Tea Party Rally in Hartford, CT. Photo by Sage Ross. From Wikipedia.
WPRO Newsroom and the Associated Press
President Barack Obama vowed Monday to get to the bottom of the IRS’ investigations into the tax-exempt status of conservative groups, but some argue that he knew about the problem long ago.
Lisa Blais, head of the Ocean State Tea Party in Action told WPRO's Buddy Cianci she finds it hard to believe that the President did not know about the issue sooner.
The Associated Press says they obtained a draft of a watchdog report that reveals senior officials at the IRS knew of the “Tea Party” and “Patriot” targeting as early as 2011. Meanwhile, conservative publication The Blaze raised the question of the IRS’ actions against Tea Party groups more than a year ago, pressing Obama on the issue back in February of 2012.
The IRS (Internal Revenue Service), an independent agency, has since apologized for scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of such groups. White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday it was wrong.
Tea Party leaders have called the news “chilling,” and local members of Congress have also spoken out against the IRS for their actions.
“I am outraged to learn that certain members of the IRS may have engaged in a concerted effort to apply political pressure on citizens who were seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights to petition the government,” said Congressman David Cicilline in a statement Monday. “I am confident that President Obama will work to get to the bottom of this and ensure that all those responsible for wrongdoing are held fully accountable, and I urge him to begin this review immediately.”
“The IRS was wrong,” said Senator Jack Reed in a statement. “This kind of allegation demands a serious investigation and there must be one. The appropriate way to clarify whether any group is following the laws governing non-profits is greater transparency when it comes to political activity.”
Congressman James Langevin said he was “deeply disturbed” by the reports.
“All citizens must be able to trust that they will receive fair treatment and equal protection from our government, regardless of their political beliefs,” he said in a statement. “These actions require careful and immediate scrutiny, and I am confident that President Obama will move quickly to ensure a thorough investigation occurs and all responsible parties are held accountable.”
According to reports from the AP, Congress was not informed that tea party groups were being inappropriately targeted by the IRS even though the IRS Commissioner was aware of the matter.
The IRS said Commissioner Steven T. Miller was first informed that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out in May of 2012.
He kept the information under wraps, even on July 25, 2012, when testified before the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee and was directly asked about it.
No local Tea Party groups were targeted.