Investigation of the IRS
The IRS is at the epicenter of the Obama administration’s efforts to enforce its healthcare law and regulate free speech, and the House’s investigation has unearthed a clear record of harassing Americans because of their political beliefs. The American people deserve answers, and House Republicans led by the Oversight and Government Reform and Ways and Means Committees — will continue to fight to get the truth, no matter how badly the Administration wants to sweep these issues under the carpet.
This page continues to be updated as more information becomes available. The most recent update was made on July 1, 2014.
On February 26, 2014, the House passed H.R. 3865, Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014 (“Stop the IRS Act”) by a vote of 243-176. The “Stop the IRS Act” prohibits Treasury and the IRS from finalizing their proposed 501(c)(4) regulations for one year. Under the proposed rules — which were issued in November 2014 — 501(c)(4) organizations’ tax-exempt status would be jeopardized based on their non-partisan GOTV efforts, voter registration drives, and candidate forums now being treated as campaign intervention.
The Committee’s investigation began in February 2012, after concerns about inappropriate scrutiny of applicants for tax exempt status by the IRS were brought to the Committee’s attention. Prompted by a request from Chairman Darrell Issa and Subcommittee Chairman Jim Jordan to Treasury Inspector General Tax Administration (TIGTA) to investigate these concerns, the public came to learn from TIGTA’s audit that Americans had been targeted based on expressions of their political beliefs.
The Oversight Committee has conducted dozens of transcribed interviews with Treasury and IRS staff and determined that the former Director of Tax-Exempt Organizations (EO) at the IRS, Lois Lerner, was the at the center of these efforts to target political groups. Lerner asserted her Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination before the Oversight Committee, declining to answer questions while simultaneously asserting her innocence.
Despite the continued obstruction from the IRS and Treasury, the Committee determined that targeting occurred amid increased political pressure from President Obama and Democrats to take action toward 501(c)(4) groups in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010. An interim update on the Committee’s investigation documented how the IRS was affected by the heightened political pressure to act.
The Committee also found, along with an investigations by TIGTA, clear evidence and testimony that Tea Party and other conservative organizations were targeted for enhanced scrutiny because their organization’s names reflected their conservative beliefs. Neither TIGTA nor any other investigation has found evidence that a liberal or progressive group was targeted for enhanced scrutiny because its name reflected liberal or progressive beliefs. The Committee’s investigation has also raised significant questions about the seriousness of the Department of Justice’s efforts to impartially examine the IRS’ wrongdoing.
The Committee on Ways and Means has held numerous hearings on the targeting of conservatives by the IRS and the Obama Administration’s 501 (c)(4) proposed rules designed to restrict the fundamental First Amendment freedoms of speech and association of conservative groups.
The Committee also launched a website for victims of the IRS’s abuses to share their story confidentially, and held a hearing where the Committee heard directly from those affected by the IRS’s targeting. From the hearings, over 40 interviews with IRS employees, and examination of thousands of IRS documents and case files, the Committee has found that the targeting was much more widespread than we were initially told.
The IRS targeted not only right-leaning applicants, but also right-leaning groups that were already operating as 501(c)(4)s. At Washington, DC’s direction, dozens of groups operating as 501(c)(4)s were flagged for IRS surveillance, including monitoring of the groups’ activities, websites and any other publicly available information. Of these groups, 83 percent were right-leaning. And of the groups the IRS selected for audit, 100 percent were right-leaning.
Attempting to force conservative groups out of the public forum, the Administration then, behind closed doors, began designing rules to limit groups’ ability to engage in certain activities such as get out the vote efforts, candidate forums and voter registration. The Committee will continue to work to stop the Administration from implementing these rules.