Rep. DeSantis: IRS Misled Public by Saying Liberal Groups Were Targeted

June 28, 2013 - 4:27 PM

IRS Credit Cards

This file photo taken March 2, 2013, shows the Internal Revenue Service building at the Federal Triangle complex in Washington.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The Internal Revenue Service misled the public in claiming this week that both progressive and Tea Party groups were targeted for extra scrutiny, said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.).

CNSNews.com asked, “Was there a deliberate attempt by the IRS to mislead the public by saying this targeted both progressives and the Tea Party?”

DeSantis responded, “Well obviously.”

“You saw the way they put that out. People saw how the media treated it, initially saying, this was all universal,” DeSantis, a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Friday. “Then under questioning yesterday they had to admit it was only conservative groups that were targeted for unfair treatment and that was in the letter that was sent out.”

Both the House Oversight Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee are investigating the IRS targeting of conservative and Tea Party organizations.

According to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report, the IRS exempt organizations (EO) unit flagged organizations with the term “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” that applied for tax exempt status for its “Be On the Look Out” or BOLO list. The FBI is also looking into the matter.

DeSantis told CNSNews.com that the IRS targeting might have affected the 2012 election.

“There were times when I would go around, and I would want to speak to different groups, and they would not let me speak, because they thought they were going to get harassed by the IRS,” DeSantis said.

“I did see a lot of grassroots leaders who were awash in having to deal with all this stuff, so it quite questionably sapped energy. I think it dispirited a lot of people, and it made them much less effective,” he said.

“Now I can’t say how that affected a vote total or if the election would have been different, but it definitely had an effect on their ability to educate people about what was happening in their country. I saw that first-hand,” he added.

On Monday, after the Associated Press first reported on an internal IRS document that said the terms “Israel,” “Progressive” and “Occupy” were all targeted, acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel told reporters in a conference call, “There was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum.”

Then, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, accused Inspector General Russell George of not disclosing that.

In a letter to Levin reported Thursday, George said, “Our audit did not find evidence that the IRS used the ‘Progressives’ identifier as selection criteria for potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012.

“The focus of our audit was on whether the IRS: 1) targeted specific groups applying for tax-exempt status, 2) delayed processing of targeted groups' applications, and 3) requested unnecessary information from targeted groups. We determined the IRS developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names,” George added.

George went on to write, “In total, 30 percent of the organizations we identified with the words ‘progress’ or ‘progressive’ in their names were processed as potential political cases. … In comparison, our audit found that 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed as potential political cases during the timeframe of our audit.”

CNSNews.com also asked Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) if the claim was a deliberate effort by the tax collecting agency to mislead.

“Now that it’s been clarified, we can only move on,” Chaffetz replied. “It’s clear it was targeted towards conservatives. That is wholly unacceptable, as it would be if it was just targeted toward progressives or anybody.”

While Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said he doesn’t yet know, he did point to the IRS pattern thus far.

“I don’t know yet. You can go back to Lois Lerner who had the choreography to roll out her version of the IG’s audit,” Mica told CNSNews.com. “I mean they came up with different scenarios, planted a question. It was pretty methodical. All we are trying to do is get the facts and hold people accountable.”

Lerner is the director of the IRS exempt organization unit who is now on paid leave because of the scandal. Just days before the IG report was released, Lerner announced at a conference that Tea Party groups were targeted by the IRS in response to what was later reported to be a planted question.

On May 22, Lerner appeared before the House Oversight committee in response to a subpoena, read a statement asserting her innocence in the IRS matter, then invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

On Friday, the Oversight committee voted in favor of a resolution saying she waived her Fifth Amendment rights when she asserted her innocence on specific matters, meaning that she will be recalled before the committee to testify.