Conservative sites tie IRS controversy to liberal group
Doug Shulman, the former IRS commissioner.
June 1st, 2013
12:49 PM ET
9 years ago

Conservative sites tie IRS controversy to liberal group

(CNN) - The controversy over IRS targeting of conservative groups took a new turn this weekend when right-leaning websites drew a connection between the agency's former head and his wife's employment at a liberal group.

The conservative website Breitbart posted that "the goal of Public Campaign is to target political groups like the conservative non-profits at issue in the IRS scandal," naming the campaign finance reform group where Doug Shulman's wife, Susan Anderson, is the senior program adviser.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

Public Campaign spokesman Adam Smith said the Breitbart description "is not at all accurate."

Shulman led the IRS during the period from 2010 to 2012 when the agency subjected non-profit application from "tea party" and "patriot" groups to increased scrutiny. Shulman said he was not personally responsible for the practice, which an agency official acknowledged shortly before an inspector general report would have disclosed it, and his successor apologized to a congressional committee for agents' "foolish mistakes."

He left the IRS in November 2012 and said at a congressional hearing earlier that year, "there is absolutely no targeting" of conservative groups for political reasons. Last month, agency officials described the practice as a method of filtering applications which poured in following the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision on campaign spending.

Conservative websites pointed late Friday to a statement Public Campaign released after news of the targeting broke.

"There are legitimate questions to be asked about political groups that are hiding behind a 501(c)4 status," Public Campaign President and CEO Nick Nyhart told ABC News. "It's unfortunate a few bad apples at the IRS will make it harder for those questions to be asked without claims of bias."

The Daily Caller said that statement "belittled the concerns of disenfranchised conservatives."

Smith, the Public Campaign spokesman, said the group's statement was an immediate reaction to the IRS and pointed CNN to a longer Nyhart statement, which welcomed congressional investigation.

The revised statement said the IRS must be non-partisan and that "there are legitimate questions to be asked about political organizations posing as social welfare groups."

On Saturday, he rebuked the conservative postings, writing, "Public Campaign and its employees have worked passionately and tirelessly for 15 years to raise the voices of everyday Americans of every political stripe in our democracy. When the controversy involving the IRS emerged recently, we condemned the selective targeting of groups based on ideological considerations. To suggest otherwise is a gross mistreatment of the facts."

Asked by CNN, Smith had no reaction to report from Anderson. Shulman was not immediately available for comment.

Filed under: IRS
soundoff (361 Responses)
  1. Bobo

    Too much government.

    June 2, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  2. reasonablebe

    interesting. so what do these same groups think about the fact that justice thomas' wife is big wig in the tea party? and that she gets major income from it????? does this not shade the integrity of the justice with an appearance of bias??? why is no one saying anything about that? he doesn't step aside/recuse himself from cases involving parties his wife is involved with or has a personal interest in....

    June 2, 2013 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  3. Wes

    "All groups, conservative, liberal or other, that appear to have a political agenda should be investigated to see that they meet the legal requirements before being giving tax exempt status."

    In all likelyhood they were. The report doesn't go into it, because Congress asked if "Tea Party" groups in particular were being targeted. The report basically just says "yeah, Tea Party was on the list, and some other groups, but we didn't bother to look into them". Congress hasn't bothered to ask who they were (likely because it wouldn't help the conservative case that they alone were being targeted?). But stats on 501c4's show larger numbers of "liberal" groups were investigated than "conservative" ones.

    At this point, this has become so much political fodder and that any semblance of caring about "facts" has basically been thrown out the window though. Heck, if the IRS hadn't done this, Congress would probably be complaining about how inefficient they are, not using obvious criteria to look at groups (and remember, Congress is the group that cut the IRS budget by a 300 million dollars while their 501c4 workload doubled that year, leading them to come up with criteria that would help them more quickly decide who to investigate). Ironically, this is the second of the Obama "scandals" that could have been avoided had Congress approved budget requests from the administration, the first being the lack of quality security in Bengazi.

    June 2, 2013 03:39 am at 3:39 am |
  4. JCFinley

    Since when do political groups get tax exempt status. All these politically motivated so-called citizens are representative of our foundling fathers who did the same, but without tax exempt status. If you want to bad mouth and spread lies as the history of our nation has done then do it on your own dime, not mine.

