US Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into allegations that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official websites] unfairly scrutinized tax-exemptions for conservative groups. The agency initially singled out groups with applications containing the names "Tea Party" or "Patriots," but expanded to target groups that promoted Constitutionalism. The practice of subjecting conservative groups to extra scrutiny went on for 18 months. The Treasury Inspector General's report [text, PDF] suggests that poor management led to "insufficient oversight" in the review of hundreds of advocacy groups. The report states that "the criteria developed by the Determinations Unit gives the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission."
The IRS apologized [Reuters report] last Friday for what they called "inappropriate" scrutiny. At a White House news conference the following Monday, US President Barack Obama [official website] called [press brief] the IRS actions "outrageous," stating that the agency must operate with "absolute integrity."