Friday, October 31st, 2014

Were two-thirds of groups targeted by IRS not conservative?

Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel is sworn in before testifying on Capitol Hill on June 6, 2013. Werfel is picking up the reins after a high-profile controversy over IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.
Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel is sworn in before testifying on Capitol Hill on June 6, 2013. Werfel is picking up the reins after a high-profile controversy over IRS targeting of conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

Amid fallout from the IRS’ admission that it improperly targeted conservative groups, the liberal group Progress Texas suggested that the tax agency’s net was cast wider.

The group tweeted on May 31, 2013, that "2/3 of groups scrutinized were not conservatives." It also posted an equivalent claim on its website.

Is that correct?

PolitiFact Texas asked the group how it concluded that most of the groups were not conservative. Political director Phillip Martin said the statement was based on a May 12, 2013, Washington Post news story about a leaked report from the U.S. Treasury inspector general that the government released two days later.

The Post story said that according to the report, "Of the 298 groups selected for special scrutiny ... 72 had ‘tea party’ in their title, 13 had ‘patriot’ and 11 had ‘9/12.’ " That equaled 96 groups, Martin said, or 32.2 percent of the declared 298.

But were the other 202 groups not conservative? As it turns out, neither the report nor the story described those groups.  And in U.S. House hearings on May 17 and May 22, lawmakers questioned acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller and the Treasury’s inspector general, J. Russell George, about the 202 unlabeled groups.

George said his report did not break out the political makeup of the 202 groups because it looked only at the names of the organizations: "Certain names were so generic that we were unable to determine whether or not they had a particular point of view."

Lacking any support, the group’s claim earned the rating Pants on Fire!