The scandal involving the IRS’s discrimination against conservative groups seems to grow more dizzying by the day.
Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel on Monday told reporters that the now-infamous “Be On The Lookout” list was far broader than originally disclosed in the Treasury Department inspector general’s report. News accounts in outlets such as the Associated Press and Bloomberg News supported Werfel’s claim, indicating that terms on the list ran the gamut, politically speaking, from “tea party” to “progressive” and “occupy,” and even to groups whose applications included the word “Israel.”
A November 2010 version of the list obtained by National Review Online, however, suggests that while the list did contain the word “progressive,” screeners were instructed to treat progressive groups differently from tea-party groups. Whereas they were merely alerted that a designation of 501(c)(3) status “may not be appropriate” for progressive groups — 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from conducting any political activity — they were told to send applications from tea-party groups off to IRS higher-ups for further scrutiny.
That means the applications of progressive organizations could be approved by line agents on the spot, while those of tea-party groups could not. Furthermore, the November 2010 list noted that tea-party cases were “currently being coordinated with EOT” — Exempt Organizations Technical, a group of tax lawyers in Washington, D.C. Those of progressive organizations were not.
To Werfel’s account, add the testimony of Holly Paz. The highest-ranking official interviewed by the House Oversight Committee to date, Paz did not contend that the lookout list was politically inclusive. Rather, she told committee investigators that the use of the term “tea party” to flag applications was politically neutral. Paz, who served as the director of the IRS’s Office of Rulings and Agreements before she was put on administrative leave earlier this month, told committee investigators that “tea party” merely served as shorthand for an application for tax exemption from any group, conservative or liberal, that showed a potential for political intervention. “It’s like calling soda ‘coke’ or, you know, tissue ‘Kleenex.’ [Line agents] knew what they meant, and the issue was campaign intervention.”
Paz continued, “The criteria didn’t seem to limit what side of the issue,” according to an interview transcript reviewed by National Review Online. “There was a variety of different political persuasions amongst the groups that were — you know, whose applications were in this bucket of cases.”
Her testimony, however, stands in stark contrast to that of Cincinnati IRS agent Elizabeth Hofacre, who handled all tea-party cases between April and August 2010. Hofacre told investigators that she understood “tea party” to be a proxy for conservative and Republican groups; she said she sent back the applications of liberal groups for general processing.