Over and over, members of Congress asked the IRS to scrutinize 501(c)4 groups for their political activity—and also to scrutinize the agency’s scrutiny of those groups.

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A report in Roll Call in March 2012 revealed that leading members of Congress not only were aware that the Internal Revenue Service had begun investigating the political activity of would-be 501(c)4 Tea Party groups that winter, but showed to what an extent members of Congress had been actively putting pressure on the agency to take a closer look at tax-exempt conservative organizations in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. Reported Janie Lorber in 2012:

Tea party outrage over a spate of IRS letters to conservative groups has revived a long-standing dispute over the agency’s controversial role in policing politically active nonprofits.

In January, the IRS began sending extensive questionnaires to organizations applying for nonprofit status as part of a broader project to understand whether social welfare organizations—which are not required to disclose their donors—are actually acting as political committees.

Campaign finance reform groups and lawmakers in both parties have repeatedly demanded that the IRS examine the activities of tax-exempt advocacy groups, which proliferated during the 2010 cycle and are on pace to play an even larger role in 2012.

Democrats, whose affiliated outside groups have lost the fundraising race to Republican organizations this year, have been particularly vocal, sending repeated letters to the agency requesting an investigation. On Wednesday, Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) asked his colleagues in Congress to sign yet another.

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