[Update: September 25] Censored! IRS Scandal Being Buried by Big Three Networks

The Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks have colluded with the Obama administration to censor the latest IRS scandal news. The latest: On September 17 the Washington Times reported the following: “IRS employees were ‘acutely’ aware in 2010 that President Obama wanted to crack down on conservative organizations and were egged into targeting tea party groups by press reports mocking the emerging movement, according to an interim report being circulated Tuesday by House investigators.”

The report, by staffers for Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, quoted two Internal Revenue Service officials saying the tea party applications were singled out in the targeting program that has the agency under investigation because ‘they were likely to attract media attention.’”

The article by Stephen Dinan also noted: “The report says the IRS was at least taking cues from political leaders and designed special policies to review tea party applications, including dispatching some of them to Washington to be vetted by headquarters. ‘As prominent politicians publicly urged the IRS to take action on tax-exempt groups engaged in legal campaign intervention activities, the IRS treated tea party applications differently,’ the staff report concludes. ‘Applications filed by tea party groups were identified and grouped due to media attention surrounding the existence of the tea party in general.’”

Dinan continued: “In one of the key findings, investigators said negative press coverage of the tea party was one reason why the IRS gave the groups special scrutiny. ‘It was my understanding that the reason they were identified is because they were likely to attract media attention,’ Steven Grodnitzky, one of the employees in the exempt organizations division, told investigators. Another supervisory employee in Washington, Ronald Shoemaker, also said press attention helped shape IRS policies, telling investigators that media attention to those cases ‘was the basis’ for designating them as significant cases requiring special examination.

Number of days with NO network story: 8

 

Last Time Any Aspect of the IRS Scandals Was Mentioned on Big Three Morning and Evening Shows:

ABC - June 26 (91 days)

CBS - July 24 (62 days)

NBC - June 27 (90 days)

The following is a list of key developments in the IRS scandal and how many days it has been since they were discussed, if at all, by the Big Three on their morning and evening news shows:

Latest story counts as of Wednesday morning September 25:

 

Lois Lerner Retires From IRS, Big Three Networks Censor

 

On September 23 the Washington Times reported the following: “Lois G. Lerner, the woman at the center of the IRS tea party targeting scandal, retired from the agency Monday morning after an internal investigation found she was guilty of ‘neglect of duties’ and was going to call for her ouster, according to congressional staff.”

Her departure marks the first person to pay a significant price in the scandal, though Republicans were quick to say her decision doesn’t put the matter to rest, and pointed out that she can still be called before Congress to testify.”

Number of days with NO network story: 2 

 

IRS Still Tracked Groups, After They Were Approved


On September 19 USA Today reported the following: “Even after the IRS approved political advocacy groups for tax-exempt status, auditors in Dallas tracked those groups ‘for potential future action,’ the acting IRS commissioner said Wednesday. Daniel Werfel’s comments to a congressional subcommittee were the first acknowledgement that IRS auditors in a separate unit in another city were also involved in scrutinizing political groups. The Dallas unit tracked groups that were referred by the IRS office in Cincinnati that reviews tax-exemption applications.”

The article by Gregory Korte went on to report: “Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who chairs an oversight subcommittee investigating the tax agency, said the involvement of auditors in Dallas represents ‘a new branch of the investigation.’ Specifically, Boustany said he wants to know whether former Exempt Organizations Director Lois Lerner used agents in the examinations office in Dallas to ‘target right-leaning groups’ even after their applications were approved. ‘If you take Cincinnati and Dallas, it triangulates back up to Lois Lerner,’ Boustany said after the hearing.”

Boustany said documents obtained by the committee show 46 groups granted tax exemptions in mid-2012 ‘were flagged for IRS surveillance by Washington, D.C.’ Of those, 38 were right-leaning groups, and seven were left-leaning.”

Number of days with NO network story: 6

 

IRS Demanded Donor Lists from Conservative Groups, Might Make Them Public


On September 17 Paul Bedard of the Washington Examiner reported the following:
“An ongoing House Ways and Means Committee probe of the IRS scandal has uncovered proof that the agency demanded donor lists almost exclusively from conservative groups and could make them public despite promises to destroy the sensitive tallies of contributors.”

Committee officials told Secrets that of the 27 groups forced to cough up donor lists, 24 were conservative, nearly double the number suggested previously by IRS management. At a recent committee hearing, former acting Internal Revenue Service boss Steven Miller said that a majority of the requests were to non-Tea Party groups.”

