An Internal Revenue Service admission today that it aimed
at conservative groups in the 2012 election confirmed suspicions and sparked
criticism from Sen. Roy Blunt and other Republicans.
An IRS official acknowledged that the agency had flagged about 75 groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their applications for special tax status.
Lois Lerner, the IRS official in charge of examining tax-exempt groups, apologized while asserting that it was not done out of political bias. She said new policies would keep it from happening again.
"That's absolutely inappropriate and not the way we ought to do things," she told reporters.
None of the groups were denied, but the admission of special scrutiny quickly stoked flames along the political spectrum.
The political clout of groups claiming 501(c)4 tax status has expanded with the Citizens United case in the Supreme Court dramatically loosening rules governing campaign finance.
Good government groups and advocates on the left pressured the IRS to look closely at some of these groups, particularly those marshaling contributions from big donors.
Conservative groups flexing new muscle in the last political cycle have long asserted that they were singled out wrongly. The admission today likely will remain an enduring fixture in Internet conversations and fundraising appeals while finding a place in anti-Washington talking points.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., said that the IRS apology doesn't suffice.
He called on the White House to conduct "a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not underway at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views."
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he is "outraged."
He joined McConnell and others requesting a review to "ensure this type of behavior is not tolerated moving forward and Americans' First Amendment rights are protected."
Among House members, Missouri Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, called the practice "an example of a government agency abusing its power for blatant political purposes, further eroding the confidence of law-abiding taxpayers in their government institutions."
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