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IRS Punished Conservative Non-Profits, Perhaps Also Pro-Israel Groups

After repeatedly denying it was targeting conservative groups for unfair treatment, the IRS admitted it was treating politically conservative groups in inappropriate ways. A pro-Israel group sued the IRS in 2010 for the same (and worse) conduct.

Douglas H. Shulman, IRS Commissioner. The IRS admitted unfairly targeting conservative organizations in tax exempt status reviews.

Douglas H. Shulman, IRS Commissioner. The IRS admitted unfairly targeting conservative organizations in tax exempt status reviews.

For more than a year the U.S. Congress has been investigating whether the Internal Revenue Service was inappropriately treating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, or burdening such groups with requests and demands which are impermissible, as many had claimed.

Friday, May 10, the IRS person in charge of the division dealing with non-profits, Lois Lerner, apologized for actions taken by the agency which were based on political affiliation.

“That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.

How did the IRS do this?  By singling out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, Lerner admitted.

The Ways and Means Committee has been seeking information on precisely this activity and “the IRS repeatedly denied they were targeting conservative grassroots organizations,” said committee chair Dave Camp (R-MI) in response to the revelation.  He announced  that the committee will soon hold hearings on this now-admitted practice by the IRS.

Camp stated in a press release issued just after the admission of wrongdoing by the IRS, “The IRS absolutely must be non-partisan in its enforcement of our tax laws. The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing. The Committee on Ways and Means will thoroughly investigate this matter and will soon hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this situation.  We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”

PRO-ISRAEL GROUP SUED IRS CLAIMING TARGETING PRACTICE

While they are at it, the committee might want to ask the IRS whether their list of targets extended beyond political party discrimination. There is evidence the IRS also targeted pro-Israel groups whose positions were potentially inconsistent with the administration’s.

For example, in 2010, the passionately pro-Israel organization Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was “connected to Israel,” its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny.  This admission was made in response to a query about the lengthy reveiw of Z STREET’s tax exempt status application.

In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

Z STREET’s lawsuit claims the IRS activity constitutes viewpoint discrimination and a violation of its constitutionally protected right of free speech.  The organization is seeking, among other things, complete disclosure to the public regarding the origin, development, approval, substance and application of the IRS policy to treat pro-Israel organizations differently than it does other organizations. (disclosure: this reporter was the founder and president of Z STREET when the litigation was filed.)

At least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel.  Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”

For years the IRS has denied it took any such inappropriate actions and has done its best to prevent Z STREET from pursuing its claim of viewpoint discrimination. The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism.  Z STREET is a purely educational organization that has never funded anything, either in Israel or anywhere else.

Coincidentally, after two and a half years of non-movement, the very first hearing in Z STREET v IRS was recently scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, July 2, in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia.

Representatives of several tea party groups rejected the apology offered by the IRS, and insist that steps be taken to prevent such blatant discrimination in the future.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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51 Responses to “IRS Punished Conservative Non-Profits, Perhaps Also Pro-Israel Groups”

  1. Betty Ames says:

    they targeted individuals too.

  2. That's the work of the liberals and the leftists for you, in order to keep obama happy.

  3. Infuriating. Thank you Lori Lowenthal Marcus for having penned this article. The true signature practice of a thriving democracy is said to reside in the equal treatment of all before the law. Absent this practice, what have we to say of our government? How is this reprehensible act of selective discriminatory design absolved by apology? How are such members of the IRS able to keep their jobs? Another matter of significance for a democracy is that those who stray from the aforementioned principle shall be recognized as having deviated from the norm of equal treatment. Hence, who will pay the price for a violation of democratic practice? What head shall figuratively roll? I'm sorry to say, but an admission and apology of little note (in the MSM) is insufficient to recover damages that have been sustained in an effort to subvert democracy's core values.

  4. Infuriating. Thank you Lori Lowenthal Marcus for having penned this article. The true signature practice of a thriving democracy is said to reside in the equal treatment of all before the law. Absent this practice, what have we to say of our government? How is this reprehensible act of selective discriminatory design absolved by apology? How are such members of the IRS able to keep their jobs? Another matter of significance for a democracy is that those who stray from the aforementioned principle shall be recognized as having deviated from the norm of equal treatment. Hence, who will pay the price for a violation of democratic practice? What head shall figuratively roll? I'm sorry to say, but an admission and apology of little note (in the MSM) is insufficient to recover damages that have been sustained in an effort to subvert democracy's core values.

  5. Hinda Blas says:

    Unfortunately “J Street” is not Pro-Israel but pro-enemy of Israel. Hence IRS did not target a pro-Israel organization.

  6. The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism. So I guess since terrorism happens in the USA maybe they should take additional time t to investigate non profits like the Southern Poverty Law Center. G-d willing you win the lawsuit.

  7. The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism. So I guess since terrorism happens in the USA maybe they should take additional time t to investigate non profits like the Southern Poverty Law Center. G-d willing you win the lawsuit.

  8. "That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate." Is an understatement, it is also criminal.

    According to US Federal law – such actions warrant a five year prison sentence for ALL involved.

    I want to know who has been arrested and charged, I demand to know it.