Bedard went on to report: “Previously, Democrats have suggested that progressive groups were targeted in similar numbers. The IRS had pledged to the committee to destroy the donor lists, which were improperly requested. If kept in the files, they become public. However, the committee told Secrets that in the 300,000 pages its reviewed so far, donor lists remain in some of the case files of the groups. ‘That will become part of the public record,’ said a committee official.”

Number of days with NO network story: 8

 

IRS Documents Reveal Agency Flagged Groups for ‘Anti-Obama Rhetoric,’ Big Three Refuse to Report


On September 18 the USA Today, in a front page story, reported the following: “Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about ‘anti-Obama rhetoric,’ inflammatory language and ‘emotional’ statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.”

The internal 2011 documents, obtained by USA TODAY, list 162 groups by name, with comments by Internal Revenue Service lawyers in Washington raising issues about their political, lobbying and advocacy activities. In 21 cases, those activities were characterized as ‘propaganda.’ The list provides the most specific public accounting to date of which groups were targeted for extra scrutiny and why. The IRS has not publicly identified the groups, repeatedly citing a provision of the tax code prohibiting it from releasing tax return information.”

The article by Gregory Korte went on to report: “The American Center for Law and Justice, a nonprofit legal institute that represents 33 of the groups appearing on the IRS list, said it appears to be ‘the most powerful evidence yet of a coordinated effort’ by the IRS to target Tea Party groups. ‘The political motivations of this are so patently obvious, but then to have a document that spells it out like this is very damaging to the IRS,’ said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the ACLJ. ‘I hope the FBI has seen these documents.’” 

Number of days with NO network story: 7

 

Lerner’s Official IRS Scandal Storyline Undercut by Newly Released E-Mails

 

On September 11 the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, in an article headlined “Lois Lerner’s Own Words,” reported the following: “In a February 2011 email, Ms. Lerner advised her staff—including then Exempt Organizations Technical Manager Michael Seto and then Rulings and Agreements director Holly Paz—that a Tea Party matter is ‘very dangerous,’ and is something ‘Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on.’ Ms. Lerner adds, ‘Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.’

That’s a different tune than the IRS sang in May when former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller said the agency’s overzealous enforcement was the work of two ‘rogue’ employees in Cincinnati. When the story broke, Ms. Lerner suggested that her office had been unaware of the pattern of targeting until she read about it in the newspaper. ‘So it was pretty much we started seeing information in the press that raised questions for us, and we went back and took a look,’ she said in May.”

The WSJ Review & Outlook piece went on to note: “Earlier this summer, IRS lawyer Carter Hull, who oversaw the review of many Tea Party cases and questionnaires, testified that his oversight began in April 2010. Tea party cases under review are ‘being supervised by Chip Hull at each step,’ Ms. Paz wrote to Ms. Lerner in a February 2011 email. ‘He reviews info from TPs, correspondence to TPs etc. No decisions are going out of Cincy until we go all the way through the process with the c3 and c4 cases here.’ TP stands for Tea Party, and she means 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit groups.” 

Number of days with NO network story: 14

 

E-Mails Show Lerner was Preparing for Over a Year for IRS Scandal to Be Exposed: ‘We’re Going to Get Creamed’

 

On the September 4 edition of Erin Burnett OutFront, CNN’s Drew Griffin reported the following: “CNN has learned the IRS had been preparing for that bomb to drop for more than a year. E-mails obtained by CNN show IRS lawyers, the commissioner and Lois Lerner herself were meeting to discuss how to respond when Congress found out with increasing sense of panic way back on March 2nd of 2012. Lerner writes, ‘we are going to get creamed.’”

Griffin also interviewed a former colleague of Lerner’s who said she had a built-in bias:

GRIFFIN: One year later, the IRS inspector general report found ineffective management led to the IRS using inappropriate criteria to target conservatives, but was it political or just a series of blunders? Those who know and work with Lerner are divided. Craig Engle says he began to see a bias from Lois Lerner when they worked together at the Federal Election Commission.

CRAIG ENGLE, ATTORNEY: What I saw was a bias against money in politics of the IRS.

GRIFFIN: Engle, a Republican Washington attorney says although he thinks Lerner is an honest woman, her bias had a partisan result.

ENGLE: Lois' opinion and that of her staff was that if you had a lot of money and you were spending it in politics, you needed to be looked into.

