AP, The Hill and Politico are all reporting that senior IRS officials were aware that Tea Party groups were being targeted as early as 2011. The disclosure is reportedly contained in a draft inspector general report that is due to be released later this year. In March 2012, the IRS Commissioner denied charges that the IRS was targeting groups on political or ideological grounds in a congressional hearing.
Rick Hasen has posted a transcript of the the IRS official’s “apology” from this past week.
Paul Caron has rounded up some early press and editorial coverage, including two highly critical editorials from the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.
UPDATE: John Steele wonders about a legal ethics angle (given that a “chief counsel” was aware of the conduct well before it was disclosed).
The NYT‘s Ross Douthat comments:
Even though an American Civil Liberties Union official described their excessive interest in right-wing groups as “about as constitutionally troubling as it gets,” the bureaucrats in question probably thought they were just doing their patriotic duty, and giving dangerous extremists the treatment they deserved.
Where might an enterprising, public-spirited I.R.S. agent get the idea that a Tea Party group deserved more scrutiny from the government than the typical band of activists seeking tax-exempt status? Oh, I don’t know: why, maybe from all the prominent voices who spent the first two years of the Obama era worrying that the Tea Party wasn’t just a typically messy expression of citizen activism, but something much darker — an expression of crypto-fascist, crypto-racist rage, part Timothy McVeigh and part Bull Connor, potentially carrying a wave of terrorist violence in its wings.
UPDATE: Joe Klein comments:
The Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups is outrageous. Those who did this should be fired immediately. That’s obvious.
And Buzzfeed reports on allegations pro-Israel groups were targeted too.