IRS replaces official involved in tea party controversy

4:58 PM, May 23, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (USA TODAY) - Embroiled in scandal, the IRS has replaced the official who supervised agents involved in targeting tea party groups.

The IRS official at the center of a scandal over the targeting of Tea Party groups refused to answer questions by a House committee Wednesday, saying she did nothing wrong but was nevertheless invoking her right not to testify against herself.

"I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules and regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee," said Lois Lerner, IRS director of exempt organizations.

Lerner was the IRS official responsible for the office in Cincinnati that created a "be on the lookout" list for tax-exempt applications from groups using the words "Tea Party," "Patriot" and "9/12 Project" in their names. Those applications were held up for more than a year while applications from liberal groups requesting similar status were routinely approved, a USA TODAY review found.

An audit by the IRS inspector general found that Lerner tried to immediately correct that list when she learned about it in 2011 but replaced it with criteria that included groups "critical of how the country is being run." Members of Congress from both parties want to know why she never informed Congress - even under direct questioning.

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