Number of days with NO network story: 21

 

Tea Party Group Benefits from IRS Backlash, But is Still Getting Harassed

 

On August 28 The Wall Street Journal, in an article headlined “Anger at IRS Powers Tea-Party Comeback,” reported that “After a tough 2012 election season, the tea-party movement is on the rebound. Mrs. [Jenny Beth] Martin, head of the Tea Party Patriots, is riding a revival of interest sparked by controversy over the IRS's much-publicized targeting of conservative groups. She says the Patriots, the tea party's largest umbrella group, suffered because of the IRS's refusal to grant it tax-exempt status but now is benefiting from the backlash. Her group's monthly donations, she says, have tripled recently, and its staff has doubled.”  

The article by the WSJ’s Monica Langley went on to report that Martin’s group is still being targeted by the IRS: “Just last week, Mrs. Martin says, the Patriots received a new letter from the IRS asking for additional information about the group’s activities, including copies of all direct-mail solicitations and telemarketing scripts before the 2012 election and any advertising materials in 2013. ‘This is beyond anger and frustration,’ she says.”  

          Number of days with NO network story: 28

 

Nonprofit News Organization Sues IRS for Training Documents


On August 15 The Hill reported that a nonprofit news organization called Tax Analysts filed suit to get the IRS to release documents it used to train its employees. The Hill’s Bernie Becker reported: “Tax Analysts says that the IRS has dragged its feet in handing over training materials on the process for approving exempt organizations — procedures at the heart of the investigation into the agency’s singling out of conservative groups. In a release, Tax Analysts said that its decision to sue in federal court on Tuesday wasn’t an easy one, but that the public had a right to know more about how the IRS weighs tax-exempt applications.” 

Number of days with NO network story: 41

 

House Investigators: Lois Lerner Used Personal E-Mail to Conduct Official IRS Business


On August 13 The National Review reported that IRS official Lois Lerner “sent official documents from her government e-mail address to a personal account, according to House Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and his colleague, Ohio congressman Jim Jordan.”

NR’s Eliana Johnson wrote that the GOP lawmakers sent a letter to Lerner demanding the non-official documents. In the letter Issa and Jordan told Lerner that “the lack of access to this information prevents the Committee from fully assessing your actions.”

Johnson also noted that “use of personal e-mail accounts to conduct government work also has the potential to imped federal-records requests by the public because personal accounts are not archived by the government.”

Number of days with NO network story: 43

 

IRS Employee Who Approved Illegal Release of Conservative Group Applications Gets a Promotion

 

On August 9 The National Review reported that Cindy Thomas, “a 35-year IRS veteran who ran the Exempt Organizations office in Cincinnati throughout the 2-year period that conservative groups were targeted” and “signed off on the illegal release to the left-leaning ProPublica, of nine pending, confidential applications for tax exemption filed by conservative groups,” was being promoted.

NR’s Eliana Johnson reported that Thomas was filling the vacancy made by Sharon Light. Light was an adviser to Lois Lerner and is the sixth senior IRS official to depart in the wake of the IRS scandal.

Number of days with NO network story: 47

 

IRS Agent: Tea Party Groups Still Under Attack

 

On August 8 the Washington Examiner’s Paul Bedard reported “a remarkable admission that is likely to rock the Internal Revenue Service again...an agent involved in reviewing tax exempt applications from conservative groups told a [House] committee investigator that the agency is still targeting Tea Party groups, three months after the IRS scandal erupted.”

Bedard went on to report: “In closed door testimony before the House Ways & Means Committee, the unidentified IRS agent said requests for special tax status from Tea Party groups is being forced into a special "secondary screening" because the agency has yet to come up with new guidance on how to judge the tax status of the groups.” 

Number of days with NO network story: 48

 

Issa Demands FEC Turn Over Communications With IRS


On August 7, as reported by CNN.com, “Darrell Issa demanded Wednesday that the Federal Election Commission turn over records of more than five years of communications with the Internal Revenue Service -- a move that significantly expands the California Republican's ongoing probe of alleged federal targeting of conservative groups.”

In the article written by CNN’s Dana Bash and Alan Silverleib, it was reported that the House Oversight Committee Chairman “asked for records of all communications between the IRS and the FEC dating back to the start of 2008. He also requested records of any FEC discussions relating to tax-exempt applications or organizations since 2008.”

Number of days with NO network story: 49

 

FEC Vice Chairman: Undisclosed E-Mails Raise New Questions About FEC-IRS Collusion


On August 6, as reported on CNN.com, the vice chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Don McGhan, revealed “he has seen numerous undisclosed e-mails between FEC staffers and the Internal Revenue Service that raise new questions about potential collusion between the two federal agencies in the alleged targeting of conservative political groups.”

