WASHINGTON — Crossroads GPS, the behemoth conservative advocacy group behind some of the most robust attacks against President Obama’s administration, said Monday that it believes it is among the organizations subjected to special scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service.
The statement by the group comes as campaign finance reform advocates and congressional Democrats have claimed that the IRS failed to examine the activities of Crossroads and other major political players, even as agents in Cincinnati were inappropriately flagging conservative groups based on terms such as “tea party” and “patriot.”
But on Monday, a spokesman for Crossroads said the group’s experience with the IRS indicates that it was also caught in the dragnet.
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The organization, which was co-founded by GOP strategist Karl Rove, applied to be recognized as a tax-exempt social welfare group in September 2010 and still has not been approved by the IRS. Its application, which is supposed to remain confidential unless the group’s status is approved, was released by the IRS to the investigative website ProPublica in December 2012 in response to a public records request.
“From everything we know -- the criteria used by the IRS to target conservative groups, the timing, the still outstanding application after nearly three years, the leaking of the application from the Cincinnati office, and other factors -- Crossroads was one of the targeted groups,” Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio wrote in an email.
Collegio declined to comment on whether the organization had received the type of extensive questionnaires requesting donor lists and other information that went out to many of the groups that the IRS was examining for their level of political activity.
An IRS spokesman said the agency is legally barred from commenting on applicants for tax-exempt status.
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The fact that Crossroads has not been approved as a 501(c)4 social welfare group has not curtailed its activities. (Unlike charities, social welfare organizations are not required to get IRS approval to operate.)
Along with its sister "super PAC," Crossroads GPS raised at least $300 million in the 2012 election cycle, the vast majority of which went to television ads lacerating Obama and Democratic congressional candidates. The groups also played significant roles in the 2010 midterm elections.
It seems unlikely that the IRS would have been unaware of Crossroads' political activities, which have received substantial media attention. And Crossroads told the IRS on its September 2010 application that it might do independent political expenditures, a criteria the agency used to flag organizations for review to see whether they were violating IRS regulations that prohibit tax-exempt groups from making politics their primary purpose.
In all, 471 groups that sought tax-exempt status have been pulled for additional scrutiny since 2010, the agency told a House committee.
As of May 9, the IRS had approved more than 175 organizations, including dozens of tea party and “9/12” groups, according to a list it released last week. Crossroads GPS was not on the list.