This is growing fast -- with the Washington Post reporting that
despite what the IRS has said, the specific targeting of conservative groups
was well-known to officials in Washington, even as it was underway.
A combative President Obama expressed outrage at reports
that the IRS was apparently playing politics, targeting non-profit groups whose
names included references to the Tea Party, patriots -- or even self-identified
educational groups promoting the Constitution.
"It is contrary to our traditions and people have to be held
accountable and it's gotta be fixed," he said.
The IRS has admitted to the effort -- but attempted to blame
it on low-level employees in the agency's Cincinnati office.
The Washington Post
reports that lawyers for Tea Party groups have evidence that they were targeted
by officials in Washington -- supporting the suspicions of Tea Party leaders.
"There is no way just a couple of low level employees out of
Cincinnati, Ohio who had this much influence could affect so many groups across
the country literally it was coast to coast," said Jenny Beth Martin of
the Tea Party Patriots.
The IRS is supposed to operate with a degree of independence
from the White House -- and there is, as of yet, no evidence that white house
officials were aware of what was happening.
But the agency is already in hot water for initially denying
to congress that conservative groups ever faced extra scrutiny.
"There's absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of
back-and-forth that happens when people apply for 501(c)(4) status," said former
IRS commissioner Doug Shulman back on March 22, 2012.
Congress is moving quickly on this. The House ways and means committee begins hearings on Friday.