In the 27 months that the Internal Revenue Service put a hold on all Tea Party applications for non-profit status, it approved applications from similar liberal groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.
As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with obviously liberal names were approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like "Progress" or "Progressive," these groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.
A federal official who has been briefed on the matter said the investigation could focus on potential violations of civil rights law, including targeting groups based on political affiliation and infringing free speech. The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said authorities could consider possible violations of the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of government workers.