking tax-exempt status.”
That report found that only 11 progressive groups (out of 162) were named on an internally circulated “propaganda” list, while more than 80 percent were specifically identified as conservative.