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Topic of the day: IRS scandal

Published: Monday, May 13 2013 9:19 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 13, 2013. Subjects ranged from Syria's civil war to the IRS. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP) President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 13, 2013. Subjects ranged from Syria's civil war to the IRS. (Jacquelyn Martin, AP)

It has recently come to light that during last year’s presidential election campaign, the Internal Revenue Service put conservative non-profit promotion groups under extra scrutiny and pressure. “[The IRS] inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election to see if they were violating their tax-exempt status” said Lois Lerner, in charge of IRS investigations. Groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" were flagged for extra scrutiny by IRS staff.

DeseretNews.com has compiled some opinions from around the web on this issue. In contrast to most topics in politics today with opinions on both sides of the aisle, there are few arguing on behalf of the IRS.

“The extraordinary revelation this week that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups for more aggressive enforcement highlights exactly why caution is needed in any response to the much-vilified Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC,” Michael Macleod-Ball and Gabe Rottman write for an op-ed special for CNN, protesting what they view as obvious breach of a group’s — in this case the tea party — first amendment rights, with the IRS in effect going after a group based of their views. “It shouldn't need to be said: Even the tea party deserves First Amendment protection.”

Susan Milligan, writing for U.S. & World Report News, believes that is the first of the so-called “scandals” of president Obama’s administration that deserves to be called a scandal. “Of all the so-called 'scandals' the Obama administration's critics have alleged to discredit the president, this is one that very much deserves the moniker. For it is not just a case of malfeasance or financial mismanagement. It goes to a basic contract of trust between the American people and the federal government.”

At the Washington Post, Ezra Klien believes that the biggest mistake of the IRS, was not in targeting tea party organizations, but in failing to target all the organizations. “The particular bias people are angry about is the opposite of the bias they should be angry about. The problem wasn’t that the IRS was skeptical of tea party groups registering as 501(c)4s. It’s that it hasn’t been skeptical of Organizing for America, Crossroads GPS, Priorities USA and Heritage Action Fund registering as 501(c)4s. The IRS should be treating all these groups equally and appropriately — which would mean much more harshly.”

Members of congress from both parties have called for an investigation into the developing scandal.

“Americans expect the IRS to do its job without passion or prejudice,” Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said. “We need to get to the bottom of what happened here.” Baucus is the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

"[I]t is clear the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people’s confidence under the current leadership," said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., — a prominent GOP senator and possible 1016 candidate — in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. "I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS Commissioner’s resignation, effectively immediately.” There currently is no standing IRS commissioner since Bush appointee Douglas H. Shulman stepped down this last fall. A Rubi staffer confirmed that Rubio was referring to acting commissioner Steven T. Miller.

For his part, President Obama, when answering questions during his press conference with British prime minister David Cameron, has called the reports “outrageous” and vowed a full investigation into the IRS. "This is pretty straightforward," said Obama. "If, in fact, IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that is outrageous, and there is no place for it, and they have to be held fully accountable, because the IRS as an independent agency requires absolute integrity and people have to have confidence that they are applying the laws in a non-partisan way. You should feel that way regardless of party."

Freeman Stevenson is a Snow College grad and is the DeseretNews.com opinion intern. Reach me at fstevenson@deseretdigital or @freemandesnews

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