WASHINGTON -- A Treasury Department inspector general says the Internal Revenue Service screened only a few progressive groups seeking tax-exempt status for possible political activity, as a clash escalated between that investigator and congressional Democrats who called his probe of the agency misleading.
In a letter to lawmakers released yesterday, J. Russell George said his investigation found "progressives" was not among the inappropriate terms IRS screeners used to decide if groups merited close scrutiny for political work.
Nonetheless, George wrote that "additional research" by his investigators found that of 298 applicants for tax-exempt status that the IRS flagged for possible political involvement between 2010 and 2012, six had "progress" or "progressive" in their names. Another 14 cases with "progress" or "progressive" in the group's name were not sidetracked for additional examination, he wrote.
Thirty percent of such groups got special attention because of possible political work, George wrote. "In comparison, our audit found that 100 percent of the tax-exempt applications with tea party, patriots or 9/12 in their names were processed" for potential political activity, he said.
That did not satisfy Democrat Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan.
The term "progressives" did appear on some lists, released earlier this week by Levin, that also included "tea party" and that IRS workers used to watch for groups that might merit tough screening. But George's letter noted that "Progressives" appeared on a different part of that list, and said that such groups were sent to different screeners than the ones who processed tea party applications.