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IRS, still reeling from fallout of targeting conservative groups, under fire for luxurious spending

  • From left, Jenny Beth Martin, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots, Jo Anne Livingston, and Darcy Crisp, all of Atlanta, applaud after House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. said the IRS was discriminating, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, during the committee's hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    From left, Jenny Beth Martin, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots, Jo Anne Livingston, and Darcy Crisp, all of Atlanta, applaud after House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. said the IRS was discriminating, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, during the committee's hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • Diane Belsom, with the Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    Diane Belsom, with the Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • From right to left: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.; Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, as organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status during a hearing of the committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    From right to left: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.; Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, as organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status during a hearing of the committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, right, hugs Becky Gerritson, back to camera, of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, accompanied by her husband Eric Gerritson, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, after organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status finished testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, right, hugs Becky Gerritson, back to camera, of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, accompanied by her husband Eric Gerritson, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, after organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status finished testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Sue Martinek of Coalition for Life of Iowa, right, accompanied by  Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on organization that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Sue Martinek of Coalition for Life of Iowa, right, accompanied by Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on organization that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing with organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing with organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, during the committee's hearing on organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, during the committee's hearing on organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • Sue Martinek with Coalition for Life of Iowa, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    Sue Martinek with Coalition for Life of Iowa, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • Karen Kenney of the San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, center, sits between Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa, right, and John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to testifying before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing with organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Karen Kenney of the San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, center, sits between Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa, right, and John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to testifying before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing with organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Rep. Dave Camp , R-Mich., left, greets Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to the start of the committee's hearing on organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Rep. Dave Camp , R-Mich., left, greets Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to the start of the committee's hearing on organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Karen Kenney with the San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    Karen Kenney with the San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • From left, Kevin Kookogey, founder and president, Linchpins of Liberty; Diane Belsom, Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party; John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage; Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots; Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa; and Becky Gerritson, Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party; organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    From left, Kevin Kookogey, founder and president, Linchpins of Liberty; Diane Belsom, Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party; John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage; Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots; Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa; and Becky Gerritson, Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party; organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

  • Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., left, greets Karen Kenny, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, right, with John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to the start of the committee's hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

    Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., left, greets Karen Kenny, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, right, with John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to the start of the committee's hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

  • From left, Jenny Beth Martin, cofounder of the Tea Party Patriots, Jo Anne Livingston, and Darcy Crisp, all of Atlanta, applaud after House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. said the IRS was discriminating, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington, during the committee's hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Diane Belsom, with the Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • From right to left: House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.; Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas; Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; and Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.; listen on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, as organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status during a hearing of the committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, right, hugs Becky Gerritson, back to camera, of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, accompanied by her husband Eric Gerritson, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, after organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status finished testified before the House Ways and Means Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Sue Martinek of Coalition for Life of Iowa, right, accompanied by  Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing on organization that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing with organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., listens to testimony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, during the committee's hearing on organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Sue Martinek with Coalition for Life of Iowa, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • Karen Kenney of the San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, center, sits between Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa, right, and John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to testifying before a House Ways and Means Committee hearing with organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Rep. Dave Camp , R-Mich., left, greets Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to the start of the committee's hearing on organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Karen Kenney with the San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, waits to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
  • From left, Kevin Kookogey, founder and president, Linchpins of Liberty; Diane Belsom, Laurens County, S.C. Tea Party; John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage; Karen Kenney, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots; Sue Martinek, Coalition for Life of Iowa; and Becky Gerritson, Wetumpka, Ala. Tea Party; organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, before the House Ways and Means Committee. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
  • Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., left, greets Karen Kenny, San Fernando Valley, Calif. Patriots, right, with John Eastman, chairman, National Organization for Marriage, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 4, 2013, prior to the start of the committee's hearing of organizations that say they were unfairly targeted by the Internal Revenue Service while seeking tax-exempt status. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Already heavily criticized for targeting conservative groups, the Internal Revenue Service absorbed another blow yesterday as new details emerged about senior officials enjoying luxury hotel rooms, free drinks and free food at a $4.1 million training conference. It was one of many expensive gatherings the agency held for employees over a three-year period.

One top official stayed five nights in a room that regularly goes for $3,500 a night, and another – who was later promoted – stayed four nights in a room that regularly goes for $1,499.

