WASHINGTON (AP) — The Internal Revenue Service apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
IRS agents singled out dozens of organizations for additional reviews
because they included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their
exemption applications, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division
that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for
lists of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
Lerner acknowledged it was wrong for the agency to target groups based on political affiliation.
The IRS is an independent agency within the Treasury Department that
enforces the nation's tax laws. Revelations that the agency was
targeting political groups because they were affiliated with a movement
that is critical of President Barack Obama could become a new headache
for the White House.
Many conservative groups complained during the campaign that they
were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating
their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive
The forms, which the groups have made available, sought information
about group members' political activities, including details of their
postings on social networking websites and about family members.
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told Congress in March 2012 that the IRS was not targeting groups based on politics.
"There's absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth
that happens to people" who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman told a
House Ways and Means subcommittee.
Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., chairman of the Ways and Means oversight
subcommittee, requested a trove of documents from the IRS on Friday,
including all communications containing the words "tea party" and
In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review, Lerner
said. Of those, about a quarter were singled out because they had "tea
party" or "patriot" somewhere in their applications.