Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich, and John McCain, R-Ariz, who co-chair an IRS oversight committee released a statement on May 13, saying in part:
"The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has been for several months examining on a bipartisan basis whether the IRS has adequately enforced rules regarding the extent to which tax exempt nonprofit 501(c)(4) groups engage in partisan politics. [emphasis added]
"We had tentatively planned a hearing on that issue for June. After Friday's announcement that the IRS, to the extent it has been enforcing the law, may have done so in ways that singled out some groups for special scrutiny, we have determined that the subcommittee should investigate that additional issue as well. As a result, we have decided to delay our hearing in order to examine this issue carefully". "
In other words, the subcommittee's concern was lax IRS enforcement against a perceived abuse of the tax code, and this concern is reality-based, even though McCain is quoted as talking about "audits" of tea party groups -- which is not part of the reality of this issue.
Reality May Never Catch Up with Political Straw Men
There were no audits. There was an evolving and almost comically ineffectual effort by the IRS to sort out 501(c)(4) applications to reduce the number of political organizations seeking tax shelter as "social welfare" organizations.
By May 14, the basic reality of IRS behavior during 2010-2012, while it was still directed by a Bush appointee, still had not emerged. The director of the tax exempt division of IRS said that about 300 applications for 501(c )(4) status were given special scrutiny, and of those about 75 were for "tea party" or similarly tagged organizations.
The IRS has not indicated who made the other 225 applications that got special attention, but they were apparently not conservative or tea party-like groups.