WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax exempt status, Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday, widening a probe that includes investigations by three committees in Congress.
Ineffective management at the IRS allowed agents to improperly target tea party groups for more than 18 months, concluded one investigation by the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. The inspector general’s report, released Tuesday, lays much of the blame on IRS supervisors in Washington who oversaw a group of specialists in Cincinnati who screened applications for tax exempt status.
The report does not indicate that Washington initiated the targeting of conservative groups. But it does say a top supervisor in Washington did not adequately supervise agents in the field even after she learned the agents were acting improperly.
“The report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable,” President Barack Obama said in a statement. “The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.”
Holder said he ordered the FBI to investigate Friday — the day the IRS publicly acknowledged that it had singled out conservative groups.