In an apparent contradiction with earlier comments made by House Oversight Committee chair Darrell Issa, new documents obtained through a FOIA request by ThinkProgress show that yes, the IRS targeted both conservative and liberal groups for extra scrutiny. According to ThinkProgress's analysis of the heavily redacted "be on the lookout" lists, the IRS may have targeted a higher number of progressive groups than conservative groups overall.
Basically, the documents support a long-held counterargument to Issa's theory of the IRS scandal. While Issa has often emphasized that he believes the IRS exclusively targeted Tea Party groups "because of their political beliefs," that argument relies heavily on the fact that the latest version of the so-called BOLO lists primarily contained conservative-sounding groups. In fact, the IRS also kept and circulated historical versions of that list for continued scrutiny, which were filled with progressive keywords, including medical marijuana groups and keywords designed to flag groups descended from the now-defunct ACORN. And just to be clear: everybody agrees that the IRS should not have targeted political groups for extra scrutiny in this way. What's at issue are claims that the IRS uniquely treated conservative and Tea Party groups on the basis of political motivations.
Arguably, ThinkProgress's report implies, the IRS focused on giving extra scrutiny to groups on the left longer than it did to groups on the right, Issa's colleagues across the aisle on the Oversight Committee have long noted that Issa has yet to produce evidence supporting his repeated claims that the IRS was acting as part of an anti-GOP political conspiracy. These documents, which ThinkProgress notes were also produced for "investigating congressional committees," are certainly not that evidence. Here's a list of some of the groups that show up on the full BOLO watch lists (viewable here):
- “Progressive” groups, especially those with words like "blue" in the name
- “Tea Party" groups
- Not exclusively educational “medical marijuana” groups
- Groups believed to be "successors to ACORN"
- "Open source software" organizations
- "Green energy" organizations
- "Occupied territory" advocacy organizations
On the "emerging" section on one of the distributed lists, the BOLO lists contains this downright bipartisan warning:
Political action type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the constitution and bill of rights, Social economic reform/movement
Anyway, Issa already has a response to that non-specific language. The political watch list language was “changed to broader ‘political advocacy organizations,’" he wrote in a committee report, adding that he believes "the IRS still intended to identify and single out Tea Party applications for scrutiny.” Even though it looks like progressive groups may have ended up on the watch list before the Tea Party started popping up.
While the full watch lists are illuminating, it's doubtful that they'll change anyone's mind on the scandal. The report clearly bolsters what many Democratic legislators have said about the IRS scandal all along. Twitchy already has a round-up of the conservative response.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.