The head of a Jewish group that says it was targeted by the Internal Revenue Service over its opposition to President Obama's Israel policy said Saturday that she sees parallels between the tax agency's treatment of Tea Party groups and her own case.
The Zionist group Z Street sued the IRS in the summer of 2010, alleging that a federal agent, Diane Gentry, told the group's lawyer that the agency was "carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel."
The group alleged that the agent told them that "a special unit" was examining whether its activities — in pushing a hawkishly pro-Israel line — "contradict the Administration's public policies," referring to a provision of the tax code which can deny nonprofit status to groups that oppose "established public policy." The provision, rarely used, has been invoked to deny that status to racist groups.
The IRS admission Friday that it had created a special track for tea party groups "is the same conduct the IRS agent told us (before she realized she shouldn't) they were engaging in with respect to organizations 'connected to Israel,'" Z Street President Lori Lowenthal Marcus told BuzzFeed. "Of course, she also told us that there was a special unit in Washington, D.C. where similar files may be sent to determine if an organization's positions' differ from that of the administration's. I have no way of knowing — at this point — whether any conservative groups that were targeted with the admitted bad conduct were also sent to that 'unit' or one like it."
The IRS, whose apology was reportedly prompted by an impending critical report by its inspector general, has denied that the special tea party review was politically motivated. A spokesperson didn't respond to an inquiry about the Z Street case. In 2010, a spokesman declined to comment on a specific pending matter.
But the case is about to get an airing: Z Street has a hearing this July 2 in federal district court in Washington, DC, Marcus said.
Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed and is based in New York.
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Evan McMorris-Santoro is the White House correspondent for BuzzFeed News.
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