The Treasury department official charged with overseeing the Internal Revenue Service has informed Congress that he will expand his probe of the agency's treatment of political groups applying for tax-exempt status to see whether liberal organizations were subjected to additional scrutiny in the same way as conservative ones, reports.
Russell George, the , said there was new evidence suggesting that the IRS used liberal- as well as conservative-sounding key words to flag certain applications for extra scrutiny. Criticized by Democrats in Congress for highlighting only the treatment of conservative groups in his May 14 report, George — a Republican appointed by former President George W. Bush — said his initial audit focused on applications from Tea Party-like organizations because the IRS steered his office in that direction via documents it provided. He did not receive information that liberal groups also were likely targeted until July 9, George said at a congressional hearing last week.
George's initial report helped fuel a controversy that has roiled the IRS since mid-May, prompting FBI and congressional probes as well as the firing of the agency's acting commissioner. Republican lawmakers such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) have claimed the agency's review of applications from conservative groups, which took place at its Cincinnati branch office, was directed from Washington for political reasons. "This was the targeting of the president's political enemies," Issa, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said in May.
Ahead of the congressional hearing last week, Democrats released a 36-page containing excerpts of interviews with fifteen IRS employees which, they said, showed no political motivation or White House involvement in the agency's actions. According to other documents released by Democrats, the words "progressive" and "Occupy" also were used as key words to search through and flag applications. "They went after progressives as well as conservatives," said Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA).