Brian and Garrett Fahy

“Everything comes from the top.” This quote from an anonymous source in the IRS Determinations Unit explains why the IRS targeting of conservative groups did not likely originate with low level staffers at a remote IRS outpost. The truth is far different.

In March of 2010, the IRS offices on tax exempt entities, headed by Obama appointee Sarah Hall Ingram, began targeting conservative groups applying for tax exempt status by screening them based on impermissible criteria such as their political orientation or their names, names like “patriot” and “tea party.” The IRS denied these groups’ applications, burdened them with onerous document requests, demanded unnecessary personal information, or just ignored the applications.

The bulk of the harassment was carried out by the Orwellian sounding IRS Determinations Unit in Cincinnati, Ohio, which in January of 2012, began unlawfully screening organizational applicants according to their policy positions, instead of according to tax-exempt laws and Treasury regulations. IRS offices in other states got in on the act and slow-walked or denied applications for tax exempt status by conservative groups.

Thus, just in time for the 2012 election, the IRS’ political war against conservative groups was in full swing. The cover-up unfolded as follows.

In February of 2012, then director of the IRS Douglas Shulman testified before Congress that there was absolutely no targeting of conservative groups by the IRS. Yet only three months later, in May of 2012, the IRS finished its internal investigation into this allegedly non-existent targeting.

On June 4, 2012, Treasury’s general counsel, William J. Wilkins, learned that the Inspector General of the IRS was auditing the IRS for targeting politically conservative groups. Neal Wolin, the number two at Treasury and deputy to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, was informed of the investigation shortly thereafter.

Cindy Thomas, the program manager for the tax exempt division who leaked confidential application details on conservative groups to the liberal site Pro Publica, oversaw this abuse. Ms. Thomas has not been fired, summoned to Congress to testify, or faced criminal charges. Her time may yet come.

On May 10, 2013, Lois Lerner, head of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, acknowledged that her office had singled out conservative groups for legal and bureaucratic harassment.

Brian and Garrett Fahy

Brian and Garrett Fahy are attorneys from Los Angeles who previously worked in the White House and Senate Republican Conference, respectively. They write on national legal and political affairs. They can be reached at