Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee released one of the lists, dated November 2010, that the IRS has provided to congressional investigators. That 16-page document, with many parts blacked out, shows that the terms "Progressive" and "Tea Party" were both on that list, as well as "Medical Marijuana," ''occupied territory advocacy" and "Healthcare legislation."
Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, said he was writing a letter to J. Russell George, the Treasury Department inspector general whose audit in May detailed IRS targeting of conservatives, asking why his report did not mention other groups that were targeted.
"The audit served as the basis and impetus for a wide range of congressional investigations and this new information shows that the foundation of those investigations is flawed in a fundamental way," Levin said.
Republicans said there was a distinction. A statement by the GOP staff of House Ways and Means said, "It is one thing to flag a group, it is quite another to repeatedly target and abuse conservative groups."
George's report criticized the IRS for using "inappropriate criteria" to identify tea party and other conservative groups. It did not mention more liberal organizations, but in response to questions from lawmakers at congressional hearings, George said he had recently found other lists that raised concerns about other "political factors" he did not specify.
On Monday, Karen Kraushaar, a spokeswoman for the inspector general, said their May audit focused on terms the IRS used to pick cases to be studied for political campaign activity, which might disqualify a group from tax-exempt status.
She said the inspector general has since found other "criteria" the agency used to list potential cases, and "we are reviewing whether these criteria led to expanded scrutiny for other reasons and why these criteria were implemented."