    June 2, 2013 04:04 am at 4:04 am |
  5. birdhouse9

    The person that stated this "I personally see nothing wrong with targeting these groups, since they are political in nature and intent, and really don't fit the description of 501(c)4 organizations. While it would be unfair if the IRS was ONLY targeting teabaggers, if they were also looking for left-wing political groups trying to hide behind 501(c)4 statues, then fair is fair, and the teabaggers can stop whining." I couldn't agree more.

    June 2, 2013 04:42 am at 4:42 am |
  6. rude

    So NOW the Gov is going to subsidize political groups by granting tax free status? ANd if they don't they are bad??? What the heck is going on here???

    June 2, 2013 05:13 am at 5:13 am |
  7. Cambridge Ray

    There are TWO kinds of Conservatives:

    • One group is busy spreading hatred

    • The other group is busy denying that the first group exists

    Don't believe me? Check by yourself: Just scroll up & down. Go to ANY Internet forum.

    June 2, 2013 05:34 am at 5:34 am |
  8. Langkard

    Breitbart is just hoping that people are too stupid too realize that Shulman was appointed to head the IRS by president Bush, not Obama. Obama appointed Shulman's successor, but only as an "acting" head of the IRS, and he didn't take office until 2012. The shenanigans at the IRS took place during the time Shulman was head of the IRS. If Shulman is so liberal why did BUSH appoint the man? Breitbart is just a tool. And the sheeple who listen to his ginned up nonsense are tools too.

    June 2, 2013 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  9. Eric Jones

    Reforming campaign finance laws would make this whole issue moot. Simply fund elections from government coffers. Those running for office would then have to focus on issues instead of attacking opponents personal lives. Campaign finance reform could solve many ills of America's democratic process that have grown from big corporate and elitist greed,

    June 2, 2013 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  10. eleanor

    The whole point of this current GOP fuss is just another phony tactic to make sure that nothing ever gets done and no real reforms happen. That is their only strategy – diversion, obstruction and obfuscation! Eventually, everybody will get sick of that, and they will be seen as the windbags they are. All groups should be given close scrutiny by the IRS to prove they deserve non-profit status. Calling themselves educational when they are really mostly political does is not acceptable no matter which party they affiliate with. It is interesting that the Tea Party complains that their political groups are being scrutinized! They are the ones screaming for no new taxes. How about supporting no new or undeserved tax breaks? The burden should be on all applicants to provide credible proof that nonprofit status is deserved and taxpayers are not ripped off. Maybe it should take several years to get approval, or at least as long as it takes this Congress to get anything done! Non profit status should be withdrawn if a high standard regarding political involvement is not adhered to. Organizations primarily teaching how to subvert democracy, limit voting rights, smearing, gerrymandering, etc. need not apply!

    June 2, 2013 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  11. Marie MD

    The rethugs are trying very hard to look for anything and everything but it's al in their poor little brain less body part they call their head/brains.
    At the same time we are NOT paying attention to what they are doing on the state level to destroy any civil and personal rights.
    In MD we have a repug from two rednecky counties slump set because he could get enough signatures to repeal gun safety passed by our legislators. I guess that the fact that even in red states citizens were 80% and 90% wanted gun safety measure just doesn't sink in. These rethugs do live in their tiny little bubble worlds of stupid and clueless.

    June 2, 2013 06:28 am at 6:28 am |
  12. freshinsight

    Can you imagine what would have happened if this story had come out last year? President Obama would have lost the election. 135 Congressional requests to Shulman that were not responded to, 157 Shulman visits to the White House ( or approximately once a week) and a wife who works at a Progressive Lobby group next door to a Soros funded group that was involved with the Citizen United decision.

    One doesn't have to be a Conservative to see the truth, only honest. THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS NOT ALL CONNECTED.

    President Obama doesn't want a Special Prosecutor who would end up in the West Wing closets, so I guess the drip drip story will be there until Congress appoints one.

    June 2, 2013 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  13. Pascal

    Despite the postings we see here, this is INEXCUASABLE. There is NO REASON for the IRS to "target" any group based on it's purported beliefs. Particularly in SECRET and with acts of intimidation. Shame on anyone who would contrive "reasoning" for it.

    Now please explain why the IRS Chief visited the White House MORE THAN ANY OTHER CABINET MEMBER. If you know Chicago politics, you know the answer.

    June 2, 2013 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  14. Bob

    When will the media be non-partisan?

    June 2, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  15. DC Johnny

    If nothing else, this scandal has proven exactly what we've known all along – that the most vocal of the liberal commenters are as dimwitted and hypocritical as their uneducated bigoted counterparts on the right.

