Tea Party groups were furious Friday to learn what many of them had expected all along: the Internal Revenue Service was targeting them.
Lois Lerner, who runs the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, apologized that the tax agency had flagged organizations with the words "tea party" or "patriot" for additional reviews, but said it was the work of a several Cincinnati-based low-level employees.
Several Tea Party groups are now calling on Congress to investigate the IRS, saying they find it unlikely the practice was initiated or approved by just a couple subordinates.
"If anyone believes this just came from low level people I have some ocean front property in Tennessee to sell you," Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips tells Whispers. "There have been numerous reports of Tea Party groups who have tried to incorporate as a nonprofit, and the IRS would take several years to get the paperwork or demand enormous information."
Phillips cited the Richmond Tea Party as an example, which sounded an alarm in February 2012 after it said the IRS demanded inordinate amounts of information from the group just before they held a major convention, and then failed to grant the group tax exempt status.
Phillips suggested Tea Party groups might turn to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder Tea Party Patriots, is also calling for Congress to get involved.
"We've been jumping through all the hoops that the IRS has given us for the nearly last four years, to get official paperwork for our C4 and C3 organizations," she said. "At this point we are calling for Congress to investigate and find out how widespread the problem is... the abuse of power is very concerning."
This isn't the first time the IRS has come under fire for supposedly targeting groups or people who do not agree with the president. Under the Clinton administration, documents obtained by the watchdog group Judicial Watch suggested a number of Clinton's enemies were singled out for additional reviews, and federal investigators looked into whether an audit of Paula Jones, who sued Clinton for sexual harassment, was done in retaliation. The White House at the time said the idea was "certifiably crazy."