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IRS political targeting alleged in multiple cities

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Posted at 1:55 PM, May 14, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-14 13:55:47-04

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By Josh Levs

(CNN) — While the Internal Revenue Service has admitted that members of its Cincinnati office engaged in political targeting of some conservative groups, documents suggest at least three other offices did the same.

Letters provided to CNN show IRS officials in Washington and California contacted conservative groups to demand more information before approving the groups’ requests for tax-exempt status.

The American Center for Law and Justice, a legal group representing numerous conservative organizations, provided CNN with four such letters: one each from IRS offices in Washington; Cincinnati, Ohio; El Monte, California, and Laguna Niguel, California.

The words “patriots” or “tea party” figured in the names of each group that received the letter.

The IRS did not respond to CNN’s request for comment regarding the letters.

Lois Lerner, director of tax exempt organizations for the IRS, said Friday that the IRS had targeted some groups for further review because they had those words in their names.

She said the activity took place at the IRS office in Cincinnati that handles most applications for 501(c)(4) status.

The announcement infuriated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and triggered multiple congressional probes.

The Republican-led House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees the IRS, announced it will hold a hearing Friday. Slated to testify are Steve Miller, the acting IRS commissioner; and the Treasury inspector-general investigating the complaints, J. Russell George.

In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus called for a full investigation as well.

“We need to know who knew what, and exactly what mistakes were made,” said Baucus, D-Montana. “The American people have questions for the IRS and I intend to get answers.”

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told CNN’s “The Situation Room” that he and his colleagues have a full plate of concerns to look into, and that the IRS is one of them.

And Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations — which he chairs — now needs to expand an investigation already under way. That one has focused on the IRS’s “failure to enforce the law requiring that tax-exempt 501(c)4s be engaged exclusively in social welfare activities, not partisan politics,” he said in a statement. The IRS’ announcement about targeting of some conservative groups raises questions over its impartiality in doing so, he added.

President Barack Obama on Monday called the IRS’ alleged actions “outrageous” and said personnel involved “have to be held accountable.”

CNN’s Dana Bash and Kevin Bohn contributed to this reoprt.

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