Why the IRS Abruptly Apologized to the Tea Party

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It came as a surprise when the Internal Revenue Service apologized, seemingly out of the blue, to a number of Tea Party groups for unfairly scrutinizing their tax exempt status on Friday. Now we know why the apology came when it did. 

The Associated Press' Stephen Ohlemacher reports a federal watchdog report coming out this week will show senior IRS officials knew about the unfair scrutiny as far back as 2011. The report from the Treasury Department's inspector general shows Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, was informed that groups with "Tea Party," ''Patriot" or "9/12 Project" in their names were being targeted for extra questioning at a meeting on June 29, 2011. During Lerner's apology on Friday, she blamed the targeting on lower-level tax agents. The report seems to show Lerner was telling the truth on Friday. The report shows she told the agents to change the criteria for flagging groups "immediately."

The focus will now become whether or not IRS commissioner Doug Shulman knew about the questions when he testified that no Tea Party groups were being targeted for unfair scrutiny in front of Congress in 2012. The report doesn't shay whether or not Shulman was informed about the Tea Party questioning, but it does show the IRS's chief counsel was. It's standard procedure for the counsel and commissioner to discuss this sort of thing before a Congressional hearing. Shulman's term as head of the IRS ended at the end of last year and he was appointed by President Bush. But Obama has yet to announce a replacement. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.