    For some of you to "take the high road" and talk about how this treatment of right wing groups is technically legal, implying that there's nothing wrong with singling out individual groups based on political leaning, proves either your ignorance or your own bigotry.

    Some of you are the very people who criticized law enforcement in Arizona for using skin color and ethnicity as a starting point for "harassing" hispanics in checking for citizenship papers at routine stops.

    So which is it, libs? Is it vile and reprehensible to specifically target segments of the population for law enforcement based on ethnicity or political leaning, or not?

    Check and mate.

    June 2, 2013 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  16. Doug Ameigh

    Thankfully more people are seeing that what the IRS was doing was exactly what they need them to be doing. How can these Tea Party "Patriots" both claim they aren't political and that their political enemies were targeting them? Don't real patriots pay the taxes they rightfully owe anyway? Citizen's united is what opened this messy can of worms. Can the Republicans in the House please do some work for the American people? It's obvious they are just trying to get something to stick to the president, but dispute "three huge scandals" I have seen zero wrongdoing at all. Hooray for the IRS, they were trying to catch tax cheats. Hooray for the DOJ investigating leaks that both undermine national security and put hard working American Heros lives in unnecessary danger. As for Bengazi, it was a tragedy no doubt, but I hardly believe Obama or anyone other American was doing anything but the best they could. 4 Americans die in crimes daily across the world. How many died because we wasted our time in Iraq under false pretenses again?

    June 2, 2013 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  17. steven

    i just do not under stand many republicans that do not have a pot to pee in will continue to vote republican....they are constantly voting against their own it the they all think that some day they will be millionaires....well they best look around them and they will see they are dreaming....

    June 2, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  18. DC Johnny


    Citation, please.

    Thought so.


    In other words, 'how dare liberals act like us!'. This kind of stuff has been par for the course for liberal targets for decades now, and conservative groups were always perfectly happy about it since liberals were 'dangerous'. Now it happens to a handful of conservative groups and they throw a hissy fit.

    June 2, 2013 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  19. bigdicmcgee

    I wonder when the Urban dictionary will use parts of Obama's name to define not knowing ; Basically will a Berry become the new Scholtz

    June 2, 2013 07:36 am at 7:36 am |
  20. F. Lee Hall III

    Many of those groups to be scrutinized should have been. To achieve the status for which they applied they had the obligation of proving that they were associated solely for social and NOT political reasons. Both Cheney's and Rove's groups are currently in violation of this part of the law.

    June 2, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  21. Anonymous


    The law says that these organizations need to be operated "exclusively" for social welfare purposes, but critics complain that the groups are being targeted because of their conservative political character. Well, duh! Every time they complain, they underscore the reason the law says they should receive extra scrutiny. If they have a conservative political purpose,they are not being operate exclusively for social welfare purposes."

    This post demonstrates the mis-information being propagated by the left's media machine. The law does not say "exclusively", rather "primarily".

    Having a government agency like the IRS take a prominent role in regulating free speech is a problem, especially when the speech they regulate and suppress is a voice to reduce that same agency.

    June 2, 2013 07:38 am at 7:38 am |
  22. Shaun

    So i don't get what the scandal is all about. You have a agency that is suppose to keep groups with political activity and leaning from getting tax exempt status, the IRS. You have groups trying to get tax exempt status that clearly has political names that may indicate political activity, Tea party. The IRS decides that those groups with those names are in some way declaring them self to be political and should be investigated closer. To me this is like telling the FBI that they can't investigate a group that calls them "Churches for the destruction of America" or "Muslim united to kill the American infidels". There names indicated there purpose and that purpose was against the rules!!

    June 2, 2013 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  23. mique

    Please, give it a rest. What about good paying jibs with benefits? Healthcare? Infrastructure? Financial crooks? Overbloated military budgets? Fracking and other environmental issues? Domestic violence? Child abuse? Millions of mentally unstable people with guns? These things are issues. Not what somebody's wife said.

    June 2, 2013 07:52 am at 7:52 am |
  24. Mark

    Let's also take a look at Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife's position as a major player in the insurance industry I believe. No influence there when he ruled on the Affordable Health Care Act. Spare me the self righteous indignation. Washington is nothing but a cesspool of insider influence. BY BOTH PARTIES.

    June 2, 2013 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
  25. John

    And the fact that supreme court justice Thomas's wife is a member of the conservative think tank "the heritage foundation" must've slipped right by them.

    June 2, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
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