After a political group in Texas asked the IRS for a tax exemption last year, it got a lengthy, time-consuming list of questions — like a request for the minutes of all the board meetings since the group got started. And a California-based group got turned down completely in 2011, because the IRS concluded that it was set up “primarily for the benefit of a political party.” These two stories sound like they’d fit right into the raging IRS scandal over its treatment of conservative groups that applied for tax-exempt status. The only difference: these two groups — Progress Texas and Emerge America — were unabashedly liberal. POLITICO surveyed the liberal groups from an IRS list of advocacy organizations that were approved after the tougher examinations started. The review found some examples of liberal groups facing scrutiny similar to their conservative counterparts — they were asked for copies of web pages, actions alerts, and written materials from all of their events.
But those harsh investigations were more rare than what POLITICO had found when it surveyed conservative groups at the beginning of the scandal. And the questions themselves appear less invasive, overall.
So while liberals have some reason to complain about the IRS, the disparity in treatment does help explain why the conservative piece became a runaway story while the liberal side did not.
Plus, many liberal groups just weren’t as bothered by the questions they did get.
Progress Texas was the only one that came forward during the height of the scandal, releasing its own IRS letter to prove it had been hassled, too. It even had a cover letter from Lois Lerner, the embattled IRS official at the center of the scandal.
But even then, its leaders didn’t really feel hassled.