This week a bipartisan congressional committee released its report on a two year investigation of the Internal Revenue Service. According to the Associated Press, the Senate Finance Committee report said management flaws at the IRS contributed to a “dysfunctional culture” that allowed agents to mistreat conservative political groups when they applied for tax-exempt status.
U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, expressed his outrage at the “unconstitutional targeting of American citizens.”
“We have proof that the IRS was and is complicit in successful efforts to deny free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment,” he stated.
Democrats on the committee said that liberal groups were mistreated, too. Indeed, the report said that the IRS didn’t perform any audits of groups that might have been engaging in improper political activity from 2010 through April 2014. Many high-profile tax-exempt groups were spending large sums of money on political activities, but managers were worried that selecting any of these groups for audits would give the impression that they were chosen because of their “political leanings.”
Both sides agree that Mistakes Were Made. Everyone seems willing to lay the blame on former IRS official Lois Lerner, who has retired.
The good news is that the Finance Committee has issued a series of recommendations to improve IRS management procedures. Roberts promised, “We will introduce further legislation to make sure we live in an open and free society where First Amendment rights are protected.”
Of course money can be used to influence elections. Whether it’s the Koch brothers or Tom Steyer, Michael Bloomberg or Richard Murdoch, Citizens United or the Independence USA PAC – political contributions help determine who is heard and whose voices are drowned out. The IRS must remain nonpartisan, favoring neither the left nor the right.