Never has an audit from the Internal Revenue Service been so scary.
It’s “chilling,” Republicans said Sunday in reference to the news that the IRS heightened scrutiny of conservative political groups during the 2012 presidential campaign, adding the targeted audits further eroded the public’s trust of government.
Lawmakers believe President Barack Obama should personally apologize for the harsh vetting tea party organizations endured. They also challenged the tax agency’s attempt to blame low-level workers for the infraction.
"I just don't buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine. "After all, groups with 'progressive' in their names were not targeted similarly."
If it were just a small number of employees, she said, "then you would think that the high-level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fired the employees involved, apologized to the American people and informed Congress. None of that happened in a timely way."
The IRS apologized Friday for its “inappropriate” targeting of the conservative groups—they were trying to catch them violating their tax-exempt status. The agency blamed low-level employees, saying no high-level officials were aware.
But that story doesn’t match up with a draft of a watchdog’s report obtained Saturday by The Associated Press. According to the report, senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting tea party groups as early as 2011.
The Treasury Department's inspector general for tax administration is expected to release the results of a nearly yearlong investigation in the coming week.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said "the conclusion that the IRS came to is that they did have agents who were engaged in intimidation of political groups is as dangerous a problem the government can have."
He added, "This should send a chill up your spine. … I don't know where it stops or who is involved."
Congressional Republicans already are conducting several investigations and requested more.
"This mea culpa is not an honest one," said Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.