US tax agency knew about targeting of conservative political groups: AP
May 13, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
WASHINGTON -- Senior officials at the U.S. tax agency knew agents were targeting conservative political groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general's report obtained by The Associated Press that seemingly contradicts public statements by the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS apologized Friday for what it acknowledged was "inappropriate" targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog's report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with "tea party," "patriot" or "9/12 project" in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.
Lerner instructed agents to change the criteria for flagging groups "immediately," the report says.
"Tea Party" and "patriot" are favorite terms of the small-government conservative movement that has emerged in recent years and is highly critical of President Barack Obama. The 9-12 Project is a group started by conservative TV personality Glenn Beck.
The revelation that the IRS targeted those groups is becoming a new headache for the Obama administration, which is already confronting a highly polarized, partisan atmosphere in Washington.
On Saturday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement that Obama is concerned that "a small number" of IRS employees may have fallen short of the high level of integrity expected of public servants.
"We understand that the matter is currently under review by the inspector general," Carney said. "If the inspector general finds that there were any rules broken or that conduct of government officials did not meet the standards required of them, the president expects that swift and appropriate steps will be taken to address any misconduct."
The Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week. The AP obtained part of the draft report, which has been shared with congressional aides.