WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service improperly screened applications from conservative groups that sought tax-exempt status, a senior IRS official said Friday.
IRS staffers selected for more review the applications that included the words “tea party” or “patriot,” Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations, said in a conference call with reporters.
“That’s absolutely inappropriate and not the way we should do things,” Lerner said.
The staffers also requested information the IRS does not normally ask for, including donor lists.
Lerner first disclosed the improper screening in response to a question she received at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Assn. in Washington earlier in the day. In the conference call that followed, she said that of 300 applications staffers selected for additional review, about a quarter were selected solely because of the flagged words. The rest were selected for a “broad spectrum” of reasons, Lerner said. She could not elaborate on the other groups’ purposes or politics.
Lerner was unable to give a timeline for her investigation of the screening processes, which occurred in the IRS Cincinnati office. She said that news reports prompted her to investigate.