FBI Investigates IRS for Tea Party Snooping

(CN) – The FBI is investigating whether Internal Revenue Service officials committed crimes by targeting politically conservative groups for extra scrutiny, the U.S. attorney general said Tuesday.
     Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said he ordered the investigation because “a variety of statutes within the IRS code” could be the basis of a criminal violation.
     Holder said at a new conference the Justice Department would look at the activities in the light of Title 18 of the United States Code – the overall criminal code for the federal government.
     IRS officials acknowledged on May 10 that dozen of groups associated with the Tea Party movement had been singled out for detailed questioning about their spending on political advertising and other election activities, after the groups applied for tax-exempt status.
     President Obama condemned the actions, if they happened, at a news conference this week.
     IRS officials said the activity was limited to a small group of low-level employees in the IRS Cincinnati officer, who took it upon themselves to flag groups who used the words “Tea Party” or “patriot” in their names.
     The American Center for Law & Justice, which is representing at least 27 of the aggrieved organizations, has posted what it called a draft of a report from the U.S. Inspector General, which it says “provides a comprehensive timeline for the IRS scandal.”
     The ACLJ page has a link to the opinion page of the Fox News website.
     The ACLJ and its chief counsel, Jay Sekulow, claim the targeting of conservative groups was more widespread than the IRS initially claimed, and that “at least ten of the intentionally targeted groups we represent, and ostensibly numerous others, remain in an ongoing heightened state of IRS inquiry and review. Their tax-exempt application has not been approved.”
     President Obama called the situation “outrageous” and “contrary to our traditions,” at a Monday news conference.
     Speaking during a joint news conference at the White House with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the president said, “I will not tolerate it. And we will make sure that we find out exactly what happened on this.”
     He added, “We don’t have time to be playing these kinds of political games here in Washington.”
     How and why IRS officials selected conservative political groups for review of their tax status is also being investigated by the IRS inspector general’s office.
     A report on that inquiry is expected in a few days.

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