By Justin Sink
White House press secretary Jay Carney slammed congressional Republicans on Wednesday, accusing them of pushing "flagrant, unfounded accusations" about the administration's involvement in the IRS's targeting of conservative political groups.
Carney was asked about internal IRS documents released by congressional Democrats this week that showed that, in addition to targeting Tea Party groups seeking tax exemption, the agency also scrutinized organizations that used terms like "progressive," "occupy,” “medical marijuana” and “occupied territory” in their names.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has suggested that higher-ups in Washington were responsible for the IRS targeting, implying a deliberate White House effort to intimidate political opponents.
“As late as last week, the [Obama] administration was still trying to say there was a few rogue agents from Cincinnati, when in fact the indication is they were directly being ordered from Washington,” Issa told CNN.
But Democrats have charged that Issa asked the Treasury inspector general to look only at the targeting of conservative groups and said the California lawmaker selectively released excerpts from interviews with IRS staff to insinuate broader coordination.
Issa and other Republicans maintain that Tea Party groups received extra scrutiny, and Democrats are seeking to sidetrack the probe to protect the president.
Carney said Wednesday that President Obama feels "very strongly" that "inappropriate use of criteria or inappropriate criteria to target conservative groups or any groups needed to be corrected and was a problem."