Internal Revenue Service (IRS) officials orchestrated a complex scheme to dump conservative and Tea Party non-profit applicants into a bureaucratic “black hole,” according to FBI documents made public Monday by a government watchdog group.
The documents describe how the IRS targeted the groups applying for tax exemptions beginning in 2010 and continuing beyond the 2012 election in a scandal that culminated in top agency official Lois Lerner’s retirement following a series of investigations.
The IRS sent applications associated with the Tea Party to “Group 7822,” a special team apparently developed specifically to snare targeted organizations’ tax exemption requests, FBI narratives of interviews called “302s” obtained by watchdog Judicial Watch show. (RELATED: IRS Names Hundreds Of Tea Party Groups Subjected To Extra Scrutiny)
“The FBI 302 interviews with Cincinnati IRS employees reveal that the agency adopted a series of policies seemingly assuring that Tea Party and other conservative group tax exempt applications would not be approved before the November 2012 presidential election,” a Judicial Watch statement said.
The scheme’s full extent was shrouded in bureaucratic complexity. The IRS normally sorts tax-exempt applications into four categories, ranging from automatically-approved to automatically-declined.
The agency issued a document that ordered officials to look for groups connected with certain names, including the Tea Party, records show. IRS policy prohibited any groups associated with that document from being automatically approved.
But the IRS took an additional step for Tea Party applicants.
“The Tea Party designation [in internal IRS warnings] looks bad, especially since progressive cases were not included in these categories,” FBI documents show. “[Redacted] asked why progressive cases were not segregated similar to the Tea Party cases, but she did not get any satisfactory answers.”
All applications linked with the Tea Party were sent to Group 7822.
“Group 7822 was composed of 12 to 15 people and was simply a place for the Tea Party cases to be held in inventory while the agent waited to receive guidance from the Washington office,” one manager, whose name was redacted, said, FBI documents show. “There had been no precedence previously on these issues. If the case said it supports politics and political activity, it would be put into Group 7822.”
Another unnamed manager added: “DC is like a black hole.”
Increasingly delayed responses from Washington caused an enormous backlog, other IRS officials told the FBI.
“[T]hese new 302 FBI interview documents reveal for the first time just how carefully orchestrated the IRS program for silencing opposition to Obama’s reelection actually was,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Group 7822 was clearly the political equivalent of purgatory.”
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