IRS Scandal: Obama Promises More Accountability, But is That Enough?

Following accusations Friday that the IRS has been unfairly targeting small-government conservative and non-profit groups as early as 2011, President Obama called the conduct of the IRS "outrageous" Monday, adding:

"If in fact the IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous. There's no place for it, they have to be held fully accountable. The IRS as an independent agency that requires absolute integrity and people have to have confidence that they're applying the laws in a nonpartisan way."

A draft audit by Inspector General Russell George of the Treasury Department for Tax Administration states that the IRS conducted unfair audits and denied conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status when the keywords "Tea Party" or "Patriot" were in the organization's name. Unfair treatment was also administered when the applicants criticized "how the country is run" or stated they wanted to "make America a better place to live in."

Officials at the IRS said that those who unfairly identified and processed applications were low-level employees that banded together and worked independently. Lois Learner, head of Tax Exemptions at the IRS, claimed to have learned about the scandal through news reports on Friday afternoon. However, according to the audit, Learner had prior knowledge about the misconduct as early as 2011 and likely played an integral role in the scandal. Since the scandal broke, Learner has apologized to conservative groups. Incidentally, President Obama claims to have learned about the scandal from Friday's news reports as well.

Members from both parties, including President Obama and members of the Senate (notably Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus), are calling for a full investigation later this week. CNN reported that in 2010, Baucus warned the IRS to look into accusations that groups were abusing tax-exempt status by playing party politics.   

Many Republicans and Democrats believe the first step to remedying the situation is to have the commissioner of the IRS, Steven Miller, resign. USA Today reported that Senator Marco Rubio was quoted saying:

"It is clear that the IRS cannot operate with even a shred of the American people's confidence under the current leadership. Therefore, I strongly urge that you and President Obama demand the IRS commissioner's resignation, effectively immediately. No government agency that has behaved in such a manner can possibly instill any faith and respect from the American public."

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