WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2015 — Lois Lerner’s political beliefs led to tea party and conservative groups receiving disparate and unfair treatment when applying for non-profit status, according to a detailed report compiled by the Senate Finance Committee.
Because of Lerner’s bias, only one conservative political advocacy organization was granted tax exempt status over a period of more than three years:
Due to the circuitous process implemented by Lerner, only one conservative political advocacy organization was granted tax-exempt status between February 2009 and May 2012. Lerner’s bias against these applicants unquestionably led to these delays, and is particularly evident when compared to the IRS’s treatment of other applications, discussed immediately below.
As the report notes, Lerner became aware in April or May, 2010, that the IRS Exempt Organizations (EO) division had begun receiving a high number of applications from tea-party organizations. But, as the backlog of applicants increased, Lerner added “more layers of review and raised hurdles for applicants to clear.”
This “rigid and unorthodox process” meant that over the three-year period, tea party and conservative groups waited a total of 621 years for the IRS to make a decision about their applications for tax-exempt status. As the report notes, many of these applications could have been decided more quickly, but were not due to decisions by Lerner:
The unfortunate consequence of imposing this highly rigid and unorthodox process on EO Determinations was that many Tea Party applications that could have been decided in 2010 were not. Rather, those Tea Party applications unnecessarily languished for several more years, while the IRS mismanaged its way through a series of failed initiatives designed to bring the applications to decision.
In contrast, progressive or non-affiliated applicants faced a timely review process. Indeed, the IRS was willing and able to quickly approve high profile non-tea party applicants:
Although applications from the Tea Party and conservative organizations languished at the IRS, this was not the case for all groups that applied. In cases where the IRS wanted to act quickly, it did — particularly for other high-profile applications that attracted political attention.
As the Finance Committee concludes, the process by which EO approved applications for tax-exempt status was clearly based on how closely an organization aligned with Lerner’s liberal views:
The IRS’s treatment of these organizations was almost universally consistent with Lerner’s personal political views — this is, supporting Democratic candidates and opposing conservative tax-exempt organizations that engaged in political speech. Conservative organizations that sought to participate in the nation’s political discourse, such as the Tea Party, drew the strongest ire from Lerner.