According to Danny Werfel, the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, the IRS's aggressive investigation of conservative groups was wider than originally thought. Yet, NBC totally ignored the story on Monday night and Tuesday morning. ABC allowed a mere 19 seconds to the continuing controversy.
According to the Associated Press, "The Internal Revenue Service's screening of groups seeking tax-exempt status was broader and lasted longer than has been previously disclosed, the new head of the agency acknowledged Monday." In addition to only mentioning the subject for a few seconds on Good Morning America, news reader Josh Elliott misleadingly emphasized, "The acting commissioner says documents showing liberal groups seeking tax exempt status were also targeted for special scrutiny, along with conservative organizations." Left-wing keywords and phrases may have been put on lists, but there's no evidence that liberal organizations suffered the same harassment as conservative groups.
As Eliana Johnson of National Review wrote on Monday: "Based on the lookout list examined by NRO, it is inaccurate to say that progressive and liberal groups were subjected to the same or similar scrutiny as tea-party groups, or even that a surprisingly broad array of criteria was applied to screen applications for tax exemption."
According to the May 14 USA Today:
WASHINGTON -- In February 2010, the Champaign Tea Party in Illinois received approval of its tax-exempt status from the IRS in 90 days, no questions asked.
That was the month before the Internal Revenue Service started singling out Tea Party groups for special treatment. There wouldn't be another Tea Party application approved for 27 months.
In that time, the IRS approved perhaps dozens of applications from similar liberal and progressive groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.
Yet, according to the simplistic explanation of GMA's Elliott, liberal groups were "targeted."
In contrast, CBS, at least highlighted the argument against claiming the IRS went after both liberals and conservatives. On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes explained:
But Republicans say none of those groups received the same scrutiny as some Tea Party groups, whose applications languished for up to two years. In a statement, a spokesperson for House Ways and Means Chair, Republican Dave Camp, said, 'We have yet to have any left-leaning groups come forward and say they've been subjected to extraordinary delay or inappropriate questions.'
On the CBS Evening News, Monday, Scott Pelley introduced, "The IRS admits today the targeting of political groups was wider than we thought."
On that program, Cordes reiterated the salient point ignored by NBC and buried by ABC: "Republicans point out that so far, not a single progressive group has come forward to tell Congress that they're upset about the way they were treated by the IRS.
On MSNBC, Chuck Todd also downplayed the "quote, unquote, scandal."
A transcript of the June 24 CBS Evening News segment is below:
6:30pm ET tease
SCOTT PELLEY (teaser): The IRS admits today the targeting of political groups was wider than we thought. Nancy Cordes is on the late-breaking story.
SCOTT PELLEY: The new head of the IRS acknowledged late today that the targeting of political groups was wider than we were told, and included organizations that were liberal in nature, as well as conservatives (sic).
Acting commissioner Danny Werfel revealed early results from an investigation. And Nancy Cordes has the details for us tonight. Nancy?
NANCY CORDES: Scott, Democrats say that the fact that liberal groups were on these watch lists, too, is proof that there was no partisan agenda at the IRS. But Republicans argue it's not that simple.
CORDES (voice-over): IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel briefed Senate finance leaders and the President on his findings today, and released a list of the types of groups that were singled out for extra scrutiny.
In November of 2010, groups with the word 'progressive or 'blue' in their title were placed on a 'be-on-the-lookout' list, and agents were warned their activities are partisan, and appear anti-Republican – indicating that tax-exempt status 'may not be appropriate'. Werfel said today he has suspended the use of be-on-the-lookout lists, and that new leadership has been installed at all five levels of the senior executive managerial chain.
Tea Party groups that were singled out for extra scrutiny saw their applications delayed – in some cases, for years – as IRS agents tried to determine whether they could be considered social welfare groups, and therefore, exempt from paying taxes. Werfel says from now on, groups that end up in a backlog for more than 120 days will get expedited approval, if they self-certify that no more than 40 percent of their time and money go toward political activities.
CORDES (on-camera): It still appears that Tea Party groups were asked far more questions and made to wait much longer than progressive groups. And Scott, Republicans point out that so far, not a single progressive group has come forward to tell Congress that they're upset about the way they were treated by the IRS.
PELLEY: Nancy Cordes at the Capitol – Nancy, thank you very much.