IRS Nonprofit Scrutiny Included Look for ACORN Successors

The Internal Revenue Service told its employees to watch out for applications for tax-exempt status by successors to Acorn, the now-defunct Democratic-leaning community organizing group.

Congressional Democrats, who released the recently unredacted information today, maintained that such scrutiny undermines the idea that the U.S. tax agency’s policing of political groups was limited to Tea Party organizations.

Acorn, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, disbanded in 2010 after hidden videos showed workers offering advice on opening a prostitution business.

“This new information should put a nail in the coffin of the Republican claims that the IRS’s actions were politically motivated or were targeted at only one side of the political spectrum,” Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said in a statement. “It is time for House Republicans to stop trying to score political points and start to focus on reforming the IRS.”

Republicans have insisted that Tea Party groups and other organizations that aid Republicans were subject to longer IRS delays as they awaited confirmation of their tax-exempt status.

Congressional Inquiries

The IRS disclosed in May that it had put Tea Party groups’ applications under extra scrutiny, and apologized. Since then, at least four IRS officials have been pushed out of their jobs, congressional committees have opened inquiries and the Justice Department has begun a criminal probe.

The information released today after the IRS relaxed its reading of privacy rules doesn’t explain in detail how Acorn-like groups were to be treated. Acorn conducted voter registration drives and helped prepare tax returns for low-income people.

The new information also shows that “Emerge” groups were subject to extra attention from the IRS. In 2012, the IRS revoked the tax-exempt status of affiliates of Emerge America, which trained Democratic candidates for office and was deemed too political to qualify for tax-exempt status.

The IRS’s treatment of Emerge shouldn’t be compared with how Tea Party groups were singled out by name, said Ali Ahmad, a spokesman for the Republican-controlled House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The fact that Emerge was initially approved for tax-exempt status, but had it revoked after its improper behavior came to light, underscores how much more stringent the IRS was with Tea Party applicants,” he said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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