Congress was out of session today, but Republican lawmakers quickly, angrily denounced the Internal Revenue Service in the wake of news that it had targeted certain tax-exempt organizations for their political beliefs.
The disclosure came ahead of an impending report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio.) requested the IG look into allegations of political retaliation last June.
“The fact that Americans were targeted by the IRS because of their political beliefs is unconscionable,” Issa and Jordan said in a joint statement. “The Committee will aggressively follow up on the IG report and hold responsible officials accountable for this political retaliation.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the “revelation that the IRS targeted average Americans using taxpayer dollars solely for disagreeing with them politically is completely unacceptable from this administration.”
“Partisan politics have consistently characterized this White House, and the administration must take immediate disciplinary action and ensure American citizens are not subject to this type of Orwellian persecution again,” said Cornyn, who previously sent two letters urging the IRS to prevent politics from playing a role in any action taken on 501(c)(4) nonprofit applications.
In a March 2012 letter, Cornyn and 11 of his Senate colleagues also requested a detailed analysis of the agency’s process for the approval and renewal of a tax-exempt designation under section 501(c)(4).
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who joined Cornyn on that letter, called the news “shocking.”
“This is the United States of America, where the First Amendment protects our right to organize and speak up and speak out, and it’s shocking to learn that the IRS arbitrarily targeted any peaceful political organization for ideological reasons. I asked the IRS last year to explain its actions, and today we find out it was, in fact, targeting Tea Party groups,” Alexander said. “Congress needs to investigate this further and make sure those responsible for it are held accountable and that something like this never happens again.”
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) called on the Obama administration to conduct a government-wide review “aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views.”
“Last year, amid reports that the Obama administration was using the levers of executive power to harass conservative political groups in Kentucky and elsewhere, I issued a very public warning to the administration that the targeting of private citizens on the basis of their political views would not be tolerated. Today’s apology by the IRS is proof that those concerns were well founded,” McConnell said.
“But make no mistake, an apology won’t put this issue to rest,” the minority leader added. “Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS. This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.”
In February 2012, Tea Party organizations reportedly received letters from the regional IRS office in Cincinnati, demanding hundreds of pages of documents with little indication of the criteria being applied.
UPDATE: A Democrat has just come out in favor of an investigation. “My subcommittee has been investigating the IRS’s failure to enforce the law requiring that tax-exempt 501(c)4s be engaged exclusively in social welfare activities, not partisan politics,” said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.). “Today’s announcement by the IRS raises a second issue: whether the IRS, to the extent it has enforced its rules, has been impartial in doing so. Both issues require investigation.”