'The IRS: First they Came for the Tea Partiers, Then They Came for the Jews'

"Whoa: Did the IRS also target Jewish groups for ‘extra-special attention’?," Twitchy asks:

The IRS admits to targeting conservative groups for additional review and laughably claims the witch hunt wasn’t “motivated by political bias.” What will its math-challenged spokeswoman Lois Lerner say about allegations that the IRS gave “extra-special attention to the tax-exempt status of some Jewish groups for political reason”?

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The pro-Israel group Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS in 2010, claiming an IRS agent said the organization would come under extra scrutiny because it’s “connected to Israel.”

In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies."

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The Jewish Press reports:

The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism.

The first hearing in Z STREET v IRS is reportedly scheduled for July.

And that's in addition to John Podhoretz's post at Commentary yesterday, in which he wrote:

As it happens, I know something about the chilling effect of an IRS investigation into a non-profit’s 501 (c)-3 status because in 2009, COMMENTARY (a non-profit) received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service threatening the revocation of the institution’s standing as a non-profit due to a claim that on our website we had crossed the line in the 2008 election from analysis to explicit advocacy of the candidacy of John McCain for president. (Non-profits are not permitted to endorse candidates.) The charge was false—all we had done was reprint a speech delivered at a COMMENTARY event by then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman in which he had endorsed McCain.

Taking away a non-profit’s ability to receive tax-exempt charitable contributions is equivalent to a death sentence.

We were told by counsel that, should the IRS rule against us, we would have almost no recourse. You might think free speech rights would trump any such effort, but of course no one is challenging your speech rights, merely finding that what you say runs afoul of laws dealing with non-profits. You have no constitutional right to non-profit status, after all.

Disproving the false charge, which we did eventually in part by literally printing out the 2 million words that had appeared on this site in 2008 and sending them in many boxes to the IRS to show that the words in which Lieberman said he was supporting McCain were essentially a part per million, cost us tens of thousands of dollars and dozens upon dozens of hours of lost work time. The inquiry, which never should have been brought, was closed. But talking to lawyers and strategizing and the like in such a circumstance make the experience an ordeal that leaves you a bit shell-shocked—which is, of course, the point.

Now, I had assumed that a hostile reader or hostile liberal group was responsible for the IRS inquiry into COMMENTARY, but there is a salient detail in today’s story that makes me think something else might have been at work. IRS official Lerner said the effort against the conservative groups in 2012 came from “low-level” officials in the Cincinnati office. The investigation into COMMENTARY came out of the Columbus office. Is there something going on inside the IRS offices in Ohio?

Who will find out?

"Well whaddataknow," Iowahawk tweets today. "Turns out 'low level IRS employees in Cincinnati' was IRS Chief Counsel in 2011." (Another Iowahawk tweet today was the basis for our headline above.)

More after the pagebreak.