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IRS Apologizes for Targeting Conservative Groups

IRS Apologizes for Targeting Conservative Groups

By RealClearPolitics Staff - May 10, 2013

WASHINGTON — Lois Lerner, head of the Internal Revenue Service that oversees tax-exempt groups, apologized today for the IRS inappropriately flagging conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status.

Lerner said organizations that included the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their applications for tax-exempt status were singled out for additional reviews. Speaking at a conference in Washington, she said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell released a statement decrying the IRS's behavior as "political thuggery" and calling on President Obama to conduct a government-wide review to ensure other agencies were not targeting citizens based on their political beliefs. McConnell's statement reads:

“Today’s acknowledgement by the Obama administration that the IRS did in fact target conservative groups in the heat of last year’s national election is not enough. Today, I call 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. Last year, amid reports that the Obama administration was using the levers of executive power to harass conservative political groups in Kentucky and elsewhere, I issued a very public warning to the administration that the targeting of private citizens on the basis of their political views would not be tolerated. Today’s apology by the IRS is proof that those concerns were well founded. But make no mistake, an apology won’t put this issue to rest. Now more than ever we need to send a clear message to the Obama Administration that the First Amendment is non-negotiable, and that apologies after an election year are not an sufficient response to what we now know took place at the IRS. This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics.” 

Republicans and conservatives took to Twitter to voice their displeasure of the news.

Even Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, was unsettled by the news.

UPDATE: In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, Lerner compounded her problems by declaring "I'm not good at math" after failing to calculate a statistic. Aaron Blake of the Washington Post reports:

About a half-hour into a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon, senior Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner said something she will regret.

“I’m not good at math,” she confessed as she tried to summon a statistic. Lerner clarified that she is a lawyer and not an accountant (a fair defense) but the remark instantly blew up on Twitter — an IRS official being bad at math!? — and wound up punctuating what was a torturous response to the IRS’ admission that it inappropriately targeted tea party groups. 

Blake reports Lerner and her staff were unable to answer many of the questions posed by reporters on the call, and were shamed into staying on the phone for an additional 20 minutes after trying to end the call after a half hour. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

RealClearPolitics Staff

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