Baucus: ‘I doubt very much’ IRS letter led to tougher audits on conservatives

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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In 2010, Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus urged the Internal Revenue Service to look into several conservative nonprofits. But on Tuesday Baucus said he did not believe his urgings had any effect on the IRS’s decision to do exactly that.

“I doubt very much,” said Baucus, a Montana Democrat, when asked if he thought his letter had been influential. “That was awhile ago.”

“My view is clearly they’ve got to look at these applications to see if they conform” to the tax code, Baucus said, “but [there should be] no political component to it and [they should] look at all organizations equally, and apparently that’s not happened.”

The IRS admitted last week to specifically targeting conservative groups in probes to determine if they were violating their nonprofit tax status.

In his September 2010 letter to then-IRS Commissioner Doug Schulman, Baucus specifically singled out Crossroads GPS, American Action Network, and Americans for Job Security.

According to a timeline provided by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the IRS had already issued a BOLO (be on the lookout alert) targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny a month before Baucus’s letter, in August 2010. The IRS subsequently refined its search terms to single out Tea Party and other conservative groups.

Baucus will now head the Senate investigation into the IRS’s actions. He said he is waiting to see the forthcoming Inspector General’s report.

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