Documents: IRS Also Targeted Liberal Groups

Remember when it emerged that the IRS was subjecting conservative “Tea Party” groups to unusually strict scrutiny, prompting Republicans around the country to scream that the Obama White House was abusing government powers in order to keep oppostition off-balance and criminalize dissent?

Never mind.

The instructions that Internal Revenue Service officials used to look for applicants seeking tax-exempt status with “Tea Party” and “Patriots” in their titles also included groups whose names included the words “Progressive” and “Occupy,” according to I.R.S. documents released Monday.

The documents appeared to back up contentions by I.R.S. officials and some Democrats that the agency did not intend to single out conservative groups for special scrutiny. Instead, the documents say, officials were trying to use “key word” shortcuts to find overtly political organizations — both liberal and conservative — that were after tax favors by saying they were social welfare organizations.

Taken together, the documents seem to change the terms of a scandal that exploded over accusations that the I.R.S. had tried to stifle a nascent conservative political movement. Instead, the dispute now revolves around questionable sorting tactics used by I.R.S. application screeners.

So the IRS sucks. It’s just not nakedly evil.