WASHINGTON -- Danny Werfel, the principal deputy commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, acknowledged on Monday that the same tactic that got the tax agency in trouble for screening tea party organizations before the 2012 elections was used elsewhere by agency officials.
In a conference call with reporters, Werfel said an internal investigation of the IRS scandal, the findings of which were released Monday afternoon, had unearthed other instances in which "Be On The Look Out" (BOLO) lists were used. He has since ended the use of the tactic, he said, calling the screening criteria used in these other instances "inappropriate."
"When I got to the IRS, we started a more comprehensive review of the operations of this part of the IRS, have been looking at documents and business operations, and we did determine and discover that there are other BOLO lists in place," Werfel said. "And upon discovering that, we also found that we believed there continued to be inappropriate or questionable criteria on these BOLO lists. Once we came to that conclusion, we took immediate action to suspend the use of these lists in the exempt organizations unit within the IRS."
Werfel declined to reveal which organizations appeared on these other lists and what criteria were used to screen them, saying it took time to scrub these documents of "sensitive information." But his comments are bound to renew criticism of the tax agency, which has been under fire for weeks after news it singled out conservative organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status.
Though he acknowledged that his investigation remains incomplete, Werfel said that he had yet to uncover evidence of intentional wrongdoing by IRS officials when applying these BOLOs. Nor had he found instances in which outside actors -- mainly the Obama campaign and administration -- had pressured the tax agency to target conservative groups.
"The fact that no evidence is surfacing as wrongdoing is an important conclusion to reach as long as it is qualified by the fact that more reviews are underway," Werfel said, when pressed by The Huffington Post as to why he was making statements that could later be contradicted by the findings of additional investigations. "And so, I'll be as clear as I can right now. I'm not providing a definitive conclusion that no intentional wrongdoing occurred. But I'm suggesting that based on the ongoing reviews to date, no evidence has yet surfaced."
Werfel's assessment previewed a 60-page, three-part internal IRS report that concluded "significant management and judgment failures occurred" at the agency.
The internal IRS report notes that new people have been appointed to fill five executive management roles: IRS Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Commissioner for Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, Director of Exempt Organizations, and Director of Rulings and Agreements.
Werfel declined to answer questions on the current status of Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS division on tax-exempt organizations who was placed on administrative leave, citing "limitations imposed by the Privacy Act."
The report will offer various suggestions for agency reforms going forward. It will advise the Treasury Department to consider updating its regulations governing the amount of political activity a 501(c)(4) organization can pursue. Current regulations say that social welfare must be the "primary" function of 501(c)(4) groups. The law, which changed in the late 1940s, used to say social welfare should be the "exclusive" activity.
The report calls for an Enterprise Risk Management Program that will "provide a common framework for capturing, reporting and addressing risk areas across the IRS," according to a press release.
Finally, it suggests that the IRS create a self-certification process that would enable groups that have waited more than 120 days for 510(c)(4) approval to fast-track their applications for tax-exempt status. According to Werfel, groups in the backlog would have to sign papers pledging that they would spend "no more than 40 percent of their resources or expenditures and no more than 40 percent of their voluntary person hours on political campaign intervention activities."
Asked by The Huffington Post if that meant that these groups would get tax privileges in exchange for promising to follow the law, Werfel noted that groups can currently file as 501(c)(4)s and do not have to ask the IRS for that designation ahead of time. Moreover, if the IRS feels an organization is violating its pledge under the new system, it has the option to penalize it.
"To the extent any issues surface where those percentages change or the activities change, the appropriate place to vet and look at those issues would potentially be on exam and audit when they come in with their tax returns," Werfel said.
The IRS report comes as congressional investigators examine the root causes of the IRS screening scandal. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, has released several partial transcripts of interviews with IRS employees that suggested officials in Washington were involved in establishing the BOLO criteria. But a full transcript of one of the interviews released by the committee's ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), showed that those officials were merely lawyers in the IRS' D.C. office, not advisers to the administration.
The transcript also revealed that John Shafer, the manager of the tax-exempt division in the IRS' Cincinnati office and a self-described conservative, had been involved in developing the criteria. Shafer said his goal was to maintain consistency in the screening process and that he was not driven by a political agenda.
Issa has announced that his committee will hold its next hearing about the scandal on Wednesday.
UPDATE: 4: 45 p.m. -- The Associated Press has obtained an internal IRS document that reveals the other terms the agency screened for when deciding which groups should be granted tax exempt status. The news cuts against the original storyline that the tactic was used to target conservatives.
