During last week's first-of-many hearing into the IRS scandal, one subplot emerged: Conservatives presented anecdotes to argue that the IRS didn't just target Tea Party groups seeking tax exempt status but a broader swath of conservative individuals and organizations. But the anecdotal evidence does not stand up to the data on tax audits.
The stories at the hearing took a particular form. A member of Congress heard from a constituent that he'd been audited following activism against the president. The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan used a representative example in a column:
The Journal's Kim Strassel reported an Idaho businessman named Frank VanderSloot, who'd donated more than a million dollars to groups supporting Mitt Romney. He found himself last June, for the first time in 30 years, the target of IRS auditors. His wife and his business were also soon audited. Hal Scherz, a Georgia physician, also came to the government's attention. He told ABC News: "It is odd that nothing changed on my tax return and I was never audited until I publicly criticized Obamacare."
Noonan mentions, in total, three people and organizations. While a transcript of the hearing isn't available, there were probably three more people mentioned by members of Congress. Meaning that we're presented with some six unusual, suspicious examples of conservatives being audited — out of the 1.5 million audited for the 2011 fiscal year.