It’s the IRS that’s been keeping the public in the dark about its questionable targeting of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
In a recent hearing, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said the agency is keeping that information confidential so that it can protect its own and other taxpayers from “misinformation” that could undermine the agency’s ability to do its job.
“The American people are entitled to know how we use our resources and what we do with the resources,” Koskinensays.
“So, to protect our employees and the American people, it’s important to be very, very, careful about the information we put out in the open.”
This latest revelation comes just two days after the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a scathing report detailing how the IRS and other federal agencies use taxpayer data to target conservatives for additional scrutiny.
The inspector general’s report revealed that the IRS has used the IRS data in its own targeting of conservatives to target groups with political leanings.
The report also detailed how conservative groups have been singled out for extra scrutiny because of their political leanness.
“I think the IRS should have to explain to the American taxpayer why it uses taxpayer data for targeting,” Rep. Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona, said.
“It should not be used to target a particular political ideology.
That’s just wrong.”
Despite the controversy, the IRS did not reveal the identities of the individuals it targeted for extra suspicion, or how many groups were targeted.
The agency’s top officials declined to say whether any of the conservative groups had applied for tax exemption.
The IRS declined to comment.
The IRS also refused to explain how it uses the taxpayer data.
According to the inspector general, the agency first learns about the targeting from a tip, and then uses the information to conduct a series of “targeted and targeted groups” in which it can “target, monitor, or investigate groups that are known to be engaging in, or likely engaging in” activities “that are likely to cause harm.”
The IG’s report also found that the agency used the taxpayer information to target conservative groups for additional, extra scrutiny.
In one instance, the IG says the IRS used the data to “target an organization that had been previously targeted in other contexts by TIGTA” and to target “a non-partisan non-profit organization that has a history of political activity.”
The group was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The report also showed that the watchdog agency used taxpayer information “to conduct additional targeted and targeted group investigations in which TIGA was unable to identify a specific group.”
The IRS also “engaged in a series and systematic violations of the Establishment Clause and other constitutional rights,” the report says.
According to the watchdog group, “the IRS and the IRS workforce used taxpayer data in an attempt to target political speech or activities that they deemed to be ‘inappropriate’ or ‘unlawful’ or that were likely to disrupt government operations.”
In a statement to CBS News, the Treasury Department said the inspector’s report “has the potential to further the understanding of the IRS’s use of taxpayer information in its targeting of non-profits.”
The Treasury Department declined to elaborate on why it chose not to disclose the names of the targeted groups.