[T]hose tea-party organizations were sent letters of inquiry demanding information that would seldom if ever be demanded of any other applicant in the process. The IRS demanded lists of donors, names of spouses and family members, detailed information about political views and associations — all of that “under penalties of perjury.” Many applicants dropped out of the process. The questions were remarkably invasive: For example, the IRS demanded to know not only whether political candidates participated in public forums conducted by the groups, but which issues were discussed, along with copies of any literature distributed at the forum and material published on websites. (The IRS has been less forthcoming with its own materials related to this investigation.) If the organizations collected dues, the IRS demanded to know how much they were. It demanded everything down to the résumés of employees. The inquiry was not limited to members of the organization, its executives, or its directors, but included even their family members: The IRS demanded to know — again, under penalty of perjury — whether any of their family members might be thinking about running for office. Its demand for the names of all donors — and all recipients of grants — is in violation of IRS policy.
...The controversy is bad for supporters of the Affordable Care Act, which relies heavily on the IRS. It is also bad for campaign finance reformers who have called upon the IRS to crack down on groups such as Crossroads GPS. The other side will now argue that any "crackdown" is likely to be discriminatory and partisan.
The misuse of government resources is subject to civil, misdemeanor, and felony charges under federal and Ohio law. The abuse of IRS resources, including the collection of “confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposes not authorized by law, and [causing], in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be initiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner,” were cited in the second article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.