POLITICS

PETA says IRS targeted it, too, during Bush years

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Politics,Paul Bedard,IRS,George W. Bush,PETA,Animals

New charges from a liberal group that its tax-exempt status was questioned by the IRS are raising new questions that the tax agency is politically driven to please the party that controls the White House.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told Secrets that it was "targeted" for three audits during the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations. They claim it was due to complaints made by the meat and dairy industry which were the subject of PETA criticism at the time.

Jeffrey Kerr, the top PETA lawyer, said that one Internal Revenue Service agent involved with an audit in 2003 told him, "It's politically motivated."

Kerr said in a letter to the Justice Department that "PETA's harassment by the IRS includes the 20-month audit in 2003 to 2005 and another in 2009, both of which resulted from what the IRS agents admitted--and we have verified from Freedom of Information Act materials--were politically motivated attacks and pressure by members of Congress who were doing the bidding of the meat, dairy, experimentation, tobacco, and other industries whose animal-abusing practices PETA opposes. PETA came through all three audits with a clean bill of health but endured an unconscionable diversion of charity resources to fend off these attacks on its tax-exempt status, which were reminiscent of the Nixon years and tactics more commonly attributed to totalitarian regimes."

In a letter, the animal rights group has asked Justice to expand its criminal probe into the IRS-Tea Party scandal to include the agency's focus on PETA.

One of the IRS officials named in documents recovered by PETA under the Freedom of Information Act is Steven T. Miller, the ousted IRS acting commissioner. He was also involved in a Clinton-era investigation of the tax status of Judicial Watch Inc., a Clinton-era critic.

Just as Tea Party officials have claimed in the current scandal, PETA officials suggest that the politics of the administration played a role, and that the IRS was sympathetic to the party in charge of the White House.

"I can assure you that targeted misconduct by the IRS is neither new nor limited to conservative causes," charged Kerr.

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