This Is Why People Hate the Government

One guy in an office sat on Tea Party tax-exempt applications for 13 months after they were improperly selected for review.

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The Treasury Inspector General report on the IRS mishandling of conservative advocacy group applications for tax exempt status between March 2010 and February 2012 was released Tuesday, and it is a doozy.

The report, conveniently titled "Inappropriate Criteria Were Used to Identify Tax-Exempt Applications for Review" -- in case you had any question as to its conclusions -- points the finger at "ineffective management" as the cause of the improper selection of groups using the words "Tea Party," "Patriot" and "9/12" for additional review and questioning.

The report fills in some important blanks in our knowledge about how the groups were selected and how their applications were managed. Most intriguing to me is the apparent case of this one guy in an office in Cincinnati who sat on the selected applications for 13 months because he or she was waiting for assistance from the Washington, D.C., office, which took forever to arrive. Talk about your bureaucratic cul-de-sacs!

Follow along with me. The report summary states that "Although the processing of some applications with potential significant political campaign intervention was started soon after receipt, no work was completed on the majority of these applications for 13 months. This was due to delays in receiving assistance from the Exempt Organizations function Headquarters office."

It wasn't until "[m]ore than 20 months after the initial case was identified" that "processing the cases began in earnest."

Let's look at that more closely. The report states that:

The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names. These applications (hereafter referred to as potential political cases)(13) were forwarded to a team of specialists (14) for review. Subsequently, the Determinations Unit expanded the criteria to inappropriately include organizations with other specific names (Patriots and 9/12) or policy positions. While the criteria used by the Determinations Unit specified particular organization names, the team of specialists was also processing applications from groups with names other than those identified in the criteria.

The Determinations Unit is based in Cincinnati. Later, the report gets more specific about what happened to the tagged applications: "The team of specialists stopped working on potential political cases from October 2010 through November 2011, resulting in a 13-month delay, while they waited for assistance from the Technical Unit."

The Technical Unit was based out of the Exempt Organizations main office in Washington, according to the report.

This is where it gets into facepalm territory. Footnote 14 earlier tells us that this "team" of specialists that stopped working on potential cases was just one guy.

(14) Initially, the team consisted of one specialist, but it was expanded to several specialists in December 2011. The EO function referred to this team as the advocacy team.

So basically, according to the IG report, a substantial portion of the delay in processing the improperly selected cases came about because they were sent for review to a team consisting of one guy, who then had to wait more than a year for help on them from the main office.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why people hate the government.


You can read the full IG report online here.

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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