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May 14, 2013

Politicians Demand IRS Investigation

After news broke that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status during the 2012 presidential campaign, the White House worked quickly to distance itself from the allegations.

“If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous. It is contrary to our traditions. And people have to be held accountable, and it’s got to be fixed,” said President Barack Obama at a joint news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

IRS agents applied extra scrutiny to groups applying for tax-exempt status that had words like “tea party” or “patriot” in their names.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are demanding answers.

“I just don’t buy that this was a couple of rogue IRS employees,” said Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine. “There’s evidence that higher-level supervisors were aware of this.”

The Senate’s Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, also spoke out. “The alleged actions of IRS employees in the Cincinnati field office would be a terrible breach of the public’s trust. Whether investigating conservative groups or liberal groups, they should not be involved in this. Targeting any group based on its political stance is completely inappropriate.”

The chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, has said his panel will look into the matter. Two Republican committee chairs in the House also have vowed to investigate.

Warm up questions

1. What is the IRS? What does it do?

2. What does it mean for an organization to be tax-exempt? What kind of organizations can get this status?

3. What is the “Tea Party”?

Discussion questions

1. Why are politicians of both parties upset about this story? Why should we care about this?

2. Do you believe groups with political objectives, whatever political philosophy they follow, should be able to obtain tax-exempt status?

3. Conservative groups were targeted for using words like “patriot” in their name. Why does this word indicate a conservative group? What are some other words that reveal political affiliation?

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