Judicial Watch Wednesday announced that IRS scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond tea party organizations and included higher profile groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS, associated with former George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove.
The information was just a piece of a treasure trove of data turned over to Judicial Watch last week under a Freedom of Information Act request. The information was made public late Wednesday.
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The documents reveal, according to the organization, that the IRS used donor lists from conservative tax-exempt organizations to target donors for audits. In 2010, they say, the IRS considered cross checking donor lists against gift tax filings and commencing audits against taxpayers who failed to file. Some audits were initiated, but the IRS ultimately stopped the effort. Such audits are the subject of controversy because the Supreme Court has ruled against them as a violation of the First Amendment.
According to a Crossroads spokesman, “Crossroads GPS has never received any formal or informal correspondence from the IRS with respect to this issue. That said, this revelation is not surprising as liberal groups have long tried to use the gift tax to deter advocacy of conservative issues.”
The U.S. Chamber could not be reached for comment, but according to Judicial Watch, emails to and from Lorraine Gardner, an IRS attorney, reveal a bias against the group. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)(6) organization and may find itself under high scrutiny,” one of the these emails read. “One can only hope.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “These documents that we had to force out of the IRS proves the agency used donor lists to audit supporters of organizations engaged in First Amendment-protected lawful political speech. And, the snarky comments about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the obsession with Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS show the IRS was targeting critics of the Obama administration.”