Lawmakers took to the Sunday shows to fire against the IRS after the agency admitted that it had singled out conservative political groups for additional scrutiny. Sen. Susan Collins tied President Obama directly to the controversy, saying on CNN that he “needs to make crystal clear that this is totally unacceptable.” She called the situation “truly outrageous” and noted that a public apology was “absolutely” needed, according to Politico. “I think that it’s very disappointing that the president hasn’t personally condemned this and spoken out,” she added. Collins said that the revelation would end up contributing to “the profound distrust that the American people have in government.” For his part, Rep. Mike Rogers, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that the revelations about the IRS targeting “should send a chill up your spine.”
The condemnation from lawmakers came after news that senior IRS officials knew that agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft of an inspector general’s report. The Associated Press was first to write about the report but it has since been confirmed by numerous outlets. On Friday, Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, apologized for the additional scrutiny of the tax-exempt applications for conservative groups. Lerner blamed low-level employees and said she only found out about the issue through news reports last year. But the inspector general report says Lerner was briefed in 2011 that groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being singled out for additional scrutiny.
The controversy is likely to delay, if not outright derail, ongoing efforts by Congress to increase scrutiny of shadowy political groups, points out USA Today. Campaign finance groups and some lawmakers have been pressuring the IRS to keep a closer eye on “social welfare” organizations that carry out political activity but don’t have to reveal their funders.