The IRS issued an embarrassing mea culpa today, acknowledging that employees singled out about 75 groups with "tea party" or "patriot" in their names for extra scrutiny last year, reports the AP. "That was wrong," says the IRS official in charge of tax-exempt groups. "That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. The IRS would like to apologize for that." She swears it wasn't politically motivated, but conservatives such as Mitch McConnell are demanding a fuller accounting, and various Tea Party groups want resignations to follow. Conservative groups have been complaining for more than a year of unfair treatment by the IRS, reports the Washington Post.
The back story here is that scores of political groups filed for nonprofit status last year, a distinction that puts them under the authority of the IRS instead of the Federal Election Commission, reports Politico. (One of the advantages is that they can hide donors.) The IRS agents—described as "career employees" working out of Cincinnati who got assigned to look into the increase in applications—were investigating to see whether such groups were dabbling too much in politics to qualify as nonprofits. The agency issued another statement today saying it should have done a "better job of handling the influx of advocacy applications. Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale.” (Read more IRS stories.)