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Many of the president’s fellow Democrats are fighting back on a different front. There is no defending the targeting of Americans based on political belief, but lawmakers increasingly are raising the broader issue of whether so many groups should be granted tax-exempt status.

“There’s a second scandal here, and that is that hundreds of millions have been used [by tax-exempt groups] that are supposed to be used as nonprofit social welfare entities for political purposes” said Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, speaking on ABC’s “This Week.”

Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, argued that IRS employees couldn’t have understood the complex laws governing which groups can be considered tax-exempt or how politically active they can be before they cross the line.

“This law lends itself to abuse,” he said, also appearing on ABC. “I don’t think that gang in Cincinnati had the slightest clue as to find out whether or not people making contributions were involved in politics or whether they were involved in social welfare.”