An internal IRS document obtained by The Associated Press said that besides ‘‘tea party,’’ lists used by screeners to pick groups for close examination also included the terms ‘‘Israel,’’ ‘'Progressive’’ and ‘‘Occupy.’’ The document said an investigation into why specific terms were included was still underway.
The Huffington Post reached out to the IRS to confirm the authenticity of this report and has not yet received a response. A congressional aide did, however, confirm that the term "progressive" was indeed a BOLO.
The revelation complicates accusations that IRS officials screened groups in a concerted effort to sideline tea party organizations during the 2012 election. Instead, it would suggest that the filters were applied to ensure that applications for similar groups were reviewed in a consistent manner.
Read the report:
Also on HuffPost:
President Barack Obama
"This is pretty straightforward," Obama said at a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/13/obama-irs-scandal_n_3266577.html" target="_blank">press conference</a>. "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that is outrageous, and there is no place for it, and they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity and people have to have confidence that they are applying the laws in a non-partisan way. You should feel that way regardless of party." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Rubio <a href="http://www.rubio.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=bc8ce2a9-4e95-4792-8744-501d0c1b63b3" target="_blank">penned a letter</a> to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew demanding the IRS commissioner's resignation. The letter begins: "Recent revelations about the Internal Revenue Service’s selective and deliberate targeting of conservative organizations are outrageous and seriously concerning. This years-long abuse of government power is an assault on the free speech rights of all Americans. This direct assault on our Constitution further justifies the American people’s distrust in government and its ability to properly implement our laws." (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio)
"The admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history. Today, we are left with serious questions: who is ultimately responsible for this travesty? What actions will the Obama administration take to hold them accountable? And have other federal agencies used government powers to attack Americans for partisan reasons? House Republicans have made oversight of federal agencies a top priority on behalf of the American people, and I applaud the work that members such as Charles Boustany, Darrell Issa and Jim Jordan have done to bring this issue to light. I also strongly support Sen. McConnell’s call for a transparent, government-wide review to ensure similar practices are not happening elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy," Boehner said in a <a href="http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/speaker-boehner-statement-irs-targeting-conservative-groups" target="_blank">statement</a>. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)
Buchanan also <a href="http://buchanan.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4787:buchanan-to-treasury-secretary-the-nations-trust-in-government-was-betrayed&catid=1:latest-news" target="_blank">wrote a letter</a> calling for the IRS commissioner's resignation. His letter reads: "On March 22, 2012, as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee which oversees the IRS, we heard then-Commissioner Douglas Shulman clearly state that the IRS did not engage in the practices of which it is now accused saying "there is absolutely no targeting." Yet, less than a year earlier, Commissioner Shulman's own deputy, Lois Lerner, was made aware that such malpractice had indeed occurred. It became evident that groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names were extremely vulnerable to auditing harassment. Even nonprofit organizations that sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution were unfairly singled out for scrutiny. The nation's trust in government was betrayed by this unconscionable behavior. On behalf of my constituents, your immediate response is not only warranted but essential to clearing up a matter that would have our founding fathers rolling in their graves." (AP Photo/Steve Nesius, File)
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.)
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minn.)
"It is unconscionable that the IRS deliberately targeted individuals based on their political beliefs. Absolutely no one should come under extra scrutiny from the IRS because of their political affiliation. It’s simply un-American," Paulsen said in a <a href="http://paulsen.house.gov/press-releases/paulsen-statement-on-fridays-hearing-examining-irs-targeting-conservative-groups/" target="_blank">statement</a>. (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas)
“I have long been concerned with reports that the IRS has unfairly targeted some political groups over others – a charge that they have repeatedly denied. In March 2012, I sent IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman a letter demanding an explanation of this unacceptable behavior. Now, more than a year later, the IRS has admitted to what we have long suspected – it was targeting tea party groups. The IRS’s actions are unacceptable, and I commend Chairman Dave Camp and Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany for moving forward with a full investigation. We will continue to work to ensure there are protections in place so no American, regardless of political affiliation, has their right to free speech threatened by the IRS," Marchant said in a <a href="http://marchant.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=333635" target="_blank">statement</a>. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.)
<i>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this slideshow incorrectly identified Udall as a Republican.</i>
Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.)
Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.)
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
“Today’s revelation that the IRS targeted average Americans using taxpayer dollars solely for disagreeing with them politically is completely unacceptable from this Administration. “Partisan politics have consistently characterized this White House, and the Administration must take immediate disciplinary action and ensure American citizens are not subject to this type of Orwellian persecution again," Cornyn said in a <a href="http://www.cornyn.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=ebc9edeb-f748-45cf-a6b3-0143c6cb41c0" target="_blank">statement</a>. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)