IRS IG: Audit never labeled groups ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’

July 19, 2013

The chief watchdog who discovered the extra IRS scrutiny of conservative groups on Thursday rejected Democratic efforts to portray his investigation as partisan, saying Internal Revenue Service officials withheld key information about a lookout list for some liberal groups until last week.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George testified that it was Lois Lerner, the former head of the division that handled tax-exempt applications, who said the agency targeted conservatives.

“It is imperative for me to emphasize that our audit never labeled groups as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal,’” he said.

Still, Mr. George’s numbers indicate that far more of the 298 political groups seeking tax-exempt status during the 2010 and 2012 elections singled out for intrusive scrutiny had “tea party” or other conservative labels in their names. None of the cases used “occupy” in the name, while just seven had “progress” or “progressive.”

Amid the confusion, Republicans and Democrats traded barbs over the direction of the investigation into the IRS.

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