[edited 2:51 to include additional links to news coverage and Lerner statement]
In my earlier posting on Orrin Hatch's disappointing 'keynote' speech at the concluding ABA Tax Section luncheon, I mentioned his concluding attack on the IRS for "targeting conservative groups."
TaxProf has provided considerable converage of the media sharkfest over the disclosure on Friday that the IRS's division responsible for overseeing the applications for tax-exempt status had used terms like "patriot" and "tea party" and "9/12" to select applications for scrutiny as to the potential for having passed the cap on political activity permitted for a social welfare organization. See, e.g., WaPo and WSJ agree: IRS targeting of conservatives is appalling, which includes a plethora of links to various Hill and national papers covering the disclosure.
The fact that the IRS searched for suitable key terms to find groups that would have the greatest potential for conducting too much political activity to qualify as a social welfare organization is not at all surprising. As Lois Lerner stated on Friday, this was done as a "shortcut" to pick applications for review, not from "political bias." It is also odd to say that including the term "patriot" would only identify conservative groups--it is quite possible that there are liberal groups using that term, since progressives do think of themselves as patriots who care deeply about our nation. Similarly, there might well be a liberal group with an "anti-tea-party" name, intended to provide a political counterpoint to right-wing tea party groups--that group would be, and appropriately should be, selected for deeper scrutiny to be sure it satisfied the requirements for a social welfare group with such a key-word search. A problem would exist, however, if there were no progressive groups --also likely to be over-involved in politicial activity--identified for deeper scrutiny: that hasn't been established, as far as I can tell from the media reports.
Sunday's TaxProf post provides Professor Schmalbeck's summary of the discussion at the tax-exempt organization committee's briefing by Lois Lerner at the ABA Tax Section's annual meeting. Here's the link: Schmalbeck on the IRS 'Targeting' of Conservative Groups.
Other links in the media today include:
Josh Hicks, Lingering questions about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, Washington Post (May 13, 2013).
Kathleen Hunter & Richard Rubin, Obama says IRS targeting of Tea Party groups 'outrageous', Bloomberg BusinessWeek (May 13, 2013).
CNN Washington Bureau, Obama: Alleged IRS political targeting 'outrageous', CNN Politics (May 13, 2013).