News Releases

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Isakson Co-Sponsors Bills to Prevent IRS from Targeting Conservative Groups, Implement Criminal Penalties for IRS Wrongdoers

Isakson Also Joins Republican Colleagues in Sending Letter to President Obama Demanding Complete Cooperation into IRS Investigation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., this week co-sponsored two pieces of legislation in response to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) targeting conservative political groups for addition screening. Also, Isakson joined his Republican colleagues on Wednesday in sending a letter to President Obama demanding full compliance with congressional investigation requests for information on how the IRS targeted conservative groups.

“The targeting of conservative groups by the IRS completely undermines the American public’s confidence in the agency’s integrity. We need to get to the bottom of what happened at the IRS because the American people deserve answers,” said Isakson, who is a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the IRS. “I am proud to co-sponsor these bills to help ensure that this type of outrageous political discrimination never happens again.” 

Isakson co-sponsored S.941, the Taxpayer Nondiscrimination & Protection Act of 2013, a bill introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., that would add criminal penalties for IRS employees who target political organizations. Isakson also co-sponsored S.937, the Project Against Ideology-Based Targeting Act, which was introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., that would prohibit the IRS from targeting organizations based on ideology. Sen. Flake’s bill would also require the semi-annual report to Congress from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to include information about complaints of ideology-based targeting. In the letter to President Obama, Isakson and the senators outlined concerns regarding conflicting responses from the nonpartisan agency and said it is imperative the Administration work with Congress to restore public confidence. The full text of the senators’ letter is below.

The Honorable Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC


Dear Mr. President:

We are writing to express our grave concerns and deep disappointment about the revelations in a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had specifically targeted certain organizations for extra scrutiny as part of their approval review of applications for tax-exempt 501(c)(4) status.  This appears to be a wholly inappropriate action that threatens to silence political dissent and brings partisan politics into what used to be a nonpartisan, unbiased and fact-based review process.  The public’s confidence in the IRS relies on fair and apolitical application of the law. Actions such as these undermine taxpayers’ ability to trust its government to fairly implement the law.

According to information given to Congress in a timeline provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in early 2010 "specialists had been asked to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications, and the IRS Determinations Unit had begun searching its database for applications with 'Tea Party,' 'Patriots,' or '9/12' in the organization's name.”  The report goes on to state that “By June 2011, some IRS specialists were probing applications using the following criteria to identify tea-party cases, according to the Treasury inspector general findings: "'Tea Party,' 'Patriots' or '9/12 Project' is referenced in the case file; issues include government spending, government debt or taxes; education of the public by advocacy/lobbying to 'make America a better place to live'; statements in the case file criticize how the country is being run."

We are deeply disturbed that agents of the government were directed to give greater scrutiny to groups engaged in conduct questioning the actions of their government. This type of purely political scrutiny being conducted by an Executive Branch Agency is yet another completely inexcusable attempt to chill the speech of political opponents and those who would question their government, consistent with a broader pattern of intimidation by arms of your administration to silence political dissent.

These disclosures are even more unsettling as they contradict prior statements made by representatives of the Administration on this matter. In response to questions raised in 2012 on this issue by Republican Senators, Steven T. Miller, the Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement at the IRS, specifically (and falsely) stated that there was an unbiased, technical screening process used to determine which applications for 501(c)(4) organizations merited further review.  In two separate letters to Finance Committee Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, Mr. Miller failed to note that explicitly political screens were used in reviewing applications, despite the fact the practice was apparently well known within the IRS as early as 2010.[1]

Given these strong and clear statements by the Administration in 2012 that no such targeted review or specified politically motivated criteria existed, these revelations raise serious questions about the entire application review process, and the controls in place at the IRS to stop this sort of political interference once and for all. According to TIGTA these actions took place more than two years ago, yet without this information becoming public, there is no evidence that your administration would have done anything to make sure these abuses were brought to light and dealt with in a transparent way.

The American people deserve to know what actions will be taken to ensure those who made these policy decisions at the IRS are being held fully accountable and more importantly what is being done to ensure that this kind of raw partisanship is fully eliminated from these critically important non-partisan government functions. As such, we demand that your Administration comply with all requests related to Congressional inquiries without any delay, including making available all IRS employees involved in designing and implementing these prohibited political screenings, so that the public has a full accounting of these actions.  It is imperative that the Administration be fully forthcoming to ensure that we begin to restore the confidence of our fellow citizens after this blatant violation of their trust. We look forward to working on this critical issue with the Administration’s full cooperation.

Sincerely,

Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah))

Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.)
Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas)
Republican Conference Chair John Thune (S.D.)
Republican Policy Chair John Barrasso (Wyo.)
Senator Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)
Senator Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)
Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.)
Senator John Boozman (Ark.)
Senator Richard Burr (N.C.)
Senator Saxby Chambliss (Ga.)
Senator Daniel Coats (Ind.)
Senator Tom Coburn (Okla.)
Senator Thad Cochran (Miss.)
Senator Susan Collins (Maine)
Senator Bob Corker (Tenn.)
Senator Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Senator Ted Cruz (Texas)
Senator Michael Enzi (Wyo.)
Senator Deb Fischer (Neb.)
Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Senator Lindsey Graham (S.C.)
Senator Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
Senator Dean Heller (Nev.)
Senator John Hoeven (N.D.)
Senator James Inhofe (Okla.)
Senator Johnny Isakson (Ga.)
Senator Mike Johanns (Neb.)
Senator Ron Johnson (Wis.)
Senator Mark Kirk (Ill.)
Senator Mike Lee (Utah)
Senator John McCain (Ariz.)
Senator Jerry Moran (Kan.)
Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Senator Rand Paul (Ky.)
Senator Robert Portman (Ohio)
Senator James Risch (Idaho)
Senator Pat Roberts (Kan.)
Senator Marco Rubio (Fla.)
Senator Tim Scott (S.C.)
Senator Jeff Sessions (Ala.)
Senator Richard Shelby (Ala.)
Senator Patrick Toomey (Pa.)
Senator David Vitter (La.)
Senator Roger Wicker (Miss.)