It seems rather obvious that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was a little unfair to to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, but there is more to the story. Hot Air posted an article yesterday about some other very questionable activities the IRS was engaging in during the past few years.
The article at Hot Air cites a McClatchy news story about IRS harrassment:
McClatchy includes the case of Catherine Engelbrecht, which CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson co-reported yesterday. That case, of course, goes far beyond the IRS; Engelbrecht’s business got harassed by the FBI, ATF, and OSHA as well, which would mean coordination far above the Treasury Department. They also include the case of an anti-abortion group that was told they couldn’t picket Planned Parenthood locations if they wanted to keep their exemption, and a Nebraska veteran who got hassled in an IRS audit over his donations to his church once he began donating to conservative causes.
John Eastman, a constitutional law professor and former Dean at Chapman University in California, posted an article at USA Today explaining an IRS abuse that took place during the debate on homosexual marriage in California in 2012.
Professor Eastman explains:
My organization was not the only conservative-linked political group or business that appears to have faced shady actions from IRS employees. ProPublica reported this week that the IRS handed over to them confidential documents of nine conservative organizations whose applications for non-profit status were still pending. Among them: Crossroads GPS, a key group backing Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign.
Our case was particularly egregious because the IRS leak of confidential information fed directly into an ongoing political battle. For months before March 2012, the pro-gay marriage HRC had been demanding that my group, NOM, publicly identify its major donors, something that NOM and many other non-profits refuse to do. The reason is simple. In the past, gay marriage advocates have used such information to launch campaigns of intimidation against traditional marriage supporters.
Just as gay marriage proponents were demanding the information, the IRS appears to have illegally given them exactly what they were looking for. The tax return released by the HRC contained the names and addresses of dozens of major donors to NOM. And there’s little doubt where the documents came from. The tax returns contained internal coding added by the IRS after the returns were originally submitted.
For the IRS to leak any organization’s tax return to its political opponents is an outrageous breach of ethics and, if proven, constitutes a felony. Every organization — liberal and conservative — should shudder at the idea of the IRS playing politics with its confidential tax return information. But the situation here is even more egregious because the head of the HRC was at the time serving as a national co-chair of President Obama’s re-election campaign.
On Tuesday the House Ways and Means Committee will hold hearings to allow the victims of IRS targeting to testify. During the next two weeks, the House Oversight Committee will be interviewing the ‘low level employees’ in Cincinnati who have been scapegoated for these crimes. It will be interesting to hear what they say about who was directing their activities. Keep in mind that targeting specific groups and releasing tax information is a crime. It may be an interesting week.