Conservative group accuses nine Dem senators of unethical conduct

A conservative group is calling on the Senate ethics committee to examine nine top Democrats, accusing them of pushing the IRS to investigate specific groups.

The Center for Competitive Politics announced their complaint Tuesday, in which they charge that lawmakers tried to get the tax agency to probe outside conservative groups.

“These senators improperly attempted to use the IRS to suppress the free speech of American citizens for their party’s electoral gain,” said Brad Smith, chairman of the Center and a former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission. “We will fight this type of abuse of power and work to ensure that those who have violated Senate Ethics rules are held to account.”

The group wants the ethics panel to look at Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Al Franken (Minn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and Tom Udall (N.M.).

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, many of those lawmakers openly complained about the influx of groups supposedly focused on social welfare that also engaged heavily in political activity. For example, Levin and other lawmakers sent letters to the IRS asking them to take a close look at such 501(c)(4) organizations, many of them conservative.

Of course, the lawmakers were not shy about making their concerns known. In their complaint, the center cites a press release sent out by Durbin in which he said he wanted the IRS to look into spending by Crossroads GPS, the group founded by Karl Rove.

But the group argues that such calls for IRS investigations amounted to pressure tactics that may have led to audits of conservative groups, or could be seen as campaign activity conducted using official Senate resources. It also argues that their actions ”reflect discreditably upon the U.S Senate.”

The ethics push comes one day after Tea Party Patriots filed their own ethics complaint against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The group argued that Reid’s frequent criticisms of billionaire GOP donors Charles and Davic Koch amounted to “unlawfully and unethically targeting private citizens.”

A Reid spokesman dismissed that complaint as a publicity stunt from a group that has received Koch funds.

The group also called for an ethics investigation into Whitehouse for pushing the IRS to look at conservative groups.