Did the IRS targeting of conservative groups have an impact on the 2012 elections? As we’ve discussed before, actions by the IRS to target conservative groups for additional scrutiny when obtaining tax exemptions may very well have been driven by partisan motivations.

Now, a study of get-out-the-vote efforts by conservative groups confirms the astonishing political machine of the Tea Party movement in 2010 and its potential for the 2012 elections.

Exploring the impact of Tea Party action on voting activity researchers found head-turning results:

We found that the effect was huge: the movement brought the Republican Party some 3 million-6 million additional votes in House races. That is an astonishing boost, given that all Republican House candidates combined received fewer than 45 million votes. It demonstrates conclusively how important the party's newly energized base was to its landslide victory in those elections, and how worried Democratic strategists must have been about the conservative movement's momentum.

The Tea Party movement's huge success was not the result of a few days of work by an elected official or two, but involved activists all over the country who spent the year and a half leading up to the midterm elections volunteering, organizing, donating, and rallying. Much of these grassroots activities were centered around 501(c)4s, which according to our research were an important component of the Tea Party movement and its rise.

The bottom line: the Tea Party movement potentially might have been a power-house in turning out votes for Mitt Romney and Republican congressional candidates in 2012, if it had not been distracted and worn down by invasive IRS questioning and scrutiny. Had the Tea Party effect on the 2012 election been similar to 2010, researchers predicted the Republican Party would’ve nabbed between 5 and 8.5 million more votes – more than enough to turn the tide of the presidential election and perhaps some congressional races too.

Strategists on the Left were no doubt unnerved following their “shellacking” in 2010. The timeline of when the IRS began targeting conservative groups may not be is far too coincidental.

We’ve read accounts about this campaign from Tea Party leaders. Donors dried up, the process of providing volumes of information was time-consuming, and they racked up tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. All of these efforts were intimidating and diverted critical volunteer time and resources away from voter engagement.

From a strategic standpoint –if this was indeed a concerted effort by the Left – it was a brilliant move. Why not use the levers at your disposal to cut into your opponent’s advantage?

But not lost on us liberty and freedom lovers (liberals and conservatives) are the violations of our privacy, speech, and assembly. An agency like the IRS has strong powers to coerce compliance. The information it collects is stored indefinitely who knows where, accessible by who knows whom, and may be used who knows when against any citizen.

This is just what Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA) fears:

“The information that the IRS has on file on people goes pretty deep into personal lives. It is being leaked out and given to people for very specific political reasons. I think this is something that should be the most chilling thing for Americans to understand.

"This is a branch of government and it is under the executive branch that can be used for a lot of different intimidation elements. Think of what these people have, think of what they have on everybody. If they leak that out to the right person at the right time in the right movement that’s looking to do something, they can completely destroy individuals.”

The more we learn about IRS conservative-targeting scandal, the stronger the queasiness at the pit of my stomach grows. And it won’t go away any time soon.