Photo Credit:
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.

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“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.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

51 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. "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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.)

  17. You can bet most of these "patriot" groups were engaging in political activity on the right, just as most groups with "People's" in it engage in political activity on the left. Both are verboten if you want tax-exempt status. The IRS would have been right to target groups on both sides of the spectrum.

  18. I recently replied to an email about this link with the following:

    Why should the IRS be profiling ANY group, per se, and what kind of f’d up government would even ever be accused of suggesting, let alone implementing, such a thing.

    I believe we have one of the best countries on earth and one of the worst governments.

  19. " this income based tax structure is specifically designed to be "weaponized."

    That comment should be "viralized" all around the world. Spot on!
    One of my "Laws" points out that the only rationale or justification for ANY tax is that the target of it is MEASURABLE. That makes anything and everything that's measurable fair game for those tax "weapons."

    Way true!

  20. "THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

    THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

    THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    THEN THEY CAME for the Catholics,
    and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

    THEN THEY CAME for me,
    and by that time no one was left to speak up."

    By Martin Niemöller…

  21. Just wait – the Benghazi coverup makes Watergate look like a walk in the park, the coverup over Fast and Furious is going to be brought forward and now this?

    There have NO investigations under the Obama Regime – the Democrats have made sure of that. And both ABC and NBC have blocked anything against this administration. The presidents of both organizations have siblings working at very high levels of the administration and you are lying about it.

    Won't work the truth is getting out in spite of leftists like you.

  22. Loren, you are living in an alternate reality. The Republicans investigated F&F and found nothing. They are now investigating Benghazi and finding — lack of attention to security. And you obviously aren't old enough to remember what Watergate was: A cover-up of criminal activity directed by the President. There is no criminal activity here, other than the release of information by Issa that endangers US assets in Libya.

  23. The whole O Administration has gotten so far out of control. It is like we are headed back to Europe 1939. The injustices done for political power and misuse of power to win another election and stay in power as well as this. We must speak out for freedoms and never never again has to be real!

  24. 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.”.

  25. What is the big deal about the IRS scrutinizing organizations? The IRS is in the mission of ensuring that people don't take advantage of the system. Why should a Pro Israel group get a not for profit status from the US IRS system if it is n ot a non profit supporting the United States?

    Why does Israel get $3,000,000,000 a year of documented taxpayer money, let alone the undocumented funding? Its $8.2 Million dollars a DAY!

    I don't like violence, but Israeli's basically came to ISRAEL and took over the land, and to this day terrorize the Palestinian's……..I think the holocaust was awful and I understand people had to escape, but does taking over some other people's land appropriate?

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