The IRS didn’t only target conservatives. At least, that’s what Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee now want you to believe.
On Monday, the Democrats on the committee released 15 lists of “BOLO” (“Be On the Look Out”) terms, which include “Progessive” and “Occupy” in addition to “Tea Party” and “9/12.” The implication is that the IRS set its sights not just on conservative groups, but also on liberal ones.
Rep. Sander Levin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, used the information as an excuse to discredit the committee’s investigation into the IRS, calling it “flawed in a fundamental way.”
Levin and the rest of the Ways and Means Democrats would love to have you believe that this information relieves the IRS of any wrongdoing, but there are too many things that just don’t add up. Before we let Lois Lerner and company off the hook, here are a few questions that IRS officials—and congressional Democrats—should have to answer.
1. Why are we getting these lists now, over a month after Lois Lerner admitted to the targeting in a planted question at an American Bar Association panel on May 10? The IRS had every motivation to make these lists available as soon as possible to prevent any accusation of political bias. Why would Lerner or anyone else choose not to immediately release these lists?
2. Why did Lois Lerner plead the Fifth? If Lerner did nothing wrong, as she has claimed, what motivation did she have to refuse to testify before the House Oversight and Reform Committee? It seems like she should have been anxious to clear her name, rather than cowering from scrutiny.
3. Where are the progressives telling their stories? A few liberals claimed their tax-exempt groups were targeted under George W. Bush, but the progressive BOLO lists supposedly started in August 2010, long after Bush left office. Since this story broke in May, countless conservatives have told stories of their groups being targeted by the IRS and what the unfair scrutiny cost them. The progressive groups seem to be MIA on this one.
4. Why did conservative groups face so much unfair scrutiny, while there is no evidence that liberal groups received any? As the Ways and Means Republicans pointed out in an email yesterday, being separated through a BOLO list is not the same as being targeted:
Tea Party Progressives On a BOLO Yes Yes Had donors threatened Yes No evidence Had confidential information leaked Yes No evidence Sent inappropriate and intrusive questions Yes No evidence Had applications delayed for over 2 years and counting Yes No evidence Were targeted by the IRS, according to TIGTA Yes
Table courtesy of the House Ways and Means Committee Republican Press Office.
5. If both conservative and liberal groups were on BOLO lists, why were conservative applications put on indefinite hold while liberal groups received 501(c)(4) status relatively easily? A USA Today investigation found that no conservative group was approved for 501(c)(4) status for 28 months starting in March 2010, but applications for liberal groups were waved through.
The emerging picture is that this release isn’t exculpatory evidence for the IRS, but rather the latest attempt by Democrats to dismiss the scandal. From the beginning, Democrats tried to blame the Bush administration, saying liberal groups were targeted before 2008, and complained about campaign finance laws and the regulations for 501(c)(4) status. They’ve done their best to undermine the investigation, most blatantly when Rep. Elijah Cummings defied Darrell Issa’s requests and leaked the full transcript of an interview that Cummings thought proved Washington was not involved (a conclusion that has since been discredited).
This newest release from Sander Levin is just another way for Democrats to obscure the truth. But in the age of new media and with Darrell Issa on the case, it looks like too little too late.