Michigan’s Rep. Sandy Levin is claiming “progressives” were targeted just as much as the tea party groups, but as The Wall Street Journal reports:
Mr. Levin also released a series of IRS “Be On the Lookout” (BOLO) lists that included the word “progressive” as an identifying keyword on a spreadsheet. The point was to show that right and left were both singled out, so voila, no political favoritism at the IRS.
Sorry, Sandy. On Thursday, Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George shot down the supposed gotcha moment. Mr. George explained in a letter that his report on IRS targeting had looked at all the criteria the IRS was using from May 2010 to May 2012 to identify political cases. His investigators “found no indication in any of these other materials that ‘Progressives’ was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention,” wrote Mr. George.
Mr. Levin’s confusion—we’re being generous—may have come from the fact that the word progressive does appear on a different BOLO, tagged as “Historical.” But that’s not the same “emerging issues” BOLO that the tea party groups were on, and it didn’t send applications through the same IRS route for additional scrutiny.
The entry for “progressive” also specifies that agents should look for groups that use that word or appear to conduct partisan activities while applying for 501(c)(3) status, which allows zero political partisan activity. That’s a different can of beans than the election-year slow-rolling of the many conservative groups that were targeted while applying for 501(c)(4) status, which does allow partisan activity as well as direct engagement with political campaigns.
Altogether, Mr. George explained, six tax-exempt applicants that used the word “progressive” were among the 298 flagged for extra scrutiny between May 2010 and May 2012. Another 14 groups with the word “progressive” were not selected for scrutiny, coming out to a “targeting” rate of 30%. “In comparison,” Mr. George wrote, “our audit found that 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with Tea Party, Patriots, or 9/12 in their names were processed.”