A total of 132 IRS officials received room upgrades at the conference in 2010 in Anaheim, Calif., according to a report by J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general for tax administration. The tax agency paid a flat daily fee of $135 per hotel room, the report said, but the upgrades were part of a package deal that added to the overall cost of the conference.

The report was made public on the same day leaders of six conservative groups testified at a congressional hearing, where they told lawmakers they had endured abuse from IRS agents as they spent years trying to qualify for tax-exempt status.

In often-emotional testimony, the conservatives described IRS demands for details about employees’ and group officials’ political activities and backgrounds, for comments they’d posted on websites, for videos of meetings and information on whether speakers at such sessions voiced political views. Some said it took three years to get their tax-exempt status; others said they were still waiting.

“I’m a born-free American woman,” Becky Gerritson, president of the Wetumpka Tea Party of Alabama, tearfully told the lawmakers. “I’m telling my government, ‘You’ve forgotten your place.’ ”

Federal regulations say that tax-exempt social welfare organizations can engage in some political activity but the activity cannot be their primary mission. It is up to the IRS to make that determination of their level of political activity, and some Democrats at yesterday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing noted that some liberal groups also have had a hard time winning tax-exempt status from the IRS.

However, revelations about IRS agents improperly targeting Tea Party and other groups have led to investigations by three congressional committees and the Justice Department. One top IRS official was forced to resign, another retired and a third was placed on paid administrative leave.

Yesterday’s report by the inspector general suggests the agency has struggled with management issues beyond the division that handles tax-exempt applications. According to the report, expensive employee conferences were approved with few restraints or safeguards until new rules were imposed in 2011.

In all, the IRS held 225 employee conferences from 2010 through 2012, at a total cost of $49 million, the report said. The Anaheim conference was the most expensive, but others were costly, too.

In 2010, the agency held a conference in Philadelphia that cost $2.9 million, one in San Diego that cost $1.2 million and another in Atlanta that also cost $1.2 million.

All of these conferences would violate new rules imposed by the White House budget office in 2012 that cap expenses for a single conference at $500,000. In 2010 alone, the IRS had 13 conferences that cost more than that.

By comparison, the General Services Administration was widely criticized for a 2010 conference in Las Vegas that cost $823,000.

Spending on IRS conferences dropped substantially, from $37.6 million in the 2010 budget year to $6.3 million in 2011 and then to $4.9 million last year, according to the IRS.

Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel called the conferences “an unfortunate vestige from a prior era.” Werfel took over the agency about two weeks ago, after President Obama forced the previous acting commissioner to resign.

Legacy Comments4

All Tax Exempt groups are political. That is the reality. This decision handed down said that these groups could use 51% of their time with politics and the rest being an actual group that does actually do work that is based on helping folks. Like any law, it is confusing and pretty much begs scrunity. Having said that, it is wrong to signal out folks based on the fact they fall into one group. And using the IRS as a pitbull to intimidate folks is wrong. The IRS pretty much needs to have the rug pulled out from under it. The only way to do that is simplify the tax code and take away their power. We need to get campaign reform also. Get everybody out of it. Limit how much a candidate can spend. Say 250,000. Then they would have to go around the country with town meetings to get their message out.

"Simplify the tax code" has become a mantra for conservative and libertarian groups who advocate flat rate corporate and personal income taxes. The "simple" fact is that our monstrously complicated tax code gives the real power not to the IRS but to the extremely wealthy organizations - both for profit and nonprofit. They can afford the well paid accountants and tax attorneys who work the tax code to their clients' advantage. I totally agree with strictly enforced campaign finance reform, but it's a dead issue until somebody wakes the Supreme Court out of its delusion that money is speech.

Let this be a lesson, don’t mess with their campaign money. In reality this will be a win-win for the politicians on both sides of the ditch. Both sides get to jump up and down calling for prosecutions of individuals and down the road no IRS agent will want to deny the registration for even a day of these “tax-exempt groups”. If the increase of these groups in last few years was alarming then I see the proverbial flood gates opening for new groups coming out.

I call BS. Obama didnt force anyone to resign. The guy ended his position on the same day he said he was going to before this all happened. Now on to the real question....WHO ordered the targeting of these groups??

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