Bruce Braley Urged IRS to Target Groups Before IRS Targeting Scandal Emerged

Bruce Braley
Bruce Braley / AP

Iowa Democrat and Senate candidate Bruce Braley urged the IRS to investigate social welfare organizations before it was revealed that the agency singled out tea party and conservative groups for scrutiny, Iowa Watchdog reports.

Braley, currently a representative for Iowa’s first congressional district, was one of 30 Democrats who asked IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman in a March 2012 letter to investigate whether any organizations were "improperly engaged in political campaign activity." Social welfare organizations receive tax exemptions under section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code:

The House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee published the letter, included in a group of documents released as part of the committee’s investigation into whether members of Congress tried to pressure the IRS into investigating certain conservative groups.

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Braley’s office hasn’t responded to Iowa Watchdog’s questions about why he signed the letter.

Braley, the only Democratic candidate in this year’s U.S. Senate race in Iowa, has long complained about ads run by 501(c)(4) groups.

He claimed during his 2012 campaign that tax exempt groups were improperly running ads against him. He has made similar complaints this year.

Braley has made contradictory statements since the IRS scandal broke last May.

He called the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups "shameful" in May 2013 before telling Radio Iowa a day later that the agency must "make sure that tax-exempt organizations are not engaging in inappropriate (political) activity."

Braley’s campaign website calls social welfare groups "a backhanded way for groups to hide their billionaire, big corporate donors from the American public."

A recent Washington Free Beacon analysis found that Braley, a former trial lawyer, has received more than $4 million in contributions from lawyers and law firms since 2005 and has been a long-time advocate for their interests.

Braley’s criticism earlier this year of Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley as a "farmer from Iowa who never went to law school" has significantly hurt his standing among likely Iowa voters, according to a Free Beacon poll. Respondents in farm-heavy Iowa said they viewed the comments as out-of-touch.