Sen. Collins Blasts Obama Over IRS Targeting of Conservative Groups; Obama Responds

Republican Sen. Susan Collins from Maine said Sunday that President Obama should apologize for the Internal Revenue Service's recent admission about the targeting of Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations for tax-exempt status violations.

"This is truly outrageous and it contributes to the profound distrust that the American people have in government," Collins said on CNN's "State of the Union." "It is absolutely chilling that the IRS was singling out conservative groups for extra review, and I think it's very disappointing that the president hasn't personally condemned this and spoken out."

Several organizations carrying the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their exemption applications were singled out by IRS agents for additional reviews between 2010 and 2012, Lois G. Lerner, the director of the Exempt Organizations Division of the IRS, told reporters on Friday.

Lerner claimed that the move was not political, and apologized for "mistakes" and lack of "good judgment" by low-level employees. "Sometimes people do things because they don't understand the rules or don't think about it," she said.

President Obama addressed the controversy on Monday, saying he had "no patience" for it and would not tolerate it. "If in fact IRS personnel engaged in the kind of practices that have been reported on and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that's outrageous and there's no place for it," he said at a press conference.

CNN reported Monday that the IRS had also singled out for extra scrutiny applicants with statements that "criticize how the country is run" or that sought to educate the public on how to "make America a better place to live."

Collins asked why the groups with the word "progressive" in their names were not screened for tax-exempt status violations, and why no action had been taken against IRS employees involved.

"You would think that the high-level IRS supervisors would have rushed to make this public, fired the employees involved and apologize to the American people and informed Congress. None of that happened in a timely way," Collins said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on "Fox News Sunday," "I don't care if you're a conservative, a liberal, a Democrat or a Republican, this should send a chill up your spine."

The IRS revelation has prompted calls by Republicans in Congress for investigations.

"I call on the White House to conduct a transparent, government-wide review aimed at assuring the American people that these thuggish practices are not under way at the IRS or elsewhere in the administration against anyone, regardless of their political views," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor Friday.

House Speaker John Boehner also said the admission reflects "some of the most shameful abuses of government powers" in the last century.

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, called it "an abuse of power by unelected bureaucrats." "The people responsible should be terminated or should resign," added Martin, whose organization has ties to 3,000 local tea party groups around the country.

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