Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock says the IRS is still acting illegally in targeting conservative groups for extra attention when they apply for tax exempt status, and the reason they haven’t stopped is due to sheer incompetence.
“After the investigation had already begun, after the illegal behavior had already been exposed, they were asking pro-life groups how much of their time was being spent in prayer, how much of their time was being spent outside of abortion clinics, things that are clearly illegal for the IRS to ask when it’s determining the tax-exempt status of any organization,” Schock said.
House Republicans have seized on recent testimony from an IRS screener in Cincinnati who said earlier this month that because the agency hasn’t issued any guidance in the wake of the targeting scandal, all applications from political advocacy groups are referred for secondary screening.
“The president said that, if, in fact, the claims were true, it would be outrageous. Well, the claims are true. And it is outrageous,” Schock said. “And despite his promise to the American people that it was going to stop, it hasn’t.”
Democrats say that the complaints from congressional Republicans are overblown, and that the agency is no longer targeting specific ideological groups. President Obama himself has accused the GOP of pursuing “phony scandals,” and White House press secretary Jay Carney has said that the IRS also targeted progressive groups.
In an interview with USA Today, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) said Republicans are “trying to twist the facts to fit their political narrative.”
“This particular screener is not singling out applications but rather sending all potential political advocacy cases for secondary screening out of an abundance of caution,” Levin said.
But Schock said that Democrats are just hoping the scandal fades from the headlines.
“I would remind you that the only reason the American people are continuing to hear about this, the only reason that we know that the illegal targeting is continuing, is because we have a Republican-controlled House,” Schock said. “The Democrats on the committee have already said if they ran the place, the investigation would be complete.”
Recall that Lois Lerner told the ABA audience on the day the IRS targeting scandal came to light that upon discovering the targeting of conservative groups, she ordered a halt to the practice immediately. It appears that any number of IRS managers, as well as the president of the United States, have ordered IRS employees to cease and desist their targeting activities, but by gum, it just keeps happening! Imagine that.
It’s a Kubuki dance performed with a wink and a nod. The IRS employees have received no guidance because there’s no intention of changing its policies. Schock refers to IRS “incompetence,” but really now, agency managers would have to be brain dead not to realize there’s an urgency to revising a policy that is clearly inappropriate and probably illegal.
The fact that they haven’t gotten around to it yet speaks volumes about how seriously they take the issue.