Number of days with NO network story: 50

 

Pro-Life Groups Being Harassed by IRS, Big Three Networks Fail to Report

 

Turns out it’s not just Tea Party groups that were targeted by the IRS. Pro-Life groups are also being harassed. On August 2 The National Review’s Katrina Trinko reported:  “Months after the inspector general’s report in May that revealed the IRS had specifically targeted tea-party groups applying for tax-exempt status as charitable organizations, the IRS continued to stall pro-life groups’ applications for tax-exempt status, according to the Thomas More Society (TMS).”

Trinko continued: “In a memo released yesterday, TMS, a nonprofit law firm focused on pro-life and religious-liberty causes, detailed the obstacles that three different pro-life groups faced in their attempts to be recognized as charitable institutions. Two of the organizations, Cherish Life Ministries and LIFE Runners, have finally been granted tax-exempt status (although it took until late July for the latter to receive it), while a third, Emerald Coast Coalition for Life, is still waiting. Both Cherish Life and LIFE endured an unusually lengthy application process: It took them 16 and 14 months respectively to receive 501(c)(3) status (which is for tax-exempt charities). According to TMS, the IRS approves most groups within nine months.”    

Number of days with NO network story: 54

 

Darrell Issa Accuses IRS Chief of Obstructing Scandal Investigation

 

On August 2, as reported by FoxNews.com, Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused acting IRS chief Danny Werfel of obstructing that committee’s investigation into the IRS scandal.

According to the FoxNews.com story, “Issa claimed the IRS has been slow to produce documents, and that the documents it does produce are so thoroughly blacked out, they are useless to investigators.”

Issa also issued a subpoena to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to, according to Fox News, “force the department to hand over a series of documents pertaining to the program in which IRS agents subjected Tea Party and other conservative groups to additional scrutiny as they applied for tax-exempt status.”

Number of days with NO network story: 54

 

House Committee Analysis: Only 46 Percent of Conservative Groups Approved by IRS

 

On July 30, as reported by even the liberal NPR, House Republicans offered proof that while 100 percent of groups with “progressive” in their name had their tax exempt status approved by the IRS, “only 46 percent of conservative groups won approval.”

The analysis put out by the House Ways and Means Committee also found “conservative groups were asked more questions - on average, three times more” than liberal organizations.

Number of days with NO network story: 58

 

Newly Released E-Mails Suggest IRS Colluded with FEC to Target Conservative Groups

 

On July 31 The National Review reported the stunning news that yet another government agency (the FEC) may have been utilized by the Obama administration to target conservative groups. NR’s Eliana Johnson reported the following:

“Embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner and an attorney in the Federal Election Commission’s general counsel’s office appear to have twice colluded to influence the record before the FEC’s vote in the case of a conservative non-profit organization, according to e-mails unearthed by the House Ways and Means Committee.”

Johnson continued: “The correspondence suggests the discrimination of conservative groups extended beyond the IRS and into the FEC, where an attorney from the agency’s enforcement division in at least one case sought and received tax information about the status of a conservative group, the American Future Fund, before recommending that the commission prosecute it for violations of campaign-finance law.”

Number of days with NO network story: 56

 

House Oversight Committee Requests Investigation Into Conservative Groups Being Unfairly Audited


On July 29 the Washington Post reported that “Two top Republicans from the House oversight committee have asked for an investigation into whether the embattled Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups, this time after the organizations were already approved for tax-exempt status.”

In a letter sent to Treasury Department Inspector General Russell George, Committee Chairman Darrell Issa and Representative Jim Jordan stated: “We are troubled by evidence that the IRS may have conducted unnecessary audits and systematic post hoc reviews of entire groups of applicants as well as certain groups that have long possessed tax-exempt status.”

On the July 29 edition of FNC’s “On the Record” Abigail Alger of The Leadership Institute and Michelle Easton from The Claire Boothe Luce Policy Institute came on to discuss their concerns, with host Greta Van Susteren, that they were unfairly audited by the IRS.

Number of days with NO network story: 58

 

IRS Employees Ordered to Send Tea Party Applications to Office of Obama Political Appointee

 

On July 17, as reported by CNSNews.com, a letter released by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reported that IRS employees were ordered to send Tea Party tax-exemption applications to the office of the IRS’s Chief Counsel, which was headed by William Wilkins, who at that time was the only Obama political appointee at the IRS. In 2008 Wilkins led the defense team of Obama pastor Reverend Jeremiah Wright when his church’s tax-exempt status was being investigated.

