US tax authorities admit Tea Party scrutiny
US tax authorities on Friday admitted targeting around 75 groups associated with the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, triggering a furious response from Republican officials against President Barack Obama's administration.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said in a statement it had inadvertently targeted nonprofits with the word "Tea Party" or "patriot" in their title when assessing applications for tax-exempt status.
"Mistakes were made initially, but they were in no way due to any political or partisan rationale," the IRS said in a statement.
"We fixed the situation last year and have made significant progress in moving the centralized cases through our system."
"The IRS also stresses that our employees - all career civil servants -- will continue to be guided by tax law and not partisan issues."
Republicans immediately seized on the IRS apology, decrying it as evidence of party political discrimination by a federal agency.
"The admission by the Obama administration that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political opponents echoes some of the most shameful abuses of government power in 20th-century American history," Republican House of Representatives speaker John Boehner said in a statement.
"This kind of political thuggery has absolutely no place in our politics," Republican Senator Mitch McConnell added.
White House officials meanwhile reiterated that the IRS was an independent agency with only two political appointees, but called for appropriate action to be taken against anyone found to have acted improperly.
"The IRS, as you know, is an independent enforcement agency with only two political appointees," spokesman Jay Carney said.
"There is no question that if this activity took place, it's inappropriate and there needs to be action taken ... And the president would expect that it be thoroughly investigated and action would be taken."