IRS creates big stir targeting small fry

While the IRS fries the small fish, the big ones got away. Click here to see the big picture.

Updated: 3:55 p.m.

The scandal over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups seeking nonprofit status has widened to a point where President Barack Obama took public notice today and a key House committee scheduled a hearing for Friday to examine the matter.

Obama’s denunciation of the tax agency’s “outrageous” behavior came following reports on an as-yet-unreleased inspector general’s investigation that found the abuses–requests for detailed records and information from tea partiers seeking IRS blessing to incorporate as social welfare organizations–started in 2011, a year earlier than the Service had previously acknowledged, and that higher ups were aware of the practice.

Sunlight’s view: IRS debacle highlights need for clearer regulations.

And other reports have surfaced alleging that a wider array of groups were singled out for the additional scrutiny.

As Sunlight noted on Friday, most of the groups drawing IRS scrutiny were small fish. Meanwhile, an array of better-funded political players, including the Crossroads GPS, co-founded by top Republican strategists, and Organizing for Action, which offered access to President Barack Obama for donors who gave or raised $500,000 or more, appear to have gotten a free pass.

So-called “social welfare” nonprofits of every ideological stripe pumped at least $300 million in funds whose donors will never be disclosed in the 2012 elections. To see who the big players were, check out Sunlight’s list on our Follow the Unlimited Money tracker.