  9. Frank Kubin says:

    Ofuhrer at work.

  10. Arie's Pragmatic Politics says:

    No surprise that the living g-d utilize yet another supposedly independent government agency to attack his official enemies. Seems the lord and savior has taken a page from tricky dick, adolf, stalin and mao and one upped them.

    And then he thinks Jews are stupid enough to surrender our weapons? Obviously living in some alternate universe.

  11. Dang – you took the words from my keyboard!

  12. Charlie Hall says:

    Actually a lot of these organizations do push the limit as to what tax exempt organizations should be doing. Most of them should really be incorporated as political organizations. There are also big problems with evangelical churches using tax exempt money for political purposes. Targeting because of beliefs is wrong, but there IS a problem here.

  13. Charlie Hall says:

    Actually a lot of these organizations do push the limit as to what tax exempt organizations should be doing. Most of them should really be incorporated as political organizations. There are also big problems with evangelical churches using tax exempt money for political purposes. Targeting because of beliefs is wrong, but there IS a problem here.

  14. Charlie Hall says:

    I hate to say this because I can't stand J Street, but they are actually the model for what should be done. They have two non-tax-exempt political units, a 501c4 advocacy group, and a 501c3 charity, and keep their activities and funding separate.

  15. Lori Lowenthal Marcus says:

    Charlie – did you read the article? Z STREET was pulled out of the approval process because it was pro-Israel, not because of how it was operating. And you don't know whether J Street's advocacy mixes with its non-profit work – http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/05/the_stealth_legitimacy_of_j_street.html

  16. Charlie Hall says:

    American Thinker is propaganda; not a reliable source.

    And since you ask, why is Z Street not a political advocacy group, particularly since it clearly seems to be a direct response to J Street?

  17. Jamie Lacombe says:

    My first post but this was my exact same sentiment. Who knew about it? Where they punished? When will they be punished.

  18. Jamie Lacombe says:

    Posted this article on a webpage I frequent and it drew tons of responses about the shadiness of our "progressive" leadership. But it also drew way to many of those supporters who think there's nothing wrong with this.

  19. Jamie Lacombe says:

    SPLC should classify their selves as a terrorist organization. Didn't some left wing nut recently use one of their maps to kill some people?

  20. Jamie Lacombe says:

    I think if y'all can forgive some of our most ignorant folks down south, i can surely attest to the fact we arent all racist or perfect, we would see that plenty of us feel the same way. The government wants to take our guns and now wants us to believe they just happen to single out republican and Jewish organizations the most for more in depth study, that it wasn't done because of our political affiliation?

  21. Don MacMurray says:

    American Thinker is one of the best sites on the 'net for real, cogent discussion and dissection of the cult of liberalism. While it is opinion driven, I find that most of the opinions are spot on, based on my research from other sources. The print and broadcast media have given up any premise of being honest. You use the word propaganda as if it's a bad thing. Not all propaganda is bad…only the propaganda that pushes us closer to tyranny and communist domination…and it ALL comes from the left.

  22. Charlie Hall says:

    BTW I'm totally opposed to singling out any person or organization for IRS investigations based on their politics. FDR did that; so did Nixon. If there is any real evidence that J Street is improperly mingling funds, they should indeed be audited. I just don't see how all these conservative advocacy groups qualify as tax exempt when they are self-defined as advocacy groups.

  23. “The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added. Yeah, sure, i'd LIKE to have 20 million bux but I never will.

  24. Charlie – it is far more reliable than say CBS or NBC. Those extreme left wing media have done their level best to block any investigations at all of wrong doing by this administration

  25. Cody Flecker says:

    This is truly shameful for the IRS to do. We need to trust every agency of the US Government and not be fearful of them. Once we lose faith in these Agencies, the next step God forbid is revolution.

  26. We should all focus on the fact that this income based tax structure is specifically designed to be "weaponized." The IRS, with it's arcane and endless loops and hoops can, and often is used to favor or punish this or that group. It is an institutionalized political weapon. In fact, given that far simpler methods of tax collection are not only readily available but were used in the past without creating this environment for corruption it is evident that the primary purpose of this agency is not the collection of taxes but as a frontline political means of command and control.

  27. Gil Gilman says:

    I agree. That is the only reason it was wrong. It is illegal! In the U.S. it isn't illegal to be an insensitive jerk. The word "inappropriate" is their euphemism for. "We know it was illegal, but you are not going to get me to admit it. And we will continue illegal activities as long is there isn' a clear chance of getting caught, just like every other government enforcement." Apparently they are no longer overworked like they were 20+ years ago when they just stuffed the returns in the ceiling, but maybe that happened only in Minneapolis.

  28. Charlie Hall says:

    Loren, the Republicans have been conducting partisan investigations for 2 1/2 years, cheered on by the Amen Chorus of Faux News. CBS and NBC aren't "extreme left" or anything close to it, and they haven't blocked anything. The problem is, there just isn't a lot of scandal in this administration. Iraq alone included more scandal for Bush than everything in the Obama administration put together — the lies about WMDs, the massive amount of unaccounted-for expenses, the inability to protect US civilians there. (Hundreds of US civilians died — but you'd never know from Darrell Issa.)

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