After six weeks of conservative handwringing about reports that the IRS was unfairly targeting Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status, the new head of the federal tax body is suggesting that it wasn't just right-wing groups being inappropriately scrutinized.
In previous days, some writers and pundits have attempted to make the case that liberal groups were also being subjected to heightened IRS examinations. But those protestations frequently fell on deaf ears in Washington. Senator Rand Paul, for instance, claimed in an interview he'd heard tell of a secret memo that sought out groups being "critical of the president." "[W]e keep hearing the reports and we have several specifically worded items saying who was being targeted," he told CNN. "In fact, one of the bullet points says those who are critical of the president."
In a conference call with reporters today, Danny Werfel, head of the IRS since last month, said that while he has found inappropriate targeting in the organization, it's broader in scope than previously thought. What's more, an internal IRS document obtained by the Associated Press says groups with "occupy" and "progressive" in their names were some of those to fall under the tax man's watchful eye:
An internal IRS document obtained by The Associated Press said that besides "tea party," lists used by screeners to pick groups for close examination also included the terms "Israel," ''Progressive" and "Occupy." The document said an investigation into why specific terms were included was still underway.
"There was a wide-ranging set of categories and cases that spanned a broad spectrum" on the lists, Werfel said. He added that his aides found those lists contained "inappropriate criteria that was in use."
Besides saying they ensnared more groups than previously thought, Werfel also suggested that the IRS' so-called "be on the lookout" lists were in use longer than had first been reported—though they are now suspended.
The IRS chief's statements come on the heels of an 83-page review of his agency in which he assesses its faults and offers correctives for the future. Werfel said that thus far his review turned up no evidence of "intentional wrongdoing" by IRS employees. Nonetheless, he did acknowledge that the managers at every level who'd overseen the lists had been replaced: "We believe that these individuals should no longer hold a position of public trust within IRS, and therefore we've replaced the leadership in those areas."
[Image via AP]