It took over a week but CBS did finally run a story on the IRS Chief Counsel development on the July 24 Evening News. ABC and NBC have yet to touch the story.

Number of days with NO story on ABC or NBC: 70

 

IRS Chief Counsel Meets with Obama Just Days Before New Screening Rules Implemented

 

On July 24 FoxNews.com reported that Obama political appointee and head of the office of the IRS's Chief Counsel William Wilkins “may have met with President Obama just days before his office put out new guidance on how the agency screens conservative groups.”

Number of days with NO network story: 63

 

Justice Department Refuses to Investigate Government Employees Improperly Accessing Tax Records of Candidates and Donors

 

On July 15, as reported by the Washington Times, tax records of political candidates (The Times later reported on July 17 one of the candidates included one-time GOP Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell) and certain donors were improperly accessed by government officials, and that the Justice Department has, so far, refused to prosecute the offenders.

Number of days with NO network story: 72

 

Records on Tax Investigation of Republican Senate Candidate Mysteriously Destroyed

 

On July 23, as reported by the Washington Times, “Delaware state officials told Congress that they likely destroyed the computer records that would show when and how often they accessed Christine O'Donnell’s personal tax records and acknowledged that a newspaper article was used as the sole justification for snooping into the former GOP Senate candidate’s tax history.”

Number of days with NO network story: 64

 

Businessman With Insider Ties Awarded $500 Million in IRS Contracts

 

On June 25, as reported by Politico.com, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee revealed that $500 million of IRS contracts had been awarded to Strong Castle Inc., because its president Braulio Castillo had a “cozy relationship” with a top agency official.

CBS’s Nancy Cordes, on the June 25 Evening News, first reported on the Castillo story and noted that he filed for a disability rating with the Veterans Administration, citing a foot injury he received while playing sports at a military prep school. It was this point that caused a confrontation between Castillo and Iraq war veteran and Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth at a June 26 hearing. The showdown spurred NBC to cover the story as well. But not even the anger from a prominent Democrat could get ABC to report on the Castillo scandal.

In total the Big Three ran a total of six stories on the Castillo scandal. CBS ran five stories on Castillo, while NBC aired just one full story on the Castillo/Duckworth confrontation on the June 27 Today show. NBC’s Lisa Myers made a brief mention of Castillo as part of June 26 Today show story that dealt with other IRS scandals.

The last Castillo stories were on the June 27 editions of NBC’s Today show and CBS This Morning.

Number of days since LAST network story: 90

 

Despite Sequester, IRS Still Plans to Give Out $70 Million in Employee Bonuses

 

On June 19, as reported by The Hill, Republican Senator Chuck Grassley slams the IRS for its plan to dole out $70 million in employee bonuses in spite of sequester agreement. CBS was the only network to report on the bonuses offering just two briefs on the June 20 edition of This Morning

Number of days since LAST network story: 97


 

More on the Media's Censorship of Obama's IRS Scandal:

186 Conservative and Tea Party Leaders Join Bozell, Limbaugh to Demand Media Stop Censoring IRS Scandal (July 29, 2013)

Stephanopoulos and Crowley Skip IRS Scandal with Lew, Gregory Cues Up Talking Points; Only Wallace Pursues (July 28, 2013)

Rush Limbaugh, NB Publisher Bozell Slam Corrupt Liberal Media's Censorship of IRS Scandal (July 25, 2013)

In Three Days, Network Morning Shows Devote More Airtime to Royal Baby Than All of IRS Scandal (July 24, 2013)

Bozell Column: Insulating Obama From His Corrupt IRS (July 23, 2013)

ABC, CBS and NBC to Viewers: IRS Scandal? Please, That's Old News (July 19, 2013)

ABC, NBC Skip Announcement That IRS Aggressively Targeted Conservatives, Not Liberals (June 28, 2013)

Charlie Rose Wonders If Reported IRS Scrutiny of Liberal Groups Makes Scandal Look 'Less Partisan' (June 25, 2013)

NBC's Todd Claims 'Republicans Overplaying Their Hand' on IRS 'Quote/Unquote Scandal' (June 25, 2013)

Networks Ingore 'Audit the IRS' Rally; Minimize Coverage of $70 Million in IRS Bonuses (June 20, 2013)

NBC, CBS Skip Obama-Supporting IRS Agent, ABC Allows 22 Seconds (June 17, 2013)

Too Taxing? Big Three Networks Abandon IRS Scandal (June 12, 2013)

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.