Dems: Watchdog report confirms IRS scrutiny wasn't politically motivated

Dems: Watchdog report confirms IRS scrutiny wasn't politically motivated
© Moriah Ratner

Top Democratic lawmakers on Thursday praised a watchdog's report on the IRS's scrutiny of applications for tax-exempt status, saying the report confirms that the agency did not target groups for political reasons.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration's report, made public Thursday, found that the IRS had subjected progressive groups' applications for tax-exempt status to heightened scrutiny in addition to conservative groups. 

“Republicans claimed from the beginning that the Obama White House directed the IRS to target conservative groups for political reasons, but there was never any evidence to support their claims," Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.

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"After Republicans spent years investigating this issue and squandering millions of taxpayer dollars, today’s report confirms what we knew years ago—that progressive groups were also selected for heightened scrutiny and that the tax-exempt status of some progressive groups was severely delayed as a result,” the statement continued.

A 2013 inspector general report on the extra scrutiny of conservative groups triggered multiple congressional investigations and the resignation and retirement of several IRS officials. Republicans also pushed to impeach the current IRS commissioner, John Koskinen, arguing that he impeded investigations into the targeting scandal. Koskinen took office several months after the 2013 report came out.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenLobbying World Overnight Regulation: House to vote on repealing joint-employer rule | EPA won't say which areas don't meet Obama smog rule | Lawmakers urge regulators to reject Perry plan New tax plan will hinder care for older Americans MORE (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said he hopes in light of the new inspector general report that "Republicans will finally put an end to this witch hunt and admit that their attacks on the IRS were nothing but political grandstanding on behalf of special interests at the expense of American taxpayers.”

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), who was the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee in 2013, said that the IRS's scrutiny of nonprofits "was a case, as I said in the beginning, of gross mismanagement at the IRS, not political targeting."

"But that’s not the political narrative the Republicans wanted, so they selectively ignored important facts to skew their ‘investigation,’” he added.