The IRS flagged “tea party” and “patriot” groups for extra scrutiny in 2012, the Associated Press and others are reporting. The agency acknowledged and apologized today for the practice, which amounted to political profiling of conservative groups during the last presidential campaign. It points to local office staff in Cincinnati as being responsible.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) is calling on the White House to investigate, and tea party groups are claiming vindication for their earlier assertions of political favoritism at the IRS.
Two things here:
1) Although none of the 75 or so targeted groups had its tax-exempt status revoked, some did withdraw their application for 501c4 designation. If they did so in response to this admittedly undue level of IRS attention, then the damage is still done.
2) It’s quite possible – as its Bush-appointed chief asserts – that the IRS proper did nothing wrong, at least in an immediate sense. If culpability or complicity does reach into higher levels of the department, it may be more likely that officials ignored or avoided something that should have been investigated earlier.