The Internal Revenue Service, under pressure after admitting it targeted anti-tax tea party groups for scrutiny in recent years, also had its eye on at least three Democratic-leaning organizations seeking nonprofit status.
One of those groups, Emerge America, saw its tax-exempt status denied, forcing it to disclose its donors and pay some taxes. None of the Republican groups have said their applications were rejected.
Progress Texas, another of the organizations, faced the same lines of questioning as the tea party groups from the same IRS office that issued letters to the Republican-friendly applicants. A third group, Clean Elections Texas, which supports public funding of campaigns, also received IRS inquiries.
In a news release, the tax agency said it had pooled together the politically active nonpartisan applicants — including a “minority” that were identified because of their names. “It is also important to understand that the group of centralized cases included organizations of all political views,” the IRS said.
Tax agency officials told lawmakers in a briefing this week that 471 groups received additional scrutiny, a total that indicates a crackdown on politically active nonprofit groups that extends beyond the tea party outfits.
Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill and campaign finance watchdog groups are pressing to expand congressional hearings to encompass everything the IRS is doing concerning nonprofits, including whether such groups should be allowed to spend money on political efforts at all.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, has introduced legislation with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to require all groups spending money on politics to disclose their donors.
“These problems will continue as long as there is an absence of clear and enforceable rules,” Wyden said. “In the absence of clear and enforceable rules the bureaucracy pretty much makes it up as they go along.”