If you’ve been having trouble keeping track of the recent investigation by the United States Treasury Inspector General’s office into the targeting of Tea Party groups by the Internal Revenue Service, you’re not the only one. In fact, not even those who were doing the investigating had solid grasp of just what their task was.
Last week, congressional democrats released a series of documents that revealed that IRS targeted not only Tea Party and other ultra-conservative groups applying for tax exemption, but progressive groups as well.
Initially, a report issued in mid-May by the Inspector General’s office called out the IRS for screening groups with words that evoke extreme conservatism in their names particularly strictly on the eve of the 2012. However, the recent report revealed that the IRS placed both progressive and conservative groups that applied for tax exemption on a Be On the Lookout, or BOLO, list for heavy inspection.
If you’re expecting clarity from this new information, you’re not going to find it, as it merely unloads an archeological dig’s worth of dirt in the already-muddy waters of this investigation. So how exactly did the focus on investigations into the Tea Party develop?
It all started with a faulty interpretation by the Inspector General’s office of the way the House Oversight committee asked them to conduct this investigation. Officials from the office explained that they were asked to "narrowly focus on tea party organizations," while the Inspector General, J. Russell George refuted that the next day. Two days before, George said "we found no indication that 'Progressives' was a term used to refer cases for scrutiny for political campaign intervention."
So what does it all mean? Essentially, those who investigated the IRS saw buzzwords that the organization used to filter left and right wing parties out from the rest, but only believed that the IRS was targeting those organizations affiliated or sympathetic to the Tea Party. However, as the recent revelations point out, that’s false.
There’s still a long way to go before we can make full sense of the IRS scandal, but one thing has become quite clear: there’s a lot more to it than we initially thought.