"Documents Show Liberals in I.R.S. Dragnet," read the New York Times headline. "Dem: 'Progressive' Groups Were Also Targeted by IRS," said U.S. News. The scandal has "evaporated into thin air," bayed the excitable Andrew Sullivan. A breathlessly exonerative narrative swept the news media this week: that liberal groups had been singled out and, by implication, abused by the IRS, just as conservative groups had been. Therefore, the scandal wasn't a scandal but a mere bungle—a nonpolitical series of unhelpful but innocent mistakes.
The problem with this story is that liberals were not caught in the IRS dragnet. Progressive groups were not targeted.
The claim that they had been rested mostly on an unclear, undated, highly redacted and not at all dispositive few pages from a "historical" BOLO ("be on the lookout") list that apparently wasn't even in use between May 2010 and May 2012, when most of the IRS harassment of conservative groups occurred.
The case isn't closed, no matter how many people try to slam it shut.
Refuting Democratic suggestions that progressive groups were also swept up in the IRS probe of the tax status of Tea Party organizations, the Treasury Department's inspector general has revealed that just six progressive groups were targeted compared to 292 conservative groups.
In a letter to congressional Democrats, the inspector general also said that 100 percent of Tea Party groups seeking special tax status were put under IRS review, while only 30 percent of the progressive groups felt the same pressure.
The Wednesday letter to the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee punched a huge hole in Democratic claims that progressive groups were targeted as much as the Tea Party groups from May 2010-May 2012, the height of the Tea Party movement.
The letter from the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration revealed that there just weren't many progressive groups who even sought special tax exempt status. A total of 20 sought it, and six were probed. All 292 Tea Party groups, meanwhile, were part of the IRS witchhunt.