The Obama Internal Revenue Service targeted several Christian groups including a 180 year-old Baptist paper.
The Obama IRS targeted Christian groups including Franklin Graham and the 180 year-old Biblical Recorder.
The Obama IRS implemented a program to infiltrate and target conservative, evangelical Christian churches.
The Examiner reported:
On Thursday the Examiner provided an exclusive report indicating that the Obama administration had implemented a covert program beginning in 2009 that was intended to spy on conservative, evangelical Christian churches.
That program involved infiltration – sending in government operatives to join churches for the purpose of data collection. The government snoops would keep their eyes and ears open for criticism of the Obama administration, talk of Tea Party participation, conversations about gun ownership, and a number of other issues.
But a special report issued today by Fox News indicates that the program went far beyond infiltration and snooping. The IRS was used to harass Christian churches if they were identified as places where large numbers of anti-Obama citizens congregated for worship.
The Obama administration, according to the report, considered any public criticism of administration policies to be political in nature and should therefore impact whether or not these congregations were allowed to gain or keep their tax exempt status.
But pastors have long maintained that there are a myriad of areas where political and moral/spiritual issues overlap, and thus, the pastors feel obligated as the guardians of spiritual truth to speak out concerning these issues.
Abortion, for example, is both a political and a spiritual issue. Most conservative, evangelical Christians believe that Biblical principles are abundantly clear concerning the sanctity of human life. And many pastors thus feel constrained by their calling to condemn abortion as a hideous and barbaric assault on the sacredness of human life.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization, were both targeted by the Obama IRS.
An IRS supervisor who oversaw over 200 agents in the Cincinnati office admitted that she personally reviewed applications from conservative and Tea Party groups for tax-exempt status. Her statements contradict assertions by other IRS officials that “rogue” agents were solely responsible for the targeting.
The Associated Press reports that Holly Paz, “a top deputy in the division that handles applications for tax-exempt status,” told congressional investigators that she personally reviewed “20 to 30 applications.”
According to ABC affiliate WCPO, Paz worked at the Cincinnati office as a manager while the “systematic scrutiny of conservative groups” occurred but now serves as “the director of the office rulings and agreements for the IRS in Washington, D.C.”
Paz is a registered Democrat who donated $4,000 to the Obama campaign in 2008 and is currently on administrative leave, according to her lawyer.
IRS officials have insisted that “rogue” agents in the Cincinnati office were responsible for the targeting, even though workers in the office like Elizabeth Hofacre have insisted there were so many checks in place that it was virtually impossible for them to “go off the reservation.”
Paz seems to have confirmed Hofacre’s objections, telling investigators that “Tea Party” applications were forwarded to her from Cincinnati, and she then sent those applications to legal experts in D.C. She also admitted “dozens of tea party applications sat untouched for more than a year while field agents waited for guidance from Washington on how to handle them.”
Paz reportedly told investigators last month that she thought “Tea Party” was shorthand for all political groups, since the first case she reviewed in D.C. in 2010 happened to be a Tea Party case. According to USA Today, Paz told investigators that she thought “Tea Party” could refer to a liberal or conservative organization, just like “‘Coke’ is used as a generic term for soda” and people “refer to tissues as ‘Kleenex.’”
Yet Hofacre, the paper notes, “told investigators that she kicked out any progressive groups that other agents tried to put in with the Tea Party cases” and “understood the term to mean conservative or Republican groups.”
“I was tasked to do Tea Parties, and I wasn’t – I wasn’t equipped or set up to do anything else,” she reportedly told investigators. USA Today also found that IRS data showed “dozens of liberal groups received tax-exempt approval in the 27 months that Tea Party groups sat in limbo, even though the liberal groups were engaging in similar kids of activity.”
Applications of pro-Israel groups for tax-exempt status are routinely routed to an antiterrorism unit within the Internal Revenue Service for additional screening, according to the testimony of a Cincinnati-based IRS agent.
