A majority of Americans have clearly indicated that they believe the IRS intentionally targeted Tea Party groups. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll released Tuesday, 56 percent said they believe increased IRS scrutiny on conservative groups was deliberate, with only 31 percent saying they believed it was an “administrative mistake.”
In addition, 74 percent, described the tactics as inappropriate, with 51 percent saying they feel actions are criminal. Just 20 percent said they felt the IRS actions were appropriate, with 44 percent believing the agency acted within the law.
More Americans also believe that the Obama administration is attempting to cover up the scandal, with 45 percent suggesting that the White House has not disclosed all the facts, compared to 42 percent who say they trust the government on the matter.
The White House claimed this week that they were aware of a Treasury inspector general report into the improper targeting, but that they refrained from notifying the President himself.
The notion that Obama’s top lawyers knew about the impending scandal up to a full month ago and decided not to inform him has been received with doubt by lawmakers, reporters and every day Americans.
The first lawsuit was filed today concerning the IRS targeting, with a Tea Party group in California suing in a U.S. District Court in Cincinnati.
The NorCal Tea Party Patriots group has claimed that the IRS applied “intensive and intrusive scrutiny,” violating their rights, after the group applied for tax exempt status.
“NorCal and its members suffered years of delay and expense while awaiting the exemption and spending valuable time and money answering the IRS’ questions. The result was a muffling and muzzling of free expression,” the lawsuit claims.
In Congressional hearings today, the former IRS commissioner Doug Shulman claimed that he was unaware of the full extent of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups after he left his post. Shulman also claimed that he had no knowledge of the reasoning behind the implementation of the policy.
Shulman also stated that IRS staff should have alerted their superiors to the practice of targeting conservative groups and singling out those with “Tea Party” and “patriot” in their names.
Shulman upheld the notion put forth last week in the inspector general’s report, which blamed ineffective management for the subsequent delays in tax exemption claims as well as additional questioning.
“While the inspector general’s report did not indicate that there was any political motivation involved, the actions outlined in the report have justifiably led to questions about the fairness of the approach taken here,” Shulman, who left the agency in November 2012, told the committee.
Both Shulman and his successor, Steven Miller, have admitted to knowing about the IRS targeting for over a year, but did not once alert Congress. Shulman even claimed in March 2012, when he was questioned by lawmakers, that the IRS was definitively not targeting Tea Party Groups.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the ranking GOP Senator on the Finance Committee described the inaction of both men as a “lie of omission.”
“The American people deserve to know the truth about what went on here,” Hatch said. “And they deserve to know why the truth was kept from them for so long.”