The Internal Revenue Service has issued an apology to conservative groups that it targeted in the lead up to the 2012 presidential election. The move is seen by many conservatives as the Obama administration doing post-election damage control after infringing on the rights of citizens groups.
From an AP report:
The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday.
Organizations were singled out because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.
In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.
“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.
Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. She did not say when they found out.
Many conservative groups complained during the election that they were being harassed by the IRS. They accused the agency of frustrating their attempts to become tax exempt by sending them lengthy, intrusive questionnaires.
During the Obama administration, IRS problems have not been limited to Tea Party groups.
The Internal Revenue Service was targeting a pro-life Iowa group that acts in part as a watchdog over the Planned Parenthood abortion business. It was refusing to grant nonprofit tax status to the Coalition for Life of Iowa unless it agreed to limit its “picketing” and “protesting” of Planned Parenthood.
In papers to the group, the IRS questioned the “educational” nature of the Coalition’s materials, prayer meetings, talks and other pro-life activities.
Responding to what it considered threats, attorneys with the Thomas More Society in Chicago came to the defense of the organization. In their response, TMS attorneys told the IRS that it is in danger of violating the First Amendment and that the request for tax exemption should be promptly granted.
Thomas Brejcha, president and chief counsel for the Thomas More Society, told LifeNews.com that the repeated questioning of the Coalition suggests the IRS may be denying or delaying tax-exempt status to an eligible organization based solely upon its religious affiliation and speech.
“The IRS not only erroneously forbade the Coalition for Life of Iowa from engaging in ‘advocacy’ as a section 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; they also never gave any explanation as to why their request was relevant,” he said.
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He told LifeNews.com: “The Coalition has clearly and truthfully stated that all its activities fall in line with IRS guidelines. The IRS is protecting Parenthood and harassing the Coalition for Life of Iowa.”
Thomas More attorneys verified in their response to the IRS that the Coalition for Life of Iowa has never engaged in any disruptive, violent or threatening action. Its activities, such as prayer meetings and events held to educate the public about sanctity of life issues, have been peaceful.
The group eventually received its nonprofit tax status.