House Oversight Report Confirms IRS “Bias,” Targeting “Icky” Conservative Groups


Jay Sekulow

December 23, 2014

6 min read

Free Speech



The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has released a scathing interim report detailing extreme political “bias” throughout the ranks of the IRS that led to it targeting conservative groups in response to the anti-conservative group rhetoric “being openly and loudly espoused by the President of the United States.”

The report comes at the conclusion of Representative Darrell Issa’s chairmanship and serves as a status report from the Committee as the investigation continues.  The report notes a number of areas where it is still not able to reach conclusions due to the IRS’s continued stonewalling and refusal to comply with subpoenas.

Importantly, the Committee details how the IRS began covering up its wrongful actions and misleading Congress in early 2012.  As The Daily Caller reports:

The IRS admitted that the front office was “spinning” about the targeting rumors as early as 2012, after IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman denied the tea party targeting to Congress.

“This is what the front office and [IRS Chief of Communications and Liaison] Frank [Keith] are spinning about now,” an IRS legislative affairs office employee wrote in an email to co-workers, referring to a news article on Shulman’s dishonest testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee, in which he denied rumors of improper targeting. . . .

Then-IRS commissioner Steven T. Miller almost broke down and told the truth about the tea party targeting at a July 2012 hearing, but Lerner’s sidekick Nikole Flax told him not to.

“I am beginning to wonder whether I should do [Chairman] Boustany[’s hearing] and affirmatively use it to put a stake in politics and c4,” Miller wrote in an email to Flax.

Flax replied, “[I]f the hearing is as generic as I recall, seems like you are too senior.  Would be silly to think the c4 issues won’t come up – but I think Sarah [Hall Ingram] could handle it fine as well.”

The report’s conclusion details the unbelievable bias against conservative groups that pervades the IRS and significantly impacted its targeting of conservatives for their political beliefs, beliefs IRS officials openly disparaged:

Conservative organizations were not just singled out because of their political beliefs—they were targeted by IRS officials and employees who expressed a general loathing toward them even while begrudgingly admitting that those organizations were in compliance with the only thing the IRS should care about: the federal tax code. . . . One IRS agent wrote about an organization applying for 501(c)(4) status that donated to other organizations that engaged in political activity, “I’m not sure we can deny them because, technically, I don’t know that I can deny them simply for donating to another 501(c)(4).” Another agent responded, “This sounds like a bad org . . . This org gives me an icky feeling.”

During an interview with Committee staff, one IRS employee explained his view that, “These [Tea Party] organizations mostly concentrate their activities on the limiting government, limiting government role, or reducing government size, or paying less tax. I think it[‘]s different from the other social welfare organizations which are (c)(4).”

A top deputy to Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner wrote to colleagues, “We suspect we will have to approve the majority of the [advocacy org] c4 applications.” Recognizing the infusion of a personal moral judgment in a legal matter, a recipient forwarded a quote from that e-mail to another colleague: ‘“We suspect we will have to approve the majority of the c4 applications.’ That’s an interesting posture.”

Yet, despite the fact that, legally, the IRS “ha[d] to approve” the tax-exempt applications of conservative groups, it did not.  Under Lerner’s leadership, the Obama Administration’s IRS embroiled these groups, which were merely attempting to exercise their constitutional free speech rights, in an endless quagmire of delays and unconstitutionally intrusive and abuse demands.

Though Congress’s investigation continues into the ongoing IRS abuse, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has reached a number of disturbing findings:

  • “The Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative-oriented applicants for tax-exempt status;
  • “Unlike applications from conservative groups, the small batch of applications from liberal-oriented groups received additional scrutiny for non-political reasons. Of the applications that received additional scrutiny, only seven contained the word “progress” or “progressive,” all of which were subsequently approved by the IRS, while Tea Party groups were subjected to an unprecedented degree of review and years-long delays.
  • “Senior Internal Revenue Service officials covered up the misconduct and misled Congress about the existence and nature of the targeting;
  • “The Internal Revenue Service sought to rein in conservative-oriented non-profits as early as 2010;
  • “The Administration is using the targeting as pretext to support its proposed regulation to limit political speech of conservative non-profits;
  • “Mismanagement among the senior leadership of the Internal Revenue Service contributed to the targeting;
  • “The Internal Revenue Service and the Obama Administration knowingly and wrongly blamed line-level employees for the misconduct;
  • “Employees of the Internal Revenue Service inappropriately used non-official e-mail to conduct official government business;
  • “The Internal Revenue Service has compromised its traditional position as an independent tax administrator;
  • “The Obama Administration exhibited a lack of accountability for the IRS misconduct;
  • “Lois Lerner’s refusal to testify hindered the Committee’s investigation;
  • “The Internal Revenue Service obstructed the Committee’s investigation; and
  • “The White House and congressional Democrats obstructed the Committee’s investigation.”

This report continues to lead to more questions than answers.  For example, the IRS Chief Counsel, William Wilkins, an Obama appointee, is apparently suffering from a nearly complete memory lapse when it comes to his office’s significant role in the targeting.  As the Oversight Committee report notes:

[D]uring his transcribed interview with Committee staff, Wilkins stated “I don’t recall” 80 times in full or partial response to questions. His inability or unwillingness to recollect important aspects of the misconduct – after over five months to prepare and refresh his recollection – suggests a deliberate attempt to obfuscate his role.

The report presents further evidence of what we’ve known for years—that the IRS intentionally and maliciously targeted conservative organizations—going so far as to virtually brainstorm ways to suppress conservative speech—then misled Congress when conservatives felt the effect. There is nothing “phony” about this scandal. Indeed, it represents a grave threat to core American liberties.

This report reaffirms the fact that conservative groups targeted by the IRS deserve justice.  The IRS must be held accountable for its actions.  Yet, the Obama Administration’s faux investigations, led by the President’s political supporters, cannot possibly provide that accountability.

In addition to the still growing need for an independent investigator, a Special Counsel, the ACLJ continues our ongoing litigation efforts on behalf of 41 targeted conservative and pro-life groups from 22 states.

We will have more information about the next steps in these efforts in the days and weeks ahead.

If you haven’t already done so, join nearly 125,000 concerned Americans and sign our petition demanding and independent prosecutor to end the IRS abuse.