July 30 (Bloomberg) -- Self-described conservative and Tea Party groups seeking tax-exempt status were asked more questions by the Internal Revenue Service and had longer delays than progressive organizations, according to an analysis by the House Ways and Means Committee.
Conservative groups received three times as many questions and 56 of their applications were pending as of May 31, while no groups with “progressive” in their names had a pending application, said the analysis released today by the Republican-led panel.
The committee can examine and summarize otherwise private information from the IRS that others can’t. The analysis included 104 Republican-leaning groups and seven “progressive” organizations.
The analysis looked only at the pool of files flagged for potentially impermissible political involvement that the IRS inspector general examined. It didn’t include other groups that might have been flagged for other reasons or at other times.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said in a statement. “Congress will continue to investigate how the targeting began, why it was allowed to continue for so long, and what the IRS is doing to resolve this. Americans deserve to know the full truth.”
The study is part of Republicans’ attempts to show that the inclusion of “progressives” and “occupy” groups on IRS watch lists didn’t amount to the same level of scrutiny that Tea Party groups received from the IRS starting in 2010.
Democrats say revelations about IRS scrutiny of progressive groups cast doubt on the idea that only Republican-leaning groups drew extra attention from the agency.
Representative Sander Levin, the top Democrat on Ways and Means, said the Republican analysis excludes Democratic-leaning groups without the word progressive in their names and includes incomplete information about whether there were more Republican-leaning groups in the pool of applicants.
“The Republican analysis is noteworthy for what it fails to acknowledge and what it fails to disclose,” Levin said in a statement. “The overwhelming fact remains that Republicans will do everything they can to deflect attention from their inability to do almost anything -– a record that has earned them historically low ratings from the American public.”
The IRS apologized in May for singling out Tea Party groups’ applications because of their names. That disclosure has led to six congressional inquiries, cost at least four IRS officials their jobs, and prompted a criminal investigation.
IRS officials haven’t explained how and why the watch lists were created and used, and today’s analysis didn’t shed light on that question.
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