Dem senator: IRS distracted from 'greater scandal'

Top Republicans have insisted that the IRS — which apologized for singling out Tea Party groups in May — treated conservative organizations more harshly than liberal ones. But like other Democrats, Whitehouse says that it looks like the IRS gave extra scrutiny to both conservative and progressive groups.

Whitehouse and other Democrats have also said that IRS staffers face inconsistent laws and regulations guiding how much political activity 501(c)(4) groups can engage in.

In his letter, the Rhode Island senator asks Werfel for a “full accounting of how the IRS enforces limitations on political spending by 501(c)(4) groups, and how it investigates material false statements about 501(c)(4) political activity.”

The letter comes more than a year after Democrats were expressing concern that some tax-exempt groups are too engaged in politics — at the same time Republicans were starting to openly question the IRS’s treatment of Tea Party groups.