A senior Senate Democrat has joined the GOP chorus that for days has blasted the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups, with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus saying Monday he plans to investigate the beleaguered agency over the matter.
“These actions by the IRS are an outrageous abuse of power and a breach of the public’s trust,” the Montana Democrat said in a statement. “Targeting groups based on their political views is not only inappropriate but it is intolerable.”
Mr. Baucus said that while he will wait to launch a probe until reviewing an independent inspector general’s report on the matter that is expected to be released this week, “the IRS should be prepared for a full investigation into this matter by the Senate Finance Committee.”
“The IRS will now be the ones put under additional scrutiny,” he said.
The IRS earlier on Friday admitted some of its auditors inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional scrutiny to check if they were violating their tax-exempt status.
Republicans and conservative groups off Capitol Hill quickly jumped on the agency — and the Obama administration. But on Monday, Democrats, who initially were silent on the matter, began to publicly condemn the agency.
Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, called the IRS’s actions “unacceptable and un-American,” and called on President Obama to “immediately condemn this attack on our values, find those individuals in his administration who are responsible and fire them.”
Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, called the IRS’s heightened scrutiny of conservative groups “appalling” and called for a “quick but thorough investigation.”
The IRS said organizations were singled out during the 2012 election season because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their applications for tax-exempt status. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases.
The IRS has apologized and said the cases were initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and were not motivated by political bias.
But the Associated Press reported Sunday that senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011, according to a draft it obtained of the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration.
The White House quickly condemned the IRS practice and said it supports a full review. President Obama again condemned it in his Monday morning joint press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he isn’t satisfied with the IRS apology and that the agency must undergo reforms to ensure such actions aren’t repeated.
“There has to be accountability for the people who did it,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “This mea culpa is not an honest one.”