Congrats, fellow paranoiacs -- you were right. The AP reports:
The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status, a top IRS official said Friday. Organizations were singled out because they included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said.
"That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review," Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association. "The IRS would like to apologize for that," she added. Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. After her talk, she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. Agency officials found out about the practice last year and moved to correct it, the IRS said in a statement. The statement did not specify when officials found out.
Let me see if I'm understanding this correctly. We're told that (a) "low level" IRS workers in Cincinnati established the practice of deliberately flagging "tea party" and "patriot" groups for further scrutiny, (b) this was somehow not "motivated by political bias," and (c) zero IRS higher-ups were aware that this was going on. What a tale. Did this become a national policy, or was it limited to southwest Ohio? The story linked above says that 75 different conservative groups were affected by this supposedly "grassroots" IRS procedure. Also, if the IRS brass discovered the malfeasance last year (coincidentally, an election year), why is the public just finding out about it now? And how can they make the "no political bias" claim with a straight face when it appears that only groups on the Right were ensnared by this? In any case, heads will have to roll over this, right? Wrong:
IRS on conf call saying no disciplinary action against employees who targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny.— Karen Tumulty(@ktumulty) May 10, 2013
I'll leave you with three flashbacks: (1) President Obama jokes about auditing political adversaries in 2009, via Glenn Reynolds. (2) Tea Party groups complain about IRS harassment in 2012. (3) The New York Timeswaves away those concerns as not credible and applauds the IRS for "doing its job." Ahem.
UPDATE - So this actually happened on today's IRS conference call:
The senior IRS official briefing the press just said: "I'm not good at math."— Zachary A. Goldfarb (@Goldfarb) May 10, 2013
UPDATE II - An IRS spokesperson is now clarifying that disciplinary action may be taken after all. Sen. Mitch McConnell is demanding a full, government-wide investigation:
“Today’s acknowledgement by the Obama administration that the IRS did in fact target conservative groups in the heat of last year’s national election is not enough. Today, I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views. Last year, amid reports that the Obama administration was using the levers of executive power to harass conservative political groups in Kentucky and elsewhere, I issued a very public warning to the administration that the targeting of private citizens on the basis of their political views would not be tolerated. Today’s apology by the IRS is proof that those concerns were well founded. But make no mistake, an apology won’t put this issue to rest. Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS. This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.”
UPDATE III - On May 5, President Obama urged Ohio State graduates to reject "cynical" voices who warn about government abuses and "tyranny." On May 10, the Internal Revenue Service admitted abusing its power to hurt organizations of a particular political bent during a contested election year. And how's this for an apology line? "Mistakes were made."