Asked whether Jewish or pro-Israel applications are treated differently from other applications, Gary Muthert told House Oversight Committee investigators that they are considered “specialty cases” and that “probably” all are sent to an IRS unit that examines groups for potential terrorist ties.
Muthert, who served as an application screener before transferring to the agency’s antiterrorism unit, was interviewed in connection with the committee’s investigation into the IRS’s discrimination against conservative groups. As a screener, Muthert flagged tea-party applications and passed them along to specialists for further scrutiny.
Asked by investigators whether “all pro-Israel applicants went to the terrorism unit,” Muthert responded, “Probably… foreign activity, pro-Israel – if it is any type of foreign activity, it will go to the antiterrorism area.” Screeners like Muthert must consult the list of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Treasury Department office that enforces economic and trade sanctions, and “the terrorist list… because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries.” In further questioning, Muthert was more categorical, saying that pro-Israel groups get “not so much additional scrutiny, just more procedures.”
“More review?” an investigator asked.
“Clearly, correct,” Muthert responded.
The IRS’s practices as described by Muthert touch on a political debate that has been raging in the United States and Israel since 2009. That’s when Washington Post columnist David Ignatius noted that opponents of Israeli settlements were fighting against tax exemption for groups that raise charitable contributions for organizations that support Israeli settlements. “Critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns,” Ignatius wrote.
On March 27, 2009, the day after Ignatius’s article appeared, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) filed a spate of administrative complaints with the Treasury Department and the IRS, alleging that pro-Israel groups raising funds for settlements in the West Bank were supporting “illegal and terrorist activities abroad.” Later that year, in October, the ADC said that it was waging an ongoing legal campaign against the IRS for what the ADC regarded as violations of the tax code by some pro-Israel groups.
The following year, in 2010, a New York Times report observed that “donations to the settler movement stand out because of the centrality of the settlement issue in the current [American-Israeli] talks and the fact that Washington has consistently refused to allow Israel to spend American government aid in the settlements.” The article quoted State Department officials complaining about the American dollars flowing to Israeli settlers. “It’s a problem,” a senior State Department official told the Times. The implication was that it may be wrong to grant tax-exempt status to groups devoted to causes that undermine administration policy. Relying on information in the Times article, the left-leaning advocacy group J Street called on the Treasury Department to investigate whether pro-Israel organizations collecting tax-deductible gifts for schools, synagogues, and recreation centers in the West Bank had broken the law by supporting certain Israeli settlements.
Throughout this debate, whether pro-Israel groups have been receiving additional scrutiny from the IRS has remained unclear. But in 2010, after the pro-Israel organization Z Street applied for tax-exempt status, the IRS sent it requests for further information. Z Street sued the IRS in October 2010, claiming it was targeted merely for being connected to Israel. According to court documents, an IRS official told the group that its application was delayed because it was assigned to a “special unit” to determine “whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”
Certainly, charities based in the United States have funneled money to Israeli charities that are controlled by terrorist groups in Israel. But those charities have not been of a pro-Israel bent. The most-high profile case is that of the Holy Land Foundation, the Texas-based charity whose employees were indicted in 2004 for using the group as a front to provide material support to Hamas.
The policy that the applications of pro-Israel groups be examined by the IRS’s antiterrorism unit was instituted “probably years ago,” according to Muthert in his testimony. That testimony leaves unclear whether the news coverage in 2009 and 2010 prompted the scrutiny to which groups like Z Street say they have been subjected, or whether every nonprofit group whose application indicates it may engage in foreign activity, regardless of the country, is put under the microscope.
According to Muthert, it’s the latter, and he denies that pro-Israel applications are treated differently from those of other groups that claim they plan to engage with foreign countries. “It has to do with money laundering and things, because a lot of organizations will create charities to funnel the money to terrorist countries,” he explained. “So it is not so much Israel. It is just foreign countries.”