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Walker, Jindal in Letter to Obama Call IRS Scandal 'Big Brother Come to Life'M.D. Kittle Wisconsin Reporter
CNN reports that IRS officials also knew about the targeting of conservative groups in June 2011.
(MADISON) - As he prepared for his meeting Tuesday morning with the peaceful Dalai Lama in Madison, Gov. Scott Walker packed a rhetorical punch in a letter he and fellow Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana penned demanding President Obama call for a special prosecutor to investigate the Internal Revenue Service scandal.
Jindal, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and Walker, vice chair, said they were disturbed in learning the IRS has been “unfairly targeting and applying added scrutiny” to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
“To be blunt, this is Big Brother come to life and a witch hunt to prevent Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights,” the governors wrote.
On Friday, Lois Lerner, director of the IRS’ exempt organizations unit, apologized for what she described as “low-level” IRS agents inappropriately flagging organizations with the descriptors, “tea party” or “patriot” for further review.
“We had a shortcut in the process. It wasn’t appropriate. We learned about it and we fixed it,” Lerner answered emphatically Wisconsin Reporter’s question whether the delays were politically motivated.
Contrary to concerns expressed by several conservative groups that they had been targeted by the agency, IRS officials, including Lerner last week, denied knowing about any increased scrutiny until last year.
A draft report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration obtained by CNN says agents were to give special scrutiny with groups that had made statements criticizing “how the country is being run.”
“The report says in January 2012, the criteria were revised as ‘political action-type organizations involved in limiting/expanding government, educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, social economic reform/movement,’” the CNN story states.
IRS officials also knew about the targeting of conservative groups in June 2011, and the practice began as early as March 2010, according to CNN.
An official with TIGTA told Wisconsin Reporter the agency does not release draft reports and said the final report should be completed and released publicly sometime this week.
As the White House expressed consternation at the latest news from the scandal and Obama pledged to hold wrongdoers “fully accountable” if they acted in “anything less than a neutral and non-partisan way”, Walker and Jindal called the IRS’ actions “un-American.”
“The actions of the IRS are an attempt to gag the voices of Americans who may disagree with the policies and left-leaning ideology of your administration,” the governors wrote to Obama. “This is a subversion of American liberty and a secret but direct attack against the U.S. Constitution. Immediate action must be taken to ensure this never happens again.”
Walker and Jindal, seen as among the more prominent conservatives in the Republican Party, demanded the firing of all employees responsible, and appoint a special prosecutor “now to find out if laws were broken and if anyone committed crimes.”
“The bottom line is that regardless of one’s political beliefs, conservatives and liberals alike must be able to exercise their First Amendment rights without fear that the federal government will abuse them for having differing opinions,” the governors wrote.
IRS media relations officials did not return Wisconsin Reporter’s request for comment. Wisconsin Reporter seeks to know the extent of “flagging” or targeting of conservative organizations or any other organizations by the IRS, in Wisconsin.
The Rock River Patriots appear to have been one of the conservative groups targeted, according to Marv Munyon, secretary/treasurer of the Wisconsin organizations.
Munyon last week told Wisconsin Reporter he applied for 501(c)(4) for the group in April 2012. The organization has yet to be approved, although the IRS cashed the Rock River Patriots’ application fee of $400 on May 2, 2012, according to Munyon.
He said all he’s received for his trouble is the “runaround,” that he was sent from one agent to the next, over and over again.
“Finally, a lady told me, ‘Your application has been received but it hasn’t been referred to anyone to look at yet.’ I said, ‘What does that mean?’ She said, ‘It hasn’t been put into process at all yet,’” he said.
He said he received a letter on Jan. 29, 2013, informing him that, “the initial screening of the application of your case should be assigned to an exempt organizations specialist for technical review. We assign applications to specialists in the order that we receive them.”
The letter further states, “Unfortunately, we are experiencing delays in working applications that require further development.”
Although he has filed the organization’s tax forms, noting the tax-exempt application was pending, Munyon said he still is awaiting word from the IRS.
On Tuesday, Walker and Jindal were awaiting word from the president.
Contact Kittle at email@example.com
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