More than three years after it admitted to targeting tea party groups for intrusive scrutiny, the IRS has finally released a near-complete list of the organizations it snagged in a political dragnet.
The tax agency filed the list last month as part of a court case after a series of federal judges, fed up with what they said was the agency’s stonewalling, ordered it to get a move on. The case is a class-action lawsuit, so the list of names is critical to knowing the scope of those who would have a claim against the IRS.
But even as it answers some questions, the list raises others, including exactly when the targeting stopped, and how broadly the tax agency drew its net when it went after nonprofits for unusual scrutiny.
The government released names of 426 organizations. Another 40 were not released as part of the list because they had already opted out of being part of the class-action suit.
That total is much higher than the 298 groups the IRS‘ inspector general identified back in May 2013, when investigators first revealed the agency had been subjecting applications to long — potentially illegal — delays, and forcing them to answer intrusive questions about their activities. Tea party and conservative groups said they was the target of unusually heavy investigations and longer delays,
Edward D. Greim, the lawyer who’s pursuing the case on behalf of NorCal Tea Party Patriots and other members of the class, said the list also could have ballooned toward the end of the targeting as the IRS, once it knew it was being investigated, snagged more liberal groups in its operations to try to soften perceptions of political bias.
“As we have identified in our filings in this case, important questions still exist regarding changes to the IRS‘ case listings that occurred after the IRS learned that the [inspector general] and congressional investigations had begun,” he said. “Based on these changes, which to date remain unexplained, a very real possibility — if not probability — exists that the IRS modified its targeting in light of the investigations, packing its own internal lists of targeted groups to support its preferred narrative, including by adding ideologically diverse groups.”
He said if that did happen, it would have “tainted” the list the IRS has now released.
The IRS declined to comment, saying its filing spoke for itself.
A series of investigations found the IRS did ask intrusive questions and did delay applications for years, in violation of policy. But so far no investigation has found any order from the White House to conduct the targeting.
‘Tea’ and ‘patriot’ groups
Sixty of the groups on the list released last month have the word “tea” in their name, 33 have “patriot,” eight refer to the Constitution, and 13 have “912” in their name — which is the monicker of a movement started by conservatives. Another 26 group names refer to “liberty,” though that list does include some groups that are not discernibly conservative in orientation.
Among the groups that appear to trend liberal are three with the word “occupy” in their name.
And then there are some surprising names, including three state or local chapters of the League of Women Voters — a group with a long history of nonprofit work.
Some of the most active and prominent tea party groups snared in the targeting aren’t on the class-action list. At least some of them opted not to be part of the joint legal action to preserve their own lawsuits.