White House Press Secretary Jay Carney spoke about the IRS's admission to targeting conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status in 2012, and said the action was not politically motivated and the Administration wasn't aware of the issue until Friday.
Lois Lerner, the director of the IRS section that oversees tax-exempt organizations, blamed "low level" employees at their Cincinnati, Ohio, office for selecting groups with "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their names for additional reviews.
Lerner admitted the IRS "made some mistakes," and apologized for targeting the Tea Party groups.
Carney twice said the White House had just learned about the problem on Friday and added that President Obama expects a thorough investigation and for actions to be taken. He also reiterated that the targeting of conservative groups was not politically motivated.
"The IRS is an independent enforcement agency with only two political appointees," Carney said. "We're concerned … the actions were inappropriate."
Jay Sekulow, an attorney for the American Center for Law and Justice who represented 27 of the Tea Party groups, described the IRS's actions as "unlawful, unconstitutional and illegal," during an interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly on Friday.
According to Sekulow, the IRS was asking the targeted conservative groups to turn over their membership lists, donor data, and information about conversations they might have had with the media, as well as conversations with group members.
Sekulow also challenged Carney's assertion that the IRS is not partisan, and noted that the commissioner of the IRS and the chief council of the IRS are both appointed by the president.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), confirmed Friday afternoon that the House will investigate the IRS's targeting of conservative groups. "The IRS cannot target or intimidate any individual or organization based on their political beliefs," he said.
The Tea Party Patriots, the nation's largest tea party organization, also released a statement shared with The Christian Post, announcing their rejection of the IRS's apology for targeting tax-exempt groups for review during the 2012 election cycle. And they are demanding the "immediate resignation of all of those involved in the deliberate harassment of Tea Party Patriots and similar groups."
"The IRS has demonstrated the most disturbing, illegal and outrageous abuse of government power, said Jenny Beth Martin, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots. "This deliberate targeting and harassment of Tea Party groups reaches a new low in illegal government activity and overreach."
She continued: "It's is suspicious that the activity of these 'low-level workers' was unknown to IRS leadership at the time it occurred. President Obama must also apologize for his Administration ignoring repeated complaints by these broad grassroots organizations of harassment by the IRS in 2012, and make transparent steps to ensure this never happens again."