News Column

Repubs Want IRS Probe, Apology

May 13, 2013

President Obama should apologize for the admission by the IRS that it singled out conservative Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny as they applied for non-profit status, Republican members of Congress said Sunday.

They also called for an investigation of the agency.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said the IRS actions were "truly outrageous" and "chilling." A public apology was "absolutely" needed, Collins said on CNN's State of the Union. "I think that it's very disappointing the president hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out. ... (Obama) needs to make it crystal clear that this is totally unacceptable."

"I don't care if you're a conservative or a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican -- this should send a chill up your spine," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said onFox News Sunday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said on NBC's Meet the Press the initial apologies from the IRS have been insufficient. An inspector general's report that examined the issue was leaked by the administration, he said, so its impact would be lessened.

Collins, Rogers and Issa spoke in reaction to an admission Friday by Lois Lerner, the IRS director of exempt organizations, that employees in the agency's Cincinnati office routinely required conservative groups seeking non-profit status to undergo more extensive scrutiny than other groups seeking such a designation.

Lerner said Friday that she had learned only last year through news reports of the extra hoops the IRS required applicants to jump through, but a draft timeline compiled by the agency's inspector general showed Lerner had learned in 2011 that her unit was targeting Tea Party groups for additional scrutiny. The timeline was part of a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which has been investigating the IRS' treatment of Tea Party groups at the request of Congress. The actual inspector general's report has not been released but is expected this week. USA TODAY obtained excerpts, including the timeline investigators compiled through e-mails and interviews with IRS officials.

It shows that on June 29, 2011, IRS officials in Cincinnati told Lerner how they handled Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status. Certain groups were subjected to further investigation based on politically loaded terms in the application file. Groups got enhanced scrutiny if:

--The words "tea party," "patriots" or "9/12 project" appeared anywhere in the group name or case file.

--The group's stated issues included government spending, government debt or taxes.

--The organization had a goal of educating the public via advocacy or lobbying to "make America a better place to live."

--Anything in the case file critical of how the country is being run.

Under those criteria, 100 groups had applications sent for further investigation -- adding months to the approval process, the report showed.

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Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013