IRS tracked taxpayers' political affiliations

Shakespeare's Sister points to a disturbing revelation from Tacoma's News Tribune: IRS tracked taxpayers' political associations.
January 6th, 2006 06:13 AM (PST)

WASHINGTON – As it hunted down tax scofflaws, the Internal Revenue Service collected information on the political party affiliations of taxpayers in 20 states.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of an appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the IRS, said the practice was an “outrageous violation of the public trust” that could undermine the agency’s credibility.

IRS officials acknowledged that party affiliation information was routinely collected by a vendor for several months. They told the vendor last month to screen the information out.

“The bottom line is that we have never used this information,” said John Lipold, an IRS spokesman. “There are strict laws in place that forbid it.”

Washington state residents do not express a party preference when they register to vote. Residents of 20 other states and the District of Columbia have to provide a party affiliation when registering. Voter registration information is publicly available.

Murray said she learned about the problem from the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, Colleen Kelly. The IRS is part of the Treasury Department.

“This agency should not have that type of information,” Murray said in a telephone interview from Seattle. “No one should question whether they are being audited because of party affiliation.” [...]
No kidding. Kudos to Rep. Murray for calling attention to this abuse of power.

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