U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday assumed an “angry” avatar to limit the damage to his administration’s reputation after it was revealed that in May 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had applied unfairly harsh standards when assessing the tax-exempt status of conservative groups linked to the Tea Party.
He said he had reviewed a Treasury Department watchdog’s report on the “misconduct” and it was “inexcusable”.
He added, “Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it. I will not tolerate this kind of behaviour in any agency, but especially in the IRS, given the power that it has and the reach that it has into all of our lives.”
The report said even the IRS conceded that some of its questions were unwarranted, for example regarding details about their donors, letters asking for copies of the groups’ web pages, blog posts and social media postings, including hints about “penalties of perjury” which were said to be intimidating for groups questioned about future endorsements.
The most ironic instance came when the American Patriots Against Government Excess group was asked to provide summaries or copies of all material passed out at every meeting it had held since its conception.
Even as the controversy threatened to show portray the IRS as an agency executing a partisan agenda, Mr. Obama quickly followed up on his remarks with the announcement that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had requested and accepted the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, Steven Miller, following the agency
Seeking to dispel any notion that his administration was singling out specific groups for tax status review, Mr. Obama added, “I’ve directed Secretary Lew to ensure the IRS begins implementing the [Inspector General’s] recommendations right away... We will work with Congress as it performs its oversight role.”
Earlier, the internal report by the Inspector General had concluded that ineffective management at the IRS had permitted employees to inappropriately target conservative non-profit groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election campaign season, focusing on such key words as “Tea Party”; “Patriots”; and “9/12 Project” in their applications. According to reports Mr. Miller was aware this activity.