New documents obtained by Judicial Watch demonstrate conclusively that the IRS policy of targeting tea party and conservative groups came directly from Washington D.C., not a rogue office in Cincinnati. They also show that Sen. Carl Levin was working with the IRS to make sure tea party and conservative groups were targeted for harassment.
As to the first point, a July 2012 email [correction: July 2010] from IRS Attorney Steven Grodnitzky confirms that tea party group applications for exempt status were being handled in Washington. Grodnitzky wrote:
[We are] working the Tea party applications in coordination with Cincy. We are developing a few applications here in DC and providing copies of our development letters with the agent to use as examples in the development of their cases.
Chip Hull [another lawyer in IRS headquarters] is working these cases. . .and working with the agent in Cincy, so any communication should include him as well. Because the Tea party applications are the subject of an SCR [Sensitive Case Report], we cannot resolve any of the cases without coordinating with Rob.
“Rob” is believed to be Rob Choi, then-Director of Rulings and Agreements in IRS’s Washington, DC, headquarters.
Furthermore, a new email from Lois Lerner confirms that BOLO lists (“be on the look out”) were created specifically for tea party and other groups that focused on issues related to government spending, debt, taxes and “how the country is being run.” On April 2, 2012, Lerner explained:
Because the BOLO only contained a brief reference to “Organizations involved with the Tea Party movement applying for exemption under 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)” in June 2011, the EO Determinations manager asked the manager of the screening group, John Shafer [IRS Cincinnati field office manager], what criteria were being used to label cases as “tea party ” cases. (“Do the applications specify/state ‘ tea party’? If not, how do we know applicant is involved with the tea party movement?”)
The screening group manager asked his employees how they were applying the BOLO’s short–hand reference to “tea party.” His employees responded that they were including organizations meeting any of the following criteria as falling within the BOLO’s reference to “tea party” organizations: “1. ‘Tea Party’, ‘Patriots’ or ‘9/12 Project’ is referenced in the case file. 2. Issues include government spending, government debt and taxes. 3. Educate the public through advocacy/legislative activities to make America a better place to live. 4. Statements in the case file that are critical of the how the country is being run. . . ”
So, we believe we have provided information that shows that no one in EO “developed” the criteria. Rather, staff used their own interpretations of the brief reference to “organizations involved with the Tea Party movement,” which was what was on the BOLO list.
Just to be safe, the IRS put red and orange alert symbols on tea party issues for heightened awareness.
As to Levin’s involvement, the documents newly obtained by Judicial Watch show the IRS responding to a stream of “intense” requests from Democrat Senator Carl Levin to come down on conservative tax exempt groups. Levin communicated director with then-Deputy IRS Commissioner Steven Miller.
Naturally, Levin was particularly concerned about groups working against his reelection campaign. Miller assured the Senator that IRS regulations were flexible enough to allow IRS agents to “prepare individualized questions and requests” for select 501(c)(4) organizations. On June 4, 2012, for example, Miller told Levin:
There is no standard questionnaire used to obtain information about political activities. Although there is a template development letter that describes the general information on the case development process, the letter does not specify the information to be requested from any particular organization … Consequently, revenue agents prepare individualized questions and requests for documents relevant to the application. . .
In other words, the IRS can pretty much do what it wants when it comes to picking which political action groups to subject to additional scrutiny and how much scrutiny to apply.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton concludes:
These new documents show that officials in the IRS headquarters were responsible for the illegal delays of Tea Party applications. It is disturbing to see Lois Lerner mislead the IRS’ internal investigators about her office’s Tea Party targeting.
These documents also confirm the unprecedented pressure from congressional Democrats to go after President Obama’s political opponents. The IRS scandal has now ensnared Congress.