In a sharply worded letter sent Wednesday to J. Russell George, the Inspector General for Tax
Administration, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote that there “is increasing evidence that the May 14, 2013 audit was fundamentally flawed and that your handling of it has failed to meet the necessary test of objectivity and forthrightness.”
The letter was sent two days after Levin released fifteen so-called BOLO lists, internal IRS documents used to screen applications from groups seeking tax-exempt status. (BOLO is short for “Be On the Look Out.”) The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report released last month — the one that found that applications for tax-exempt status from conservative groups had been inappropriately screened and handled by the IRS — had indicated that terms like “tea party” and “patriots” had appeared on IRS BOLO lists. On first blush, the appearance that IRS agents were screening groups based on political terms was one of the more troubling findings in the inspector general’s report. But the lists released by Levin this week showed that the term “progressives” also appeared on the lists, undercutting any suggestion that the lists were put together for political reasons.
The Inspector General’s office has justified leaving “progressives” out of its report by explaining that it was the report answered only the questions it was asked to address. But that answer has not satisfied Levin.