U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, obviously is looking forward to the congressional hearing Friday on the brewing Internal Revenue Service scandal, as he continued his verbal offensive on the agency in the wake of revelations it had targeted conservative organizations for special attention.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-FL, today slammed IRS officials for continuing to plead ignorance to political targeting, calling their excuses “offensive and insulting to the American people.”
“The IRS is arrogantly defending the indefensible…plain and simple,” said Buchanan, Florida’s only member of the Ways & Means Committee which oversees the IRS. “Their excuses do not pass the smell test. Five days later and not a single IRS official has been fired for this blatant betrayal of the public trust.”
Joseph Grant, the acting commissioner for the tax exempt division of the IRS, defended the agency’s gross abuse of power, saying they “acted out of a desire for efficiency and not out of any political or partisan viewpoint.” However, the Inspector General’s report clearly reveals that every application with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12" in its name was flagged for a special review.
The USA TODAY reports that over a 27-month span not one Tea Party/conservative group was approved for tax-exempt status at the same time dozens of liberal and progressive groups were approved. These groups included:
- Progress Florida, granted tax-exempt status in January 2011, is lobbying the Florida Legislature to expand Medicaid under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, one of President Obama's signature accomplishments. The group did not return phone calls. "We're busy fighting to build a more progressive Florida and cannot take your call right now," the group's voice mail said.
- Bus for Progress, a New Jersey non-profit that uses a red, white and blue bus to "drive the progressive change." According to its website, its mission includes "support (for) progressive politicians with the courage to serve the people's interests and make tough choices." It got an IRS approval as a social welfare group in April 2011.
- Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment says it fights against corporate welfare and for increasing the minimum wage. "It would be fair to say we're on the progressive end of the spectrum," said executive director Jeff Ordower. He said the group got tax-exempt status in September 2011 in just nine months after "a pretty simple, straightforward process."
On Tuesday, Buchanan called for the immediate firing of Lois Lerner, the senior IRS official who oversaw the intentional targeting of individuals because of their politics and criticism of the government. Despite her recent claims of ignorance, POLITICO has revealed that Ms. Lerner sent a March 2012 letter to the Ohio-based American Patriots Against Government Excess demanding additional information.
The Ways & Means Committee will hold its first hearing on Friday to further investigate the matter.