IRS political targeting scandal expands

Published: Monday, May 13 2013 12:18 p.m. MDT

This March 22, 2013, file photo, shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington.

Susan Walsh, Associated Press

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The controversy over the Internal Revenue Service targeting conservative political organizations during the 2012 election cycle expanded over the weekend, as a new report, which said senior IRS officials knew in 2011 that some agents were targeting conservative groups, became public.

"On Friday," reported The Associated Press, "the IRS apologized for what it acknowledged was 'inappropriate' targeting of conservative political groups during the 2012 election to see if those groups were violating their tax-exempt status."

But pushing the date at which senior IRS officials became aware of the problem back to 2011 has given the already growing controversy new fire.

The admission is critical because the IRS in its Friday apology claimed that the malfeasance was restricted to low-level employees who were acting in good faith, and that no high-ranking employees are aware.

But CBS News reported Saturday that “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.”

The controversy grew throughout last week, with the agency seemingly caught off guard. Lerner walked into a mini-fiasco on a conference call when she struggled with a question before blurting out, "I'm not good at math."

“That admission was understandable,” The Washington Post reported, “given that her training is as a lawyer, but it produced a quote that is likely to haunt the agency that handles the nation’s tax returns. Nor did IRS officials appear to have prepared much for the questions they would get.”

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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