By Mark Weiner
Two Democratic members of Congress from Upstate New York strongly condemned the IRS today for targeting tea party and conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for nonprofit status.
Reps. Dan Maffei, D-DeWitt, and Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said it was "unacceptable" under all circumstances for the IRS to target political groups.
"The idea that the IRS would target any groups based on their political or ideological affiliations is totally unacceptable and is serious cause for concern," Maffei said in a statement today.
"It is important that we get to the bottom of what happened, and I support the call for an investigation so that we can learn all the facts and if necessary, remove those within the IRS who were engaged in this unacceptable activity," Maffei said.
At least four committees in the House and Senate plan hearings on the issue, with the House Ways and Means Committee due to hold the first hearing on Friday.
Owens today also called for an investigation that would hold accountable those responsible for the policy.
"Targeting groups simply because of their political leanings is completely unacceptable, and if in fact that is what happened then the IRS should be taken to task," Owens said in a statement. "I support the call for an investigation into what happened, and if it is found that individuals within the IRS intentionally committed this targeted activity they should be swiftly removed from their position."
Owens said it's clear bipartisan support for the investigation is growing.
Michael Kicinski, of Earlville, a member of the Norwich Tea Party Patriots, said in an interview today his group has been aware of the extra IRS scrutiny since at least 2011.
He said the IRS actions were enough to convince his group not to apply for nonprofit status to solicit tax-deductible contributions.
"We knew it was happening," Kicinski said. "But nobody was listening. Everyone was saying it was our conspiracy theory. It did affect us because we heard about these problems occurring, so we didn't go through with the application process.
Kicinski said apologies from the IRS won't be enough to resolve the case. He said he wants those responsible for the IRS policy to lose their jobs and be prosecuted.