Within a year of the Tea Party’s appearance on the national scene, the IRS was targeting them for increased scrutiny:
The timeline contained in the draft report indicates that IRS scrutiny of tea-party and other conservative groups began as early as 2010 and came to the attention of Ms. Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt-organizations division, at least by the following year.
Also, the criteria used to identify conservative groups was quite broad:
The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.
This is important, because it puts the lie to the notion (never very plausible in the first place) that this was some sort of ill-conceived labor-saving strategy. That might be possible if they were merely using a keyword search, but if they are reading the documents looking conservative content, it’s the opposite of labor-saving strategy. They were expending extra effort to